Saturday, July 01, 2006

Faith and Ambiguity

I was at Camp Pecometh this week. From Sunday night through Friday afternoon, I was the "Spiritual Life Coordinator," leading Bible Study and worship for Middle School aged youth. I was grateful to have a relatively light schedule of only three studies per day and one worship service per evening. I also had some time for retreat, reading, and reflection.

I had a chance to spend some time with Jack Shitama, the Camp Director, who is also a part of our community of faith in Chesapeake City. (He is preaching again at Jacob's Well on July 9.) We got to talking about the nature of faith, and he reminded me of something Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey said. One cannot have strong faith without being able to handle ambiguity.

This has certainly been my experience. Black and white are hard to come by. But the Great Mystery that is our God is amazing to experience. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes. It is by the poet Ranier Marie Rilke. He writes in letters To A Young Poet:
I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer

It is ironic that I would be having these thoughts as I was teaching Bible study to Middle schoolers. Life is still black and white at this age. That is part of the reason I enjoyed being at Camp. And I hope God used some of what I said and did to plant seeds that will bear fruit for the Kingdom, now and in the future.

I think that once a person of faith gets to really trying to put faith into action, praying, serving the poor, living a life of reconciliation and forgiveness, reflecting on God's will for the world and one's individual life, things become muddy. The church throughout the ages, literally almost since its inception, has wrestled with the balance between purity and unity, sin and grace. As soon as we begin reaching into the world in love, we find that the world is a messy place.

Another of my favorite quotes, this one by GK Chesterton:
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried

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