This past Good Friday and Holy Saturday, I received the manifold gifts of worship at All Souls Cathedral. I longed for the liturgies of those days to enfold, unsettle, guide, and, ultimately, gladden me. They did.
I needed to be in a community of seekers, of people who trust despite their doubts, and of pilgrims on a journey from the status quo to the new creation. I was.
I heard, gratefully, extended and unhurried readings of Scripture which told the story of God’s persistent determination to deliver humankind from every kind of bondage, to forgive our sins, and to heal all brokenness. The collects gave voice to prayers for which I lacked words. The music—played, sung, and chanted—tuned my heart which has a perplexing way of going “flat” or “sharp.”
The shadowy darkness that gradually gave way to floods of light, the stretches of silence which yielded, at the Easter Vigil, to the ringing of bells and the shouting and singing of “Alleluia,” and the stripped-bare altar which was clothed again in white to receive the signs of the bread of life and the cup of salvation all symbolized the resurrection for which I, we, and the world yearn.
Because I’ve been graced to serve alongside the good folks at Calvary Baptist Church in west Asheville during a season of transition for them, I had the privilege of helping to lead Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday worship. It was a sacred honor to share communion with friends who are, like I am, hungry for meaning and thirst for mercy. It was a daunting delight to declare that fear and death are not the end; instead, love and life are our divinely-given destiny.
Since later adolescence, faith hasn’t been easy for me. At times, I’ve struggled, as a lot of people have, with the intellectual dimensions of faith (which I prefer to call belief).
I’ve wrestled with hard questions, and the wrestling doesn’t often bring answers. It brings, instead, better questions, questions “to live” (Rilke) even more than to ask.
I don’t expect to run out of questions. They’re simply part of an ongoing conversation with mystery, life, and God and the conversation, more than conclusions, is the point.
More than struggles of faith as belief—and more vexing—are existential dilemmas of faith as trust. Pascal called it a wager; Kierkegaard described it as a leap; and Augustine spoke of sticking to God (adhaerens Deo) when everything else is coming undone and we ourselves are coming unglued.
“Faith (trust) is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen,” the writer of Hebrews said. Farmer, New Testament scholar, and civil rights pioneer Clarence Jordan said “faith is not belief in spite of the evidence; it is life in scorn of the consequences.”
Here’s what I’m learning to “trust about trust”: it rises up just in time.
When I’ve been deep in the valley of the shadow, I’ve seen flickers of light and felt the presence of an unseen shepherd.
When my spirit has been dry and thirsty, mercy has come like rain in the words of a friend, the memory of a song, the dance of a child, a note of encouragement, refracted light through stained glass, or a phrase from a poem.
When unsure about anything other than being unsure, I’ve made it to church; the hymns, stories, prayers, silences, signs, symbols, and the smiles, tears, handshakes and hugs of sisters and brothers have made it possible for me to trust in ways that are harder when I’m alone.
I’m grateful, so grateful.