“Faith should become so transparent that it does not need experience. But it takes a lot of experience to reach that point,” wrote Thomas Keating. This idea came up in my last Alpha meeting. A group member talked about Jesus’s mustard seed parable: If you have faith like a grain of mustard, you can move mountains. Bob, the group member, said he never understood what it meant until he started to have faith, and build upon it. And what he realized was that he didn’t move the mountain, it was his “big God.” All he needed to do was put a little bit of trust in God to do so.
And what is ‘a little bit’ but a small incremental change to our current state? What is a seed but a blossom in waiting? What is a blossom but a sapling in waiting? And a sapling a tree in waiting? (Mustard isn’t a tree, but you get the point…) Experience of life is what allows for learning which allows for these small, incremental growths in faith.
Faith, then, is a habit. We start out with it, and only through practicing it in the experiences of our lives can it grow. This, I believe, is true of all of the good fruits of life. They must be made practices if we want to know them.
Brene Brown, in her audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability, discusses how an “attitude of gratitude” is not enough to experience actual gratitude. In order to experience it, we need to make a practice of it: by a gratitude journal, prayer, whatever–so long as it is a continuous discipline. Likewise, an attitude of faith is not enough. We must experience life, pushing its margins, relying on faith to help us reach a point of serenity, peace, equanimity. And only by doing that can faith grow incrementally, from seed to plant to mover of mountains.
There is no quick and easy way to find peace in the world. There is no simple way to realize our vocations. There is no shortcut to growing into God’s presence, into peace, into equanimity, into wholeness–whatever you might call that thing in which you place your faith. It takes work. It takes the creation of habits, practices, disciplines. Attitudes and good thoughts will only get you so far. But ultimately, in order to grow, one must put in the work, day in and day out, moment to moment.
Adapted from a journal entry written 1/19/20.