BELIEF AND TRUST
A female friend of a friend of mine some years ago lived the life of a female religious and dressed in the garb appropriate to that, a grey skirt, blouse and veil. She had once belonged to a religious order and had left it, though retaining the dress and the daily rhythm of life. When I last saw her she was running a diocesan retreat house in the West of England. Often she'd begin a sentence with the words 'What I believe is...‘ which my friend at the time found furiously frustrating. 'What I believe' seemed to him quite arbitrary, and not related necessarily to what anyone else in the world believed....which seemed to us not terribly helpful.
Most churchgoers are familiar with the Creeds, the historic summaries of Christian faith recited in many churches every Sunday. The earliest, from the second century, begins 'I believe in God': another from the fourth century, used more often, 'We believe...'. I, for one, found the second easier to say than the first when l was younger, because I told myself that we were speaking together as members of an historic and worldwide community. This wasn't so much my personal statement of belief as that of a much wider body, and if there were bits that baffled me, doubtless there were others elsewhere who could recite those bits with confidence.
At a baptism, those to be baptised, or who bring children to be baptised, are asked, 'Do you believe and trust in God': an interesting use of words. 'Believe' after all, is a word with many shades of meaning. it's not just about ‘what we believe to be real', but about where we'll choose to put our hope, our trust, our faith: what we'll put our best efforts into, what we'll put our lives behind. Will we live for the pursuit of material wealth, or ambition, or the collection of stamps, or of classical recordings? What if anything do we choose as our highest and over-riding values? Is there anything at all for which we'd risk our lives?
Last month's front page article ended with a sentence which the editors queried, unsure whether it said exactly what I wanted it to say. In a sense, it didn't, because l ran out of time and space on the page to explain the link between the world of Linda Proud's novels and the coming celebrations of Ascension Day. If l'd had time, and space, what I really wanted to say was something like this: that 'Belief‘ and 'Faith' and 'Trust' are dimensions of life from which we need not feel excluded, simply because we live in the twenty-first century. The trick is not to be bamboozled into thinking that the faith of former ages is a closed book to us, but to see that these things belong to an altogether different dimension of living from that to which we've tended to reduce ourselves. We're more than
machines, and more than units in someone else's economic calculations.....we're spiritual as well as biological beings, and need 'food for the soul' as well as "food for the body' in order to be all that we each have it in us to become.