Monday, August 29, 2011

On Faith in your Twenties

It's not easy to have faith in your twenties, I have concluded (after almost one year of being in my twenties. Talk about expertise). There is something about religion that appeals to the weak, the broken, the needy. Perhaps it's the offer of unlimited love, or the promise of a glorious Heaven that will make up for the sorrows and sufferings of this world. Christ told us that he came not to call the righteous but sinners, and truly, those who are broken by sin often love the Faith in a way that is not easily understood by those who are comfortably in control of their well-ordered lives.

When you feel like you have it all together, I'm starting to think, it's easy to forget that you need Christ. There are certain times in life when the sacramental vision - seeing the deeper spiritual truth behind every human reality - comes as easily as breathing. For example, as a child, I believed in fairies and in good old Santa Claus. If you truly believe, as I did at that time, that pixies live under the rock at the bottom of your garden and that a chubby fellow wearing red takes trips down chimneys for your express benefit, it's very easy to also believe that God has assigned you your own personal angel to be your friend, and that His pretty mother in blue makes a habit of appearing to children in caves. (NOTE: I very much believe in guardian angels and in the Marian apparitions, and I think there is overwhelming evidence to prove the existence of both, and I am in no way denigrating these important beliefs or say that they're on the level of children believing in fairies. I'm also not saying that the latter is remotely a part of having a sacramental vision. I'm simply trying to make the point that the things Christians believe in can be hard to accept and can seem silly to those who don't understand them). When a person is old and many of her loved ones have died, that promised Heaven where they are waiting for her probably seems very near and easy to believe in. When a person is in fear or in pain, the act of crying out to God for help - De profundis clamavi ad te Domine! - is a natural, almost instinctive, response. But when a person is young and strong, healthy and successful? It's harder to believe in all the difficult truths of the Faith. Especially if a person is intelligent and used to wrapping her mind quickly around new concepts, the mystery of the Trinity or of the hypostatic union are so hard to accept. It isn't easy to put complete and total faith in things you can't see and understand.

That's why I rejoiced to read the Holy Father Benedict XVI's address to young people before World Youth Day earlier this month. In it he talks about how he had doubts as a young man - doubts about what was true and doubts that he should be a priest. Can you imagine that the pope once had doubts about whether God was calling him to the priesthood? That blew my mind and gave me so much more respect for him. We have a brave and honest Holy Father all right.

And I knew just where he was coming from. Because I do have doubts. I do struggle to believe. Some days I look at my faith and think, "How can anyone believe all this crazy, contradictory, paradoxical stuff?" Faith means standing on the very cliff's edge of your human intellect and looking out at what seems to be an endless and terrifying abyss - and jumping. What happens after you jump is only between you and God, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that some days I'm afraid to take the leap. Some days, of course, I look at my faith and see that it is the only way to make sense of this world, that it's the one thing that is entirely reasonable and beautiful. But the thing is, faith is a gift. I can't entirely choose which days I'll believe and which days I won't. What I can do is ask for faith, and there are many, many days when I pray, like the centurion, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." Because even on the days when it's hardest to believe, I want to have faith. And that, I think, makes all the difference.

No comments:

Post a Comment