I spent this summer interning at my home church: the church that brought me to know Christ, fostered the beginning of my love for Him, and has since matured me immensely. The pastors and fellow interns I worked with taught me about community and the gentle mocking that occasionally comes from true care and unity. During a mid-day meeting, and in a bout of mocking, one of my pastors brought up my blog. After about ten minutes of scrolling, he jokingly asked to write a Faith Friday. Little did he know that I would actually follow up on the offer. When I began exploring the textures of faith, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Even more so, when I volunteered to write this post, I thought answering the question “what does faith mean to me” would be much simpler than it has been. I’ve sat on this question for nearly a week — thought about it, chewed on it, wrote notes about it, and even as I write this, am not sure how to answer it. When I asked my wife this question, she said, “I don't know, I'm looking at insurance quotes right now.” So, there's that.
I have been in and out of a faith community my whole life. As a child, I attended a Lutheran Church with my mom. This was a church filled with an organ, candles, pastors with robes and sashes, and music that sounded like the Opera — this became my definition of Hell early on in life. In other words, I had no faith there.
From the age of ten to sixteen, I didn't care about faith at all. I was a teenager, which meant I mostly cared about girls, the newest Kanye West album, basketball, and how to keep track of my homework assignments that I probably didn't do in the first place.
At the age of sixteen, I was reintroduced to the Church. I had an experience that transcended everything I had believed about faith: it wasn't meant to be stuffy, it wasn't meant to fit in a perfect box, it was meant to bring me to a place of wonder — about God, about Jesus, about this life here,now and the future of humanity.
We’re going to start with this: faith isn't simple. It’s meant to be messy, filled with questions, and it’s often unexplainable. There's a great story in the Bible (yes, that book) about a man named Elisha and a soldier named Naaman. Naaman is the commander of a great army, of a great country, but Naaman himself wasn’t so great. He had leprosy — a skin disease that resulted in blisters, boils and skin disfigurations all over a person’s body. Naaman travels all the way from his home to the home of Elisha, who was considered a prophet in his homeland (a prophet being someone who was deeply connected to God). When Naaman reaches Elisha’s home he expects the prophet to come out, say a few words, and heal him of his illness. But like most great stories of faith, that isn't how this goes. Elisha sends out a messenger who tells Naaman to go to the Jordan River and wash in it seven times, all with the assurance that this will heal his disease.
This antidote doesn't sit well with Naaman, so he leaves in utter disgust. Now, we’ve all been here: that place where life already doesn't look the way it supposed to look, and yet, faith tells us to keep going. Naaman’s servants are confused by the frustration. They question their boss, “Are you not going to do it? The prophet simply said ‘wash and be clean?’” Naaman’s servants seem so deeply moved by the words of the prophet that they HAVE to begin questioning what they already think and believe about life. In doing so, they cause Naaman to listen to what Elisha instructed him to do. So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, and his skin was restored like the flesh of a child, and he was clean. This obviously screws with Naaman. Let's be honest, what would you do if this moment occurred in your life? You’d probably lose it a little. But Naaman’s response isn't one of insanity; it's one of faith. Naaman comes back to Elisha and says to him, “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”
The reason that I tell this story is because I believe it offers a beautiful picture of what a growing faith looks like. Naaman asks Elisha a bizarre question: “can I take this pile of dirt?” You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Naaman says, “…please let there be given to your servant two mule-loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” Faith forces you to take it with you.
I offer my answer to the question of “what does faith mean to me?” through the lens of this story for a few reasons. First, this is my story. I had been taught my whole life that faith was made to fit in a box — that God, and whatever that loaded noun means, was meant to be packaged in a container and held by people who had it figured out. This wasn't true because faith isn't that simple. Having faith in anything isn't simple. It’s filled with skepticism, questions, it's messy, and it's almost always not easily explained. The 16-year-old me learned this, and the 23-year-old me is still learning. Second, faith forced me to take it with me. When I experienced God for the first time, I knew that my experience of him couldn't stop there, but that it had to keep going. I needed to take the “dirt” of that moment with me, remember it, and share it. I hope that I have. I hope that the faith that I have carried has been recognized by others — that it has made them ask questions and ponder the reality of something far greater than themselves.
While I feel like I’ve said a whole lot without really saying anything at all, I’ll leave you with this: faith is trusting that this life is headed somewhere. And I would love to explain that to you as a reader, but where’s the fun in that? Think about it.