I realized quite a while ago that having affection for the dictionary is, well…..odd. I can’t help myself. It’s full of really useful information. I always find that when I think I know the definition of something, I look it up and it actually means something different than I thought it did. I think this is exciting! For me, in my geeky, word-nerd panacea, a dictionary is pure enchantment bound with pressboard and glue. I love definitions.
When I started blogging five years ago about my faith I imagined I would want to have typical resources like a Bible, an online concordance and texts of other world religions close by. But, without considering my unrequited love for the inanimate object, it was my dictionary that came out each and every time I sat at my keyboard.
Definition: Faith (noun) fayth 1. Belief or trust; belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof. 2. Religion or religious group; a system of religious belief, or the group of people who adhere to it. 3. Trust in God; belief in and devotion to God. 4. Set of beliefs; a strongly held set of beliefs or principles. 5. Loyalty; allegiance or loyalty to somebody or something.
It’s that little nagging notion of having logical proof that always makes a conversation about faith a little tenuous and elusive. Maybe that is why I am so inclined to get a concrete definition from the dictionary. Part of human nature is to crave certainty and the actual definition of faith implies that you will flounder in what feels like a sea of nonsensical ideology. For most of us, this is not very comforting. We live in a world that craves hard facts and seeks out knowledge. The survival instinct in our brain wants to know the black and white facts and faith tends to live in a soft, blurry, gray world.
I think this is why the faith conversation is so incredibly important. We all wrap our minds around faith in a unique and different way. We attend different houses of worship. We call our God different names or we insist that God doesn’t exist. Our principals, beliefs and loyalty all tie closely to our culture and our personal history which is as unique as a snowflake. Faith is, by definition, believing in something that common sense tells you not to. It believes without proof. And it believes passionately.
The passion behind our faith is the real mystery. We believe in something so fervently, yet at the same time there is a discomfort in talking about it with people that don’t share the majority of our own views or practice faith in the same manner. We move from “believing in something without logical proof”, to taking a religious stance because we feel another’s beliefs are somehow opposite to our own. For centuries wars have started over that stance.
I don’t believe that faith requires a posture to battle. Over the years I have gotten more benefit from understanding the faith of others and how they practice it and I have found that my own faith grows. I am inspired by the Buddhist practice of letting go of self, I feel a strong connection to Jewish traditions that relate so closely to my own Christian culture and I am fascinated by the Islamic belief of one incorruptible deity. As I discuss the differences I recognize that the person sitting across the table from me is just as strongly held to their beliefs as I am to mine. But at the same time I see far too many parallels in our travels down the road to faith to dismiss.
If you have ever had a faith conversation with someone who believed differently than you do and walked away feeling uplifted and inspired, you know exactly what I mean. When The Divine is present the only approach that matters is the real definition of faith.