What does it mean to say, "I am a person of faith," or "I have faith?"
For some people, it means that you have ascribed to a particular set of religious traditions. For others, it means that you put your trust in the Divine.
There are some who believe that to have faith means that you have decided to be faithful to the doctrines and dogmas of your denomination, sect or religious community.
Sadly, for many others, it also means that you have lost your ability to reason.
In his recent book Days of Awe and Wonder, Marcus Borg talks about faith from his location as a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures or (as Christians refer to them) the Old Testament.
Borg points out that the Hebrew word for faith in the Old Testament is emunah, which has its origins in the sound that a baby donkey makes when it is calling for its mother.
Marcus Borg says that there's almost an element of desperation in that kind of meaning, but that there's also an element of confidence that the cry will be heard.
When I read that today, I couldn't stop thinking about it. What a beautiful way of thinking about faith! Desperation mixed with confidence... on the surface, it doesn't seem to make sense.
But for most of us, that's what faith is like. We feel as though we are crying out in desperation, longing for all that we hope for in God to be true. We want to believe.
Faith, however, is deeper than belief, because it is born of desperation, and grounded in paradox. The writer of Hebrews writes of faith that it is the substance of things that are hoped for, and the evidence of things that are not seen. Paradox.
Faith is the confidence that comes from knowing that God is there... somewhere within earshot of your emunah cries even though there may not be any clear evidence at the moment that God is listening.
Faith is what happens when we begin to truly see God as the ground of all our being. It's when we realize that God is truly for us. Marcus Borg puts it like this:
But to see [the reality of God] as supportive, gracious and nourishing creates the possibility of responding to life in a posture of trust and gratitude.When we come to this realization, what previously was a paradox, a mystery or something that defied logic---makes perfect sense. It changes the way you see the world. You no longer see it through the lens of dread, fear, or bitter skepticism.
You see the world through the lens of Love. And you know that even though things still fall apart, get broken or become lost... Even though we struggle, and find conflict and often worry... Even though we die...
When we lift up our emunah cry, we are heard, and known... and loved.