Faith is a strange concept. We know what it means but have little idea how it works.
The confusion has a lot to do with language. People speak of faith as if it were an object. This isn’t surprising as ‘faith’ is a noun not a verb. We say. “I have faith” in much the same way as we say “I have a car” or “I have a house.”
Now, if faith is a noun, what on earth is it and how can we get hold of it? Does it come from God? Ourselves? Others? The ‘Universe’.
If I had to choose between any, I’d favour God, but then I’m a liberal theist who questions the benevolence of the Universe and who considers herself as capricious as the next person.
Thankfully, the concept ‘faith’ functions more like a verb than a noun. It’s something we do, rather than an object we possess. When we ‘faith’ we’re doing a number of things, no least investing our energy and time in positive thinking. One thing we’re not doing is opening a bank account and hoping to fill it with a ton of esoteric wealth.
Faith then, doesn’t come from other people having faith for us (as many claim), nor is it something that God or the Universe hands out on a whim. This makes us spectators rather than participators in life. Rather, it’s the way we think, and the actions we perform.
This can be difficult, of course. The ‘world’ impinges on us with its randomness and cruelty. We seldom see justice and we certainly don’t see much compassion. There’s an epistemic distance between what we witness and where we believe goodness rests. Sadly, this is just part of the human condition.
To faith, then, is to take a jump off the cliff’s edge. It’s an act of intellectual suicide. You do it with passion and commitment because you come to a point in your life when you can do nothing else. Once you’ve done that, you wait.
And this is the great lesson of the mystics of all traditions: to sit in silence, waiting. We faith in stillness and in action, and with wisdom we learn to know the difference. As we do so, we begin to recalibrate our vision of life and our world grows into a better place.