It’s such a malleable concept, isn’t it, faith?
To hear Drayton Parslow talk, you’d think it’s a binary thing: you’ve either got it or you ain’t. If you’ve got it you’re saved and Hallelujah. If you’ve not, you’re going to Hell chiz chiz and no amount of being clever, pretty, witty, or bright will help. Although this seems to be the special saving faith that is on or off, and then there’s the special faith you get after that, which moves mountains and sustains the faithful down the ages.
Whereas to some it’s more like a volume switch. It can start small and quiet – kind of far off, if you will, or like Rob Brydon’s “man in a box” – fuzzy and indistinct. But as you learn to listen, it develops from a vague buzzing into a distinct message you can respond to.
Or maybe it’s more like a friendship or love affair. Many of the best of both these start with a bit of confusion – perhaps even an argument, or a coming together of two opposites with the appropriate sparks etc. But in amongst the sparks, or the initial misunderstandings and confusions of two sets of presuppositions, two different lots of priorities, some understanding comes about. A relationship starts – flourishes – wanes as there are misunderstandings, a certain frostiness – and then starts again, stronger this time.
The worst love affairs start with a bang, then dwindle out as the fire goes – think Eustacia and Clym in Return of the Native. And yet that spark and flame and excitement is just the same as some of us look for in Christian faith. A sullen indifference, a sudden enlightenment and then we’re happy all the day.
Whereas the best love affairs may start quite quietly – a shared interest, the meeting of eyes, the discovery of a common sense of humour – and it goes on, year in, year out – building, sharing, never that exciting – and yet more fulfilling, more happy, more generally good for all concerned than any of the smoke & fire & sparks and lightning of the alternative.
Not decrying those who like an exciting life of faith, but I can’t help thinking – at the end of that steady, growing, building faith, you can see how heaven is gained – when the question is “do you want to enter heaven?” then the answer’s going to be “of course. We were heading that way anyway.”