"Writing, for me, is an act of faith, a hope that I will discover what I mean by 'truth.' I also think of reading as an act of faith, a hope that I will discover something remarkable about ordinary life, about myself. And if the writer and the reader discover the same thing, if they have that connection, the act of faith has resulted in an act of magic. To me that's the mystery and the wonder of both life and fiction - the connection between two individuals who discover in the end that they are more the same than they are different."
from "In the Canon, For All The Wrong Reasons," by Amy Tan
I’ve been thinking about faith recently, about belief in an intangible reality, hope in an invisible scene. Amy Tan’s quote about writing as an act of faith conveys exactly the confusion and outright weirdness of the conversation that I often find myself dwelling on; we’re waiting, all waiting, for a connection to be made while having to recognize on a daily basis the difficulties and fears that push us all apart. We struggle to move forward into the kingdom even though it often feels like we’re running in the wrong direction. Which way is up?
I don’t know.
But then there’s this quote, this idea of faith. Faith as hopeful anticipation. Faith as expectant perseverance. Faith as confidence in the beautiful things yet to come. When I first read Tan’s essay, I was struck by the idea that her “faith” is based on connections that she might never get to see. How often, when I read a good book, do I write the author to share the connections that were made? How often, when art of any kind impacts my life, do I track down the artist and share my thoughts?
I don’t, really, but that’s not necessarily the problem. The problem is that I value those connections less because I don’t get to see both sides; the issue is that I’m too prideful to recognize that those two sides aren’t always mine to see. Pride, in so many ways, is antithetical to the call to live faithfully. It inhibits true service, forces us to quantify our productivity and put numbers to our love. Faith does neither. Faith, true faith, allows us to act and live and work for peace without any expectations outside of the truth of Christ.
Jesus, walking among us, changes things.
My hope for the Service-Learning Center, for Calvin College, for Grand Rapids, for [insert ever expanding circle here] is that we, we humans, will recognize the deep roots of service that extend from such a faith, a faith that recognizes how humble Christ truly calls us to be. Maybe we will work, struggle, and walk towards the kingdom of God for the rest of our lives and never see any progress. Maybe we will find out that we took a wrong turn from the start. But should this deter us from trying?
No, because such a faith dictates that we simply carry on, recognizing the choices we make as imperfect and the changes we bring as, at best, approximations of justice and peace. Faith demands trust that the intangible reality we wait for, this hope for a future, will actually arrive. The timeline is unimportant. The truth is the point.
In the midst of the Westgate attack in Kenya, of continued warfare in Syria, of earthquakes and hunger and famine and disease throughout the world, let us not forget the power of simple, humble faith. Faith that connections will be made and, whether it’s now or later, true change will come.
ABSL, Natural Sciences and Mathematics