I am convinced that is one of the aspects of the Christian journey. Everyone who walks this path has an obligation to serve. But I also am sure that it is not a Christian thing. I know Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others encourage the same walk of faith. I suspect part of the reason service is a given in these major religious traditions is the fact that they all are grounded in love. Love inevitably issues forth in service. Love will put us all at the feet of others. Sometimes we literally will be called to wash their feet as the story of Jesus in John’s Gospel narrated. And sometimes it is more metaphorical that we are put at people’s feet. In that sense we are to serve.
No matter how much I have been able to read and reflect upon, I continue to be helped by many others who have read and thought more deeply than I have. There are a range of folks who write books, blogs and other things that encourage me and countless others on their walk of faith. In that sense they serve me. And I am grateful. One such servant of mine has been Richard Rohr, the Franciscan who runs a center in New Mexico that focuses on contemplation and action. His writings have been spiritual direction for me.
Recently he had a piece that spoke to my condition, as Quakers would say. Rohr wrote about the role of faith. Sometimes faith plays a minor role compared to love. Too often, folks assume faith is in place and move on to talk about love. But not Rohr. He has a real appreciation for the role of faith in the spiritual journey. Let’s ponder his words.
Rohr gets my attention when he offers these words: “Faith is the opposite of resentment, cynicism and negativity.” That is an important word for our contemporary culture, which can exhibit all three of those destructive tendencies. Resentment is an attractive feeling if I feel like I have been beaten in the competition of life. I can resent others who seem to be luckier than I am. Resentment can make me very cynical. All of this breeds a chronic negativity that corrodes the possibilities of a good life.
Spirituality can transform this life perspective. I use another line from Rohr to help me understand how this is possible. Rohr says, “Faith actually begins to create what it desires.” That is powerful. Faith creates. Typically we don’t think about faith as creative, but it certainly is. Faith begins to create what it desires. In this sense faith engages. It engages that which I desire. That could be God. It could be love or justice. Faith can begin to create the good life.
I realize Rohr is onto something and he is helping me understand spirituality on a deeper level. Rohr drags me along into this deeper spiritual place. He continues by saying that “Faith always re-creates the good world.” I appreciate this idea that faith is not only creative, but it is also re-creative. Faith is not a one-night stand. Faith works today and it will be at work tomorrow.
If things go sour, resulting in resentment, cynicism and negativity, faith can re-create. Faith is transformative---turning bad things into constructive aspects of the good life. Rohr helps me see faith in this transformative, spiritual sense. He uses the image of “new eyes.” He puts it eloquently when he says, “Faith is a matter of having new eyes, seeing everything, even our most painful suffering, through and with the eyes of God. It is the only way to keep on the path toward love.”
Faith is having new eyes! Faith is like a spiritual eye transplant. To have faith in God is to get new eyes. In faith and through faith I begin to see myself and my world through the eyes of God. It does not eradicate pain and suffering, but faith does allow me to put painful suffering in a larger context---in a holy context.
In this sense faith is conjunctive---it joins itself to other virtues. Rohr articulates one other virtue, namely, love. As he says, faith keeps us on the path toward love. To be in faith---to be faithful---is to journey to love---and be in love in the process. But faith also implicates the other virtue: hope.
Faith is the conduit of hope. Seeing with new eyes is an act of hope. The re-creation of a good world through faith is an act of hope. To create what I deeply desire is an act of hope. In faith I walk toward love in hope. Wow!