On Belief

I had never really realized how much I often take faith for granted. In my last post, I shared some about my own faith and calling. Over the last few years my faith has been challenged. I have had moments – sometimes stretching for days or weeks – where at some level I doubted, or at least feared that I doubted. Somehow, I always came away assured of my belief. And today, as I shared in the previous post, my assurance stands firm.

Now well enter our fourth month of life in New Jersey, I have made many acquaintances, and several new friends. Some are in the church and some are not. I have been struck, though, by the question of how to believe. I have never given it serious thought. My own faith has been forming since before I could form words – much less remember the start of it. I grew up surrounded by believers, or at least those who claimed to believe. Even though I spent most of my teenage years out of church, I still found a richness in faith and its expression in my own life. I have never wondered about the question of how to believe. For someone who has never believed, or has ceased believing, or is struggling between believing in contradictory things, what does it mean to believe God? And how does one arrive at it? Is it some set of facts or statements that one accepts as true? Is it some emotion that one cannot negate or deny? Is it a pure act of will to believe?

Believing, for me, is like breathing or eating or drinking. I don’t give it a second thought. It is simply part of who I am. It is what I do. I believe. But let me give an analogy here, that I think illustrates the point. I have grown up with music – picking out commercial tunes on a toy piano when I was 2, and piano lessons and band since then, and now I lead the worship ministry of the church where I am associate pastor. I hear a tune on the radio, and given 5 seconds, I have found the beat and can tell you what time signature the band or group is playing in. I can almost instantly find the “beat” of the music and tap my hand to it. It is natural for me (fortunately, since I was the drum captain in my high school’s marching band!). My wife, on the other hand, is amazed at that ability. She cannot find the beat in a piece of music for anything. She watches at me and marvels. Then she asks: how do you do that?

I don’t know. I just do.

And I have the same problem with believing. At the last church I served, I filled in for the children’s choir teacher for a while. The curriculum we used had a section that was specifically set aside to teach the concept of finding the beat. Some children came to it naturally, others did not. Is it a skill that can be learned, or is it one of those things that you either can do or you can’t? And what about believing? Is it a skill that is learned (and, in my case, learned so early that I don’t remember learning it)? Can anybody learn to do it? What makes it more difficult for some than for others?

Or maybe believing comes naturally, we all believe (accept?) something, and it is simply a matter of showing how the beliefs are different and persuading that Christian belief is the right way.

Please let me know what you think.

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