I have decided that I am not going to grow up.
I don’t know if I’ve told this story before. I went to a very conservative southern Baptist college where my unfortunate lunch hours on Thursday were spent in an auditorium at chapel. Chapel was the most boring thing imaginable – it was longwinded, boring, and to me, irrelevant. The closer I got to graduation, the more the focus shifted to constant evangelical preaching that attempted to beat the logic out of the Bible in the most backward way possible and tended to end in altar calls. My New Testament class assumed I had a solid grounding in the Gospels so I could understand what all these other books were about, and I didn’t.
I really enjoyed my Old Testament class, though, because it focused on the history of faith. I was actually starting to understand things. I sensed a story behind all this. I was very interested in Judaism for a long time (I would still like to learn Hebrew)…but I am convinced that no amount of studying or reading could reveal to me the same things I have learned through experience, through miracles, through coincidences that definitely are not, through Mary in no uncertain terms leading me to the feet of God and planting me firmly on my bottom in front of the throne.
It’s a different learning of faith, that’s for sure. The faith of a child is just that – God exists because he is. Things in this world – butterflies, babies, thunderstorms, apples, animals – exist because they simply are. God is real and he is good because the world is good and wonderful things happen. Like rainbows. And miracles. And delicious breakfasts of oatmeal and raisins and a glass of milk. (If “manna from heaven” has a modern interpretation I sincerely hope it is this.)
Somewhere down the road, I used to think, faith required being able to analyze and explain all the hidden messages in the Bible. Reading between the lines is how you developed faith. You had to deeply understand the Bible to be able to understand what salvation is all about. That’s what I saw people around me doing, anyway…
And that is so not what it’s about.
I have faith because I believe what I have seen and learned – how could I not? I may have learned to believe what we say in the creeds that are part of our Catholic faith, but that’s part of learning the story. I believe in angels and saints, I believe in the power of prayer and the sign of the cross, and I have faith that Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, even though I don’t understand why. I sense that he is there, and when I go to adoration, I hear him.
You just can’t make up the stuff that you experience.
I never want to forget why I have faith. My faith story isn’t written in the Bible, and I don’t have to analyze the daylight out of it to understand why I believe. The Bible is the history, the story of salvation. I still don’t know it all, but I want to read it and find out more. I’m curious. And I ask why a lot. I know a lot of the questions I ask are beyond our human comprehension – infinitely complex, if you will, like why Jesus had to die for our sins – so I plan to really bug my Daddy when I get home ’til he tells me how some of these things work. But it doesn’t mean I don’t believe them, or that they happened and are as important as we know they are.
So when I read the Bible, I tend to do so to get the story. I like theology, but in baby bites. I can handle digging through the Catechism only if God’s there to help me and keep me from getting frustrated. I’m glad some of the mysterious things of our faith aren’t explained in full; we have to take them at face value, like children. With faith.
When I was 4 years old, I told my mom I wanted to stay four forever.
I meant it.