Monday, April 16, 2007
Journey on a PlateauLately I've come to realize my faith has been on a plateau. If one's personal "faith" is like a journey of a lone man walking along a linear, progressive manner, then I'm not sure if at this rate I'm currently sitting somewhere on the plateau completely immobile, or if I'm still walking forward except that this is a horrifically vast plateau where the end is still far in sight.
Or perhaps a better analogy would be like walking on a flat escalator walkway, like the one we have at an airport. You are still walking and in fact moving your body forward on a progressive manner, yet the walkway is long and the gate is still far that once in a while you pause and suddenly wonder whether you have truly walked at all.
Or could the journey actually be a circular one where one may not always be moving forward progressively but could possibly walk in a convoluted manner, returning to ground zero where faith all started years ago, if not walking past that point of origin back to the days before faith ever emerged into the picture.
And it's been like this for a while.
I think everything started when I realized that my faith in some very fundamental way contradicts with some other people's beliefs or - more horrifyingly - it ends up hurting or rejecting those who believe in otherwise.
That's the reality of Christianity - a system of faith that is based upon love and service, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in the name of love and sacrifice. Yet its monotheistic nature often ends up excluding those who are not abided by the same philosophy even if they too believe in the supreme value of love, service, social justice and the sacrifice for others.
It is because I cannot work out such a contradictory nature between my faith and the faith of others - even at times when we are all loyal believers of the exact same principle of love, service, social justice and sacrifice - that I begin to doubt. I wonder if I've got it all wrong or if I've subscribed to a system that isn't what it claims itself to be.
But there remains one key question - what exactly is the difference between faith and religion? By religion one often thinks of an "institution" of faith that indoctrinates the metaphysical or theological beliefs into concrete, day-to-day practice. In this process, sometimes such day-to-day practice begins to take center stage, so much so that it overrides the very foundation of faith that is based on nothing but a simple belief in the existence of soul and the possibility of such a soul to continue to exist in eternity, whether it's eternity as time or as an form of ever-lasting life.
Faith, however, is simply a belief in the unknown, the abstract, the unanswerable or untouchable "truths." Not a vow of confidence in an institution but in the values of love, service, social justice and sacrifice, as well as the explanation of life and death and the identity of the creator(s) or in some cases, the absence of such creators.
So I believe in God and Jesus Christ's atonement of our sins on the cross two thousand years ago. But if I don't say hi to my neighbors next door, make billions of dollars off from a lucrative Wall Street career, or perhaps set the primary use of my bank savings account for personal or my own family's purposes, then I may still go to heaven or am rid of the privilege of ever-lasting life?
Likewise, even if I love my neighbors, fling my doors wide open to those who are hungry, sick, or socially outcast, choose a low-income job at a NGO organization, or simply try the best I can to be a honest, decent, and good person, I am still rid of the possibility of enjoying eternity with God b/c I do not claim "God" to be the all-mighty Yahweh or fail to recognize Jesus as the Son of God but simply b/c I regard him merely as an awesome sage or teacher in history?
Faith vs. religion, life vs. eternal life - none of these are meant to be simple, black-and-white questions, aren't they? But my journey of faith has begun to enter a plateau since the first day I felt like my faith is often explained or perceived if not firmly believed by some other fellow believers or non-believers in such a simple, black-and-white fashion.
And I want to resist such a fashion. But at times I catch myself asking the same, rhetorical question - wait, am I really trying to resist such a fashion, or am I simply rebelling against God?
I know that even among my fellow Christian bro's and sis's, the opinions may be quite divided.
"If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?"
~ Psalms 44:20-22
If only God may know the secrets of our hearts, who are we - people who cannot even fully understand one's own heart if not often deceived by it - to think that life may be sailed through along a simple paradigm of black-and-whiteness?
I much prefer a world of multiple shades of color, all acceptable and beautiful in the eyes of God.
So with this simple belief or faith if you allow it, I continue my journey on this plateau. I really don't know if I'm sitting or still walking; at times I'm not sure if I'd just pick myself up and run away from it - backwards - as fast as I could. But right now, at this very moment, the plateau is where I'm sitting or standing or walking on, with this simple belief or faith tugged in the back of my mind.
And so the journey continues. It has to.
梅ちゃん at 7:26:00 AM
- at 5/11/07, 11:44 AM Ferdinand said...
Thanks for sharing, yume-chan ... I just read this for the first time, and ... well... it says a lot... and in a very unadulterated and real way. I hope that you do grow... be it along a conveyor belt that leads to an escalator, or be it... in some other way entirely.