Thursday, March 5, 2015

A renewal of faith

Like many men of middle age, I recently reached a saturation point with the world's troubles. Having reached that point I came to an impasse. To turn away and enter hermitage (albeit with a wife and family) or to turn and face the world? No easy decision, to be sure.

On the one hand, my stoicism and Confucianism have spurned me towards facing the world with the mix of stiff-upper-lip and human compassion. Yet, for some time now I've felt a lack of spiritual reserves which could fuel such endeavors. For, I think that one must also have joy in life, and partake of the joy of life if one is going to continue and to face life, even as a stoic. (As an aside, stoicism need not be joyless, despite what you may have heard. In fact, I would argue that a joyless stoicism will inevitably crumble just like any other philosophical approach to life.)

So I have been muddling my way through life, meeting the troubles I've found in the best way I could, though with an increasing sense of hopelessness and even, if I'm honest, a bit of dread regarding the future.

And yet, through some process that remains a mystery to me I have returned to a faith which I found a long time ago in my youth, which sustained me and which I subsequently lost, or at least misplaced. Perhaps a better way to put it is that it found me, like a slight tap on the shoulder, saying, "Look, over here, here I am." This was God talking to me, in the way in which I've come to understand God's communication.

It is a further mystery to me how the troubles of the world have taken a part in all of this. Through the graphic images that I've come across (usually, quite unwillingly), I've had a crisis and have battled with depression. Yet, through all of that, it has seemed as though God has wanted me to face those images, the difficult realities of our world. The words of Rowan Williams resonate with me when he says, "A baptized Christian ought to be somebody who is not afraid of looking with honesty at the chaos inside, as well as being where humanity is at risk, outside." 1

There have been many important changes to my life since this renewal in faith, changes in my daily habits (prayer and daily reading of scripture), as well as changes in my outlook on life and the world. I suppose one of the most important effects that has come from it is a renewed sense of joy for life. And yes, there is still profound sadness and sorrow within. Yet, I've found some sense of joy and hope which had left me. Perhaps it comes from realizing (again) that the world has long been such a troubled place as it is now. More likely, it comes from looking around me and seeing the world differently, as well as my place in it. Recognizing my small part in everything and focusing outward, and not just inward, is an important shift. Some of the positive effects follow.

A sense of belonging replacing a sense of isolation and despair.
A renewed humility in the face of problems which are really quite difficult.
Realizing just how impatient I've become.
Facing feelings of hatred and fear which are quite real and difficult to resolve alone.
Connection to God replacing the egoist monolith of modern living.
Daily ritual replacing aimless wasting of mental and emotional focus. Well, beginning to replace, this is still a work in progress after all.

It's in the truly difficult moments of life, where we are filled with anger, despair, and disgust that we may find God tapping us on the shoulder and asking us to turn and face Him. To be open to a different view, to be open to truth.

I have no desire to proselytize here on this blog, though I will share my beliefs when they are relevant. I will however say, whoever you are, whatever you believe, as you wake and walk and act, peace be with you.

1. Being Christian by Rowan Williams