Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Attempting to Express an Inexpressable Faith

Religious Talk

Faith.  Believing. Jesus.  Holy
Spirit.  When these terms are mentioned, right away, it seems, our minds start spinning.

And, if you're like me, your mind fills with all the images of faith that you have carried with you, likely for all your life.  For me, it starts with the big stained glass window in the old Methodist church in Arcadia when I was little.  The minister who sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher - I never understood anything he said.

Maybe your mind fills with, well, nothing; as you have no reference points for faith.

And sometimes when the conversation comes to those things of faith, your mind might fill with other things.  Maybe the frustrations, disappointments, and anger you carry around inside you.  The brutal death of someone too young to die.  Angry at God.  Lots of people I know, even good friends, are carrying with them a soft and subtle anger at the Divine.  It's there, and they can't even articulate it.  It weights them down.

For some time now, I have been beginning to sense that expressing my faith to others seems often, at least to me, an exercise in futility.  Not because I don't think others will listen, but more because I have come to a place in my life where it seems that mere words, or paragraphs, or dissertations, or even volumes of books could not express accurately what I have experienced in my life.  Exactly how do you tell someone that for more than three decades you have known, beyond any rational explanation, that not one day has passed that you have felt truly alone.  How do you express something in mere words that is so much a part of your soul?

Nowadays, when I think about the prospect of articulating what I have come to believe, the first feeling, and even first mental image that comes to mind is ... weeping.  And so that may be, at this point on the journey, the best I would have to offer as an explanation.  My tears.  Tears of joy, of knowing, of sadness, of loss, of laughter.  And sometime, tears of confusion.  But all tears forming a testament to Love.  For a long time.  Ever present and unyielding.  

How do you express the inexpressible without cheapening the depth of meaning.  How can you put to words the weight of all the substance of life?  I can't leave it up to some televangelist with big hair in a shiny suit or Hawaiian shirt.  The Guy That Has It All Together.  That Emperor has no clothes.

There Are Some Words That Point the Way
However, their are such bright glimmers of explanation - in words written 2,000 years ago.  If we just leave the explanation to the people who experienced faith in its original form (before we "modern" American religious folk messed it all up), the words seem, if only for a moment, to sing:

Ephesians 3:14-20 (The Message)

 14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
 20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

   Glory to God in the church!
   Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
   Glory down all the generations!
   Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

And then, every once in a long while, someone in the modern paradigm gets it almost entirely right.  Pardon this very loose film analogy, but I think Jodie Foster has been supported by some very good writing here in explaining the unexplainable, from the film Contact.

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