Thursday, November 11, 2010
the bs report
In the chapter on interpretation that we discussed yesterday I got sidetracked by this statement: "[the bible] is the record of holy encounters between people and God, encounters that have been reckoned to be decisive and compelling, and that have been preserved from generation to generation because they remind each generation of the presence of God in their lives and the search for God when the divine absence is felt." (p. 34) The latter portion about divine absence is what catalyzed a stream of consciousness that I fear left my companions in a cloud of confusion while I attempted to ponder the connection between the experience of divine absence and the development of faith.
The question I posed, more or less, was this: if we don't experience the absence of God, is it possible for faith to develop? I used the analogy of separation anxiety felt by children when they first experience being "left" by parents. The experience of the parent's return builds trust that when parents leave, the child has faith that the parent will return. It's not a perfect analogy, by any means, but it was the first thing that occurred to me.
I have had my own struggles with this. My faith became established through the powerful experience of God's presence. Desert times ensued, and I emerged from those. Based on the former experience of God's power/presence, I hung on, trusting that God was at work on my behalf because I believed that to be true, even though I could not point to evidence of it being true. Over time, however, my faith has become more a matter of mind than heart. It has been a while since I have felt the deep, resonating presence of earlier and sustaining days. More often I feel disappointed in both God and myself, and I wonder how to repair the damaged connection that was once such a vital lifeline.
I watch in awe as others revel in a holy joy that eludes me, and yearn for that experience again. And I wonder how others remind themselves of the presence of God when absence--or distance--is the experience. It is gut-work, and wearying, to hold on to the promise, even when belief is at hand. The fabric of faithfulness feels threadbare. I pray--yes, I pray--that it doesn't become fragile.