I like working with my hands. I find that doing repetitive, physical tasks lets my mind wander and think its own thoughts.
When I was a kid, some of my favourite times were sitting on the lawnmower, cutting our 5 acres of grass. My mind would wander. I might be a famous Formula 1 driver. Or a pilot. Or any number of other stories.
My mind was wandering today, and I recalled a time from a few years back.
I had just come out of the hospital after a relatively short period of time. Although I was able to go back to work, my body was drained. My mind was fuzzy.
These conditions have hit me, over the years, and I knew that I could rely on one thing to see me through: my unbridled optimism for life.
Through all the things I’ve gone through, my spirit has always remained strong. I could rely on it to see me through.
And now it was gone, too.
I have never felt so low. Not when my business went under. Not even when I was in a hospital bed for 4 months at death’s door.
I had no energy to examine what I was thinking. I had no energy to seek answers to my predicament. I simply existed, wondering when it would all end.
I was lucky. I have family and friends who continued to love me and wish me well. But there was a question that kept nagging at me. In the back of my mind, the voice kept asking: where was God in all of this?
My life is intertwined with the church. I went from birth. Against my will, a lot of the time, but I went all the same.
There were a few things that I remember being taught: God is a just God, God loves you, pray to God and your prayers would be answered.
I had tried, in my way, to be faithful to these beliefs. This all came tumbling down.
If God was just, why was I sick? If God loves me, why was I sick? If God answers prayers, why was I sick?
At the time, I had no answers. I couldn’t do. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel.
I just existed.
It hit me today that I had mistaken belief and faith.
What’s the difference? I used to think none, but I was mistaken.
I think belief is some construct that your mind comes up with. I see the earth. It looks flat. I see a ball. If I tried to stand on the bottom side of a ball, I’d fall off. Therefore, the earth must be flat.
We snicker, now. People believed that the earth was flat for millenia, and that you could fall off the edge. This is not even an ancient belief. I remember an uncle of mine saying that the earth was flat. Also that no one had ever stood on the moon. It was so small, how could someone stand on it?
But this belief in a flat earth changed. I suppose seafarers had known it forever. They saw a ship go over the horizon. Oh, the earth must be curved.
Now, of course, we all know that the earth is round.
That’s a belief. A mind-made construct.
Faith, though … faith, I think, is something that comes from a different place. That intangible place we call soul or spirit.
As my mind chattered on about how all my beliefs were wrong and how I’d wasted my time believing them, my spirit started to say it’s OK.
All of my beliefs were crumbling before me. All the things I had thought about God and religion were passing away. All of my beliefs were up for review, but my faith, apparently, had remained intact.
Even if my whole belief system was flawed or outright wrong. Even if I had wasted so much time and energy putting on a “good front”, trying to be perfect, or someone I wasn’t. Even if I didn’t know what to think anymore.
Beliefs, I believe, come and go. The earth is flat. The earth is round. This race of people is good. This race of people is bad. The government is for the people. The government is for itself. God punishes the bad and rewards the good. God let’s the rain fall equally on the good and the bad.
Through all these belief changes – and they can be pretty traumatic – faith is what keeps you tethered. In electrical terms grounded.
Did God do this to me? Or was it just the circumstances of life? Belief needs to know the answer to this question.
Faith, on the other hand, says I don’t know, but it’s OK either way.