Growing and Faith
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
I am concerned about the ever-present temptation to move away from truly living by faith.
Growing involves the willingness to learn, fail and learn again. Growing is about continually striving and never arriving. Jesus’ disciples quickly learned that faith was central to everything that mattered to Him. When the disciples asked Jesus about how they could have more faith, he suggested to them that faith was not about quantity as if they needed more of it. He told them that if they had the faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. Faith is unquantifiable. Faith is a muscle—it is a way of being and relating to another. The heart of faith is about who we place our faith in.
Dynamic faith is about relationship. It is connected to the relationship I have with the person I am putting my faith in. Faith is central to growing and deepening our relationship with the transcendent God. The author of the book of Hebrews writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is intangible and yet vital to spiritual growth.
By nature, I am opposed to living by faith. I prefer certainty over mystery and mastery over learning. I feel driven to understand faith and have it make sense. I love to learn—sort of; however, one of my temptations is to believe I understand more than I do. I forget that learning and growing is really about what we don’t know. Learning requires the courage to stretch into the unknown. It is more interested in pursuing the unknown than resting in the known. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset, refers to the growth vs. the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset is all about figuring things out. The growth mindset focuses on learning, stretching and growing. We must be willing to err and fail if we are going to meaningfully learn and grow.
All of my adult life I have been seeking and studying faith. I am in the process of publishing my first book, Grappling with God, and it is concerned with growth and the role of faith. I am discovering that just when I think I have faith figured out I fall flat on my face—faith down. I am learning that authentic faith is about not knowing. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is about an experience. The Bible speaks of faith being and encounter with God. It is pursuing relationship with the Transcendent Other in the face of uncertainty and not-knowing.
As I write this sentence, I notice my desire to be more precise and certain about what faith is and isn’t. How can I be writing an article about faith and not be certain of what I am saying? Maybe my lack of certainty is the very quality that allows me to discuss such a sacred experience. I believe faith represents a drive, a human potentiality, within all people that seeks actualization. Man is moved toward faith by an inner awareness of the Transcendent to which he senses his connection. It is this connection that we all seek—an encounter with the holy and mysterious Other. Our hearts seek an experience with unconditional love. Paul Tillich writes, “The unconditional concern which is faith is the concern about the unconditional. The infinite passion, as faith has been described, is the passion for the infinite.” (Tillich, 1957)
Tillich, P. (1957). The Dynamics of Faith. New York: Perennial Classics.