"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." Luke 10:27
This week, on long drives across town, I listened to the next lecture in a series titled, "Philosophy and Religion in the West," from The Teaching Company's Great Courses. In lecture 25, Professor Phillip Cary talks about
Kierkegaard. In the 19th century, logic and reason were viewed as the
ultimate authority for truth. Some religious scholars thought that even
God could be proven, logically, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Kierkegaard viewed this as hogwash. He believed that there is a great
chasm between reason and faith. Faith in God cannot be learned in the
lecture hall from the words of a great scholar, or even from a pastor in
a church. Those who doubted God were better off than those who accepted God based upon someone else's understanding. For such was not real faith. Real faith requires a "leap" that only
the individual can make for him- or herself. This leap of faith can
only come about from within, from an inward searching for God.
These words resonated with me. They eased one of my deepest concerns -- about my son -- and led me to think about the past in a new way.
When my oldest son was four years old, I had this great desire to teach him about God. I wanted him to have a deep and lasting faith in God, and I was beginning to worry that he wouldn't unless I took a active role in his religious education. I knew that faith in God was not automatic, but I was just beginning to learn that even people who grow up in a church, don't necessarily truly believe in God. My husband had grown up in the church, had been an altar boy, went through catechism, and came from a very devout family. Yet, as an adult, he discovered that he no longer believed in God. He had only believed in God because the people he most admired believed in God. I was worried that the same thing would happen to my son.
I knew that my own faith had sustained me many times, and I wanted this kind of faith for my son. I believed that I could teach him this; that somehow, I could say the words that would convince him to believe in God as I did. However, though I believed this, I didn't know how to accomplish it. So I searched for help in a book (a not uncommon thing for me to do), and I found "Talking to Your Child About God," by David Heller. I thought this author would tell me what to say to my child. But, David Heller believed that before you can teach your child about God, you need to know what you believe about God. He even provided some questions to get the reader started. Questions like "What image do you have of God? ... "Does life have meaning? ... Do you believe in the afterlife?" (pg.26) I was, at first, very resistant to his questions. I had no easy answers for any of them. But, eventually, I began to think again about what I had been taught as a child and to wonder, What did I believe?
It was here, with these first questions, that my journey of faith began. And I actually learned to highly value these kinds of questions. For though my questions have not always led to immediate answers, they have always led me to a deeper truth, to a deeper love for God and for Jesus, and to a deeper understanding of God's love for me.
However, my growing understanding has not been transmitted to my son. As much as I have tried to teach him about God, formally (like a teacher) by sharing what I have learned, and informally as things come up, he doubts the very existence of God. As a result, I have increasingly felt like a failure. My whole journey of faith was motivated by a desire to teach my son to love God as I do, and I have been the only one to benefit from it. I have wondered a lot lately, How can I begin to teach other people about God, when I can't even teach my own son? This question was beginning to handicap me, preventing me from following through with what I felt God asking me to do.
And then I listened to that lecture on Kierkegaard, and was amazed at how deeply it spoke to my concerns, my fears. Thank God for Kierkegaard!
I recalled the last thing I told my son: "You do not have to believe what I believe. But I would like you to keep asking questions, keep thinking, and be open to the possibility of God."
Be open to the possibility. Those words echoed in my mind this week, too. As I drove through town, I saw on the side of the Canyon Ranch shuttle: "The Power of Possibility."
The power of possibility. Not impossibility.
Maybe it's not my abilities I need to worry about. Maybe I too need to be more open to the possibility of God, the possibilities of God. Maybe I need to put my absolute faith in God's abilities, instead of my own. After all, many things have happened to me on this journey of faith that I would have thought were absolutely impossible.
Dear God, thank you for your wonderful, amazing guidance in my life. Love always, Pam