Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Keep the Faith

I was involved in conversation with one of my good friends yesterday.  The topics ranged widely due to frequent interruptions.  But if you are in conversation with good friends, it usually does not matter. Of course, it is nice to have conversations that are focused, intense, and eminently satisfying.  But life often interrupts.  And true friendships survive all interruptions!  “Keep the faith!”

The fact that life interrupts is a good thing and, sometimes, a bad thing.  We are all living our lives.  Most of the time, I don’t think about it in these terms.  I move from commitment to commitment.  In my case, commitment often means classes.  I teach one class and, then, move on to the next one.  You all have your movements through the day.

We are living our lives.  And that is exactly where spirituality takes place…in the midst of living our lives.  I think people mistakenly assume that spirituality (or religion) is what one does when one takes “time out.”  During the “time out,” one goes to be spiritual or religious---often understood as going to church, synagogue or mosque.  When “time out” is over, real life begins again.  As I said, I think this is mistaken.

The spiritual is either a part of real, ongoing life or it is nothing.  And so I come back to my conversation with my good friend.  We were talking about the real stuff of life---her life and my life.  I always think this is how Jesus was involved in ministry.  I am confident he traveled around with some of his friends and wherever he went, he made new friends.

But this is not really about Jesus, so much as it is about finding the spiritual in the ordinariness of our lives.  It is discovering in our everydayness some purpose or meaning.  Sometimes, our ordinariness is so blah it is difficult to find meaning.  Not all jobs are a great deal.  Dealing with cancer or the foibles of old age is not fun.  So we cannot sugarcoat this thing.  As my students would say, some parts of life do suck!

But this is where I want to return to the theme of the day: “keep the faith.”  As I departed yesterday, those were my words to her: “keep the faith.”  I caught myself in the moment.  That was a phrase erupting from my past.  Any of us who lived through the 1960s automatically said that phrase, “keep the faith.”  It was part of the lingo along with phrases like “groovy.”  But it was the ‘60s and “keeping the faith” was at stake.  Keep it…or lose it…

To come full circle, we recognize that our ordinariness will inevitably have those times when the spiritual is not obvious---when meaning is missing---and all we can do is “keep the faith.”  There is so much implied in that phrase.  But surely, it means at least two things.

First comes the verb, “keep.”  You have faith; it is a treasure.  Faith is not a guarantee.  It not “for sure.”  But it is a great bet; it will see you through the day.  Keep the faith!

And “faith” is the noun.  For me, faith is trust.  It is trust in a Spirit which is present and working toward good ends.  I trust that to be true.  I will live my life into the truth of that.  In the midst of my ordinariness I will trust that good possibilities can come my way.  So I “keep the faith.”

When I left my friend yesterday, I realize I was encouraging and, maybe even, admonishing her to “keep the faith.”  Persevere; hang in there.  And probably I was hoping she would be wishing the same for me.

After all, that’s what friends---spiritual friends---do: they tell each other to “keep the faith.” 

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