Friday, October 29, 2010

Passage on Faith, by Brian C. Taylor

The following passage on faith comes from Brian C. Taylor, Becoming Human: Core Teachings of Jesus. Someone shared it with me, and I'm posting it here because it seems to fit nicely with John's recent post on hope:

Faith is a matter of moving into a region where we are not in control and then trusting anyway. We do not know if things will turn out the way we envision them; we do not know if God will heal us physically, transform our failure into success, or make our problems go away. When we call upon God’s help, the only things we do know is that we cannot heal ourselves, we cannot make our failure into a success, we cannot make our problems go away. We also know, in faith, that God is good. These two things—our helplessness and God’s goodness—are the only things we know. They are the only things we need to know . . .

Blind to the future, unable to envision new life, we nevertheless step forward in to the unknown, holding God’s hand, trusting, like a child. It is the only thing we can do. It is always hard to do it; it never gets easy. But the amazing thing is, when we do this hard thing, there begins to stir within and around us a power that is not our own. Insights come to us. People around us shift their positions. We listen more carefully, and a way forward begins to show itself. A sense of rightness begins to strengthen in our gut . . .

All this takes place over a period of time, and neither its schedule nor outcome can be forced. We must settle into a reflective, contemplative time of listening, actively watching, waiting, being ready to respond. Having surrendered, having hit the limitations of our human capacity, we then must let go and let god. But this letting go and letting God is hardly passive at this point. Surrender to grace is not like surrendering in defeat. It is active, watchful, attentive, willing to be taken forward beyond the point where we are stuck. It is a state of expectation, where we invite God to become active in us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts on Hope

“Every divine action disturbs: it foils our expectations and our calculations, our hopes and our fears, in a striking manner.”
- Jean-Louis Chretien

To me, hope seems natural; it’s as if human beings are always hoping for something. We usually hope for particular things: for a long, happy life; for a new job; for a child; etc. When these legitimate hopes are fulfilled, it is a gift from God. But these particular hopes are also finite, limited and thus subject to all sorts of accidents and disappointments. The unfulfillment of our hopes is something with which we are all more or less familiar.

There is a deeper hope that rests in God even when our conscious desires are left unfulfilled, shattered by circumstances outside of our control. If my small efforts at contemplative prayer have taught me anything, it is that our ideas and expectations about God are always coming undone in the silent encounter with God. Divine action “foils our expectations and our calculations, our hopes and our fears, in a striking manner.” God’s action undoes our conscious hopes; indeed, if we knew what to hope for, perhaps we would not be hoping for God at all but merely for our own ideas. You all are probably familiar with these lines from T. S. Eliot that express a similar sentiment: “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope/ For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.”

It seems to me, then, that if hope is anything, it must be a basic stance that we take, a way of living in the world--rather than a commitment to particular ideas about our future or doctrines about heaven. It is an openness toward God who is newly present in each moment; it is a commitment to wait for, be present to the God whose action goes beyond our imaginative capacity.

In some ways, this is unsatisfying. I’d like a definite, hopeful vision I can hold onto in hard times. God’s foiling of our conscious expectations is not always a pleasant experience. But this hope, even though it doesn’t have a definite object, is far from empty. It is hope for an unforeseeable but certain encounter with God. It is openness to something new and different, infinitely more than we could think. While it is not hope in a particular doctrine or image, it is hope in the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3). As hopeful people, we live in an attitude of trust toward something that goes far beyond our comprehension and our conscious desires.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Psalm 41:12: “In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”

To have integrity is to be “integrated.” Not to be fragmented, disjointed, scattered. Not to have part of yourself here and part of yourself over there. Being/feeling one way in one kind of situation, then being/feeling completely different in another situation. To have integrity means to have a consistent self, a stable self, a true self.

It’s hard to maintain integrity, to stay integrated, in our society. So much busywork, so much noise, so many advertisements and other distractions.

And we’re all tempted to lie at times, or at least to be fake. The problem with lying or being fake – in terms of spiritual health – is that it manifests a false self. It is practice in being not real, not stable. It is practicing unreality, disconnection.

To become a person of integrity we must practice integrity. We must say what we mean and mean what we say. We must be genuinely ourselves in situation after situation, relationship after relationship.

And we must follow through on our words and our commitments. If we need to be released from a commitment, then we honestly say so rather than simply not doing what we said we would do. This is another way of practicing disconnection and unreality.

As Psalm 42:12 says, integrity is key to practicing the presence of God. If we are not fully, completely present—integrated—then we cannot fully experience and enjoy the presence of God. But through our practice of integrity in faith God will set us “in [his] presence forever.”

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