A friend of mine in Texas had a favorite uncle. This uncle hoisted the boy up onto the roof of his house one day and told him to go ahead and jump into his arms. My friend jumped immediately and got a sprained ankle and a busted lip when he hit the ground. Uncle had backed up about two steps as soon as the boy had jumped. The boy was told by his uncle to think about the nature of trust. For the rest of his life, my friend never forgot the lesson. Over my life, I learned three lessons from that one action of another boy's uncle. All without words.
One of the first things I taught my two sons was the necessity of having a Faith. I did not become the dictator of that Faith. Rather, I made it clear to them that it was a component required by all in order to negotiate the trail of human life. I have never allowed others to dictate my own Faith.
I perceive a distinction between Faith and Belief, although the two terms are constantly interchanged in daily speech. The difference is that the former denotes complete trust and confidence, while the other is a feeling or an acceptance that something is true.
Along the trail, one may be easily persuaded to alter or to change ones Belief. Any bit of new information or observation will serve to alter the Beliefs of a person. Faith transcends anything a person could possibly encounter and remains intact.
Some of the major shocks and catastrophes we endure contain more than enough energy to blow away our Beliefs. So, we may say that Beliefs are akin to the latest article we read and that Faith is akin to the dictionary in which we look up the meanings of the words. We know the storms will come, we know they will blow our roofs off, so we must also know that we need to have something absolutely unshakeable in our lives.
Humans have many ancient and accepted forms of Faith and many of these have been written down. Much blood has been spilled and many tears shed over the differences found among them. The reverse is also true, wherein original Faiths are laid atop each other and only the parts that match are kept as a core for yet a brand new form of Faith.
This is a good method to attempt to get to the bottom of a bottomless topic but is usually engaged in by those who desire to dissolve old groups and amalgamate them into fewer, larger groups and not usually for the betterment of those so managed.
Many people I encounter hold out their membership in or attendance to a given recognized organized church body as proof of their Faith. The majority of these people display a profound lack of Faith in their day to day life. A ceremony is a ceremony and a ritual is a ritual but both can be performed by a person lacking Faith. They are mere forms intended to align one with a given Belief system.
How then, do we acquire a Faith? The answer I would put forth is that we live, observe, learn and reflect. The religious texts are available to be read and to be pondered. You will have some preloaded ideas on the nature of Faith from your parents, your family and your community.
Each must ask and answer for themselves a question that is found at the well-spring of all Faiths. It cannot be otherwise. Those without the courage to do so shall be followers by their own choosing. May they find good shepherds. Those who do perform this task will find their Creator and in doing so find their own place in Creation. They will live afterward with a constant awareness of and an immutable confidence in their God.
In the world of the brave, Beliefs are like the shadows of different trees on the sand, often beautiful and useful for shade and comfort. Most people are found worshiping here. A smaller group of people plant and tend these trees while actually worshiping the sun. The orb is the apparent source of the light with which the trees paint their distorted likenesses, so this group feels superior to the mass under the shade whom they also tend by way of pruning the trees. They live parasitically off the mass and they hold them in contempt.
A much smaller group do their own homework, leave the shade, look far beyond the sun and inquire as to what made it shine. This group walks among all the others but with compassion rather than contempt. Why is this so? Because they have paid dearly for the few insights they have gained and are aware of the many obstacles that stand before their brothers and sisters who have not yet left the comfort of the oasis. They feel an urgency that is directly proportional to this compassion. The nearer to the unknowable that they have come, the stronger their Faith. That is to say, they know by experience that which cannot be conveyed by words.
To sum up, I would say that in reality there can only be one conclusion that will be reached by everyone. The acquisition of Faith instead of Belief is contingent upon a person choosing to take leave of the comforts of the shade, beginning to walk and asking their own questions along the way. It is a lot of work and the way is necessarily lonely. As far as I have seen, only one has made it and a couple of others came close. They were not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.
To those in the shade, be good to each other, you may need each other if you decide to take the only walk open to you. To those tending the trees and managing the throng, remember that you appear as ill-behaved children to those who can see. You have lived off your cattle for so long that you have forgotten how to survive as men, whereas your cattle would thrive without you. Therefore don't spook the herd. They smell your fear.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.