Jim Bishop | Move over, mountains, faith is coming through

“Faith is the bird that sings
when the dawn is still dark.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
The keynote speaker for our annual faculty-staff conference was dishing out some rather heady stuff – all relevant to helping get everyone psyched up for the start the new school year looming ahead.

But the message was also somewhat disconcerting – if one agrees with his basic premise.

Which is: “Today, everything is geared towards the ‘means’; we rarely focus on the ‘ends,’ that is, keeping foremost in our minds what it is that we are heading toward and aligning our actions accordingly.

“We work longer and expend more energy without determining where we want to go,” he said.

If that’s true, I thought to myself, then who or what controls our lives and destiny? The clock? Others’ requests and demands? External forces that seem largely beyond our ability to handle and that turn us into mere marionettes in the cosmos?

What role does personal faith play in this bewildering scenario?

Faith is what sustains me on a daily basis, I declare. It’s that mysterious inner sense of an Infinite Being behind this universe that I am one small, finite part of. This celestial power is in control, and I can, in faith, connect to this source and move ahead with confidence that my steps will be guided even when I stumble and fall along the way.

So how is faith imbued in us?

“Our faith is shaped in a variety of ways through the people with whom we interact, the life experiences we have, the places we worship and the schools we attend,” notes Mary Nitzsche, associate pastor at Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church in an article in “Timbrel” magazine, a publication of Mennonite Women USA.

“While it is important to have structured times of instruction, faith is often taught through the ordinary experiences of life over a lifetime,” Mary states. “Using teachable moments to discuss beliefs and values connects faith to life’s experiences. Living what we believe and value gives authenticity to faith.”

Faith ranks right up there with air, water and daily bread as essential for survival.

Faith is the glue that helps hold me together when I feel stretched and fragmented.

Faith is that candle glowing at the end of the tunnel that won’t flicker and go out even when I renege on promises made or find myself looking around for an escape from reality and responsibility.

Faith is what keeps me moving, observing, asking questions, taking risks, yes, even doubting, and prodding me to renew or redouble my efforts when it would be easier to say, “What’s the use?”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

I am weak, an earthen vessel, with cracks and leakage, but equipped with a remarkable capacity to be shaped and molded for more understanding and greater service as I allow my faith to be tested and strengthened.

I believe our speaker was hitting a sensitive nerve, corporately and individually. We’d rather keep ourselves busily scratching things off our “to do” list than take time to closely examine the “big picture” that may require redirecting our efforts for the common good of all.

I need to constantly ask what the true ends are in my life while paying attention to how I pursue them. Faith provides the key to opening doors of greater comprehension and understanding of what direction I’m moving toward.

American novelist Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

Mason Cooley, an English professor and aphorist, observed that “Faith moves mountains, but you have to keep pushing while you are praying.”

A lack of faith limits my ability to achieve my goals or enter boldly into new realms of experience. At the same time, scripture warns that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17) and “if I have faith that can move mountains but have no love, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13:2).

I recall the refrain of a folk song from the late 1960’s that still speaks to me, “I know where I’m going… and I know whose going with me, I know why there’s music in the quiet summer morning . . .”

The clock radio hasn’t yet sounded, but I hear the bird’s song – it may be our parakeet Ozzie – and arise by faith to meet a new day.

 

– Column by Jim Bishop

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