I grew up with the unspoken assumption that having faith in anything but God is silly. At best.
Getting worse, I sometimes heard words like foolish, idolatry, and maybe once even heresy.
And that made for trouble later on, because one of my biggest growth-steps well into my adult stage of life was learning to trust myself. I have faith in myself, a phrase I never would have had the guts to say in high school or college, maybe not even for orthodoxy reasons.
It just sounds cheesy and I’ve never liked cheesy.
But I went through this book with a neat batch of women in the fall, and one of the things that came up toward the end was the purpose and place of faith.
In the context of the study, the book was reminding us that we are to live this Christian life the same way we came into it: by faith, not by our efforts to prove ourselves worthy.
This I love. This I can get behind, and cheer, and find relief in.
And I have no idea how to define it.
But it got me thinking of what we put our faith in, and I realized that for me, real flesh-and-blood people make that list.
For example, I trust that my parents love me.
I know that my husband is going to be loyal only to me as long as we both shall live.
I am confident that various friends [Becky, Kit, Jennifer, Sarah, Tori, Paul, David, Josh, Aaron, and more] are examining themselves thoroughly and submitting themselves to the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, so that I don’t have to interrogate and squish them through a garlic press before I believe they’re right with God.
I have faith in my parents, my husband, and my friends.
And there is nothing wrong with this.
Like the word love, our language has the single word faith that has evolved various meanings.
I have to have faith in myself if I’m going to trust my own capacity to make meaningful decisions (that’s why this was a personal growth-step for me).
I have to have faith in my husband’s and parents’ love if I am going to talk with them about difficult things and trust that their love for me will endure. Without this I will always be afraid to reveal what’s inside me or seek help with what confuses or hurts me.
I have to have faith in my friends’ ability to grow and individually hear from God, or else I will be forever limited to myself. I will also be responsible for, or at least carry an undue weight and concern for their spiritual well-being, when their relationship with God is one-on-one and only last because they consistently surrender to his God-ness.
This isn’t about conflict-avoidance or not asking questions or challenging people ever, but it is about basic assumptions and simply being able to trust people.
In all these cases the faith is not based on nothing.
“God demonstrated his great love…”
So have all of these people.
Over the years as I’ve come to know them, I see different levels of maturity, different needs and gifts, and (wonder of wonders) places where our strengths and weaknesses braid together in a beautiful cord that is stronger than the sum of its parts.
And they love me. They value me.
When I have a depression relapse, or find myself in an environment where most people are blind to my value, rehearsing my place in these lives, and the respect they’ve given me, reenforces me to me.
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I have found one of the most loving, nurturing, gifting thing we can do for each other is to have faith in one another.
Now, none of us want to look like fools. None of us want to discover someone we trusted was able to pull the wool over our eyes. It can shake our faith in all our other relationships, because our ability to recognize a fraud or cruelty is part of what allows us to trust those we trust as much as we do.
I don’t give my trust to just anyone. But for the reasons listed above, I need to trust someone, and I am incredibly thankful to have more than one.
In most of my experience this faith doesn’t happen because of a resume, or a creed, or the right number and combination of boxes checked off on some form.
It happens over time.
So this faith thing can highlight a hole in our Christian community: have we cultivated or intentionally created the space for the nearness and openness– the vulnerability and authenticity– of communication and relationship that allows us to build relational faith.
I’m told time is a precious commodity in today’s world.
I can’t imagine this is new to our place in history or unique to me, but I know there’s no other reliable methodology to building this faith.
And you might say that discussing my faith in people gives me a better idea of what faith in God looks like, or could be made of.