Monday, February 9, 2009

By Faith

Faith, for me, has always felt somewhat uncomfortably vague.

Perhaps I should say, the phrase "without faith it is impossible to please God" has always been one of those statements that has always made me uncomfortable. It's a sock that has worked its way off your foot into the front of your shoe or the rock under a sleeping bag.

I understand commands and rules. I am comfortable with the Ten Commandments, loving God, and loving your neighbor. Not meaning, by any measure, that I do any justice to obeying those commands, but I agree with the concept of rules and that when rules are broken, consequences for the disobedience should happen.

But "without Faith it is impossible" means I can obey a rule and still not please God. The obedience must be done in "Faith." And, actually, it seems that a person can fail, and please God, if they are living a life in "Faith" before God.

Simple examples of faith I understand - to have faith in a chair you must sit on it. Just saying "I believe the that chair will hold me" doesn't cut it, I must actually act and sit down in the chair for it to be faith.

It makes sense to me that mere statements of belief and genuine faith are not the same thing. Day in day out politics represent incredible (infamous?) pictures of this truth. It's an endless saga statements and sound bites intended to communicate or imply beliefs with little or no action or follow through - especially if polls turn out to show a different public opinion. And although it's easy to take shots at those in the public arena about this, this type failure is true in all our hearts to some degree or another.

But living by "Faith," to truely live by it has not been as clear in my life as I would like.

Another snapshot of faith lies a few hundred feet from the back door of my house.

Visitors to our home taking a tour of the back yard would proceed past a trampoline, some struggling fruit trees and various gardens, until reaching a "well used" removable sectioned wire fence that marks the end of the backyard "proper." They would then see the land sloping down before them into a forested tangle of ferns, vines and muck. And at the edge of the swampy undergrowth a large oak tree growing in a massive left leaning arc would appear out of the jungle. That was the tree that had caught my eye when we first bought our home.

I had earmarked it for the construction of a swing.

When, in the fullness of time, swing construction was at hand, I took a baseball, duct taped a length of nylon string to it and proceeded to the tree. As that tree grows just at the slope's base, I positioned myself about half way up the slope, took aim at the desired rope swing's attachment point and hurled the ball. I quickly looked around - in embarrassment - to see if any family member had seen the throw because I hadn't even come close. Either that tree was tall or (and) my arm was pretty weak. Over and over I threw, taking a good portion of a half hour to get the ball over the tree truck. At last! . . . oh no! Note: when throwing a ball with an attached string, keep a grip on the end of the string. Up over the tree went the ball and the string with the end of the string following after. Muttering to myself, I retrieved the ball from the swamp and threw for several more minutes. Finally! the ball went over the trunk as I stood - triumphant - holding the end of the string. Using my baseball string as a guide, I pulled into position my official rope swing rope and attached it to a handy section of two by six lumber that I had fashioned into a workable wood seat.

I positioned the seat high enough to clear the slope while swinging and then set about constructing a launch platform for the swing - which attached to a tree about three quarters of the way up the slope. After a few days cutting, drilling and screwing the platform was ready for takeoff.

And (or) a crash landing - it all depends on your perspective.

The platform consists of two levels. The lower one requires a Tarzan approach: holding the rope, jumping and then swinging oneself onto the seat. The upper platform allows the person to be seated on the swing before liftoff, but does require a "small" jump along with a "little" free fall. The effect of that swing has been variously described as a little "Six Flagsish." Which makes me happy. Once launched, the swing rushes one down the slope and then soars out over ferns and greenery with oak forest all around. It's exhilarating (or terrifying.) And the first time off can make your stomach jump from your toes to your throat.

Now, the rope used to fashion the swing has a strength well over 1,000 pounds and there are two (and now four) lengths of rope that are attached to the seat. The platform is solid. The seat is solid - not huge - but not flimsy.

That platform is where this further picture of faith displayed. Because everything that is there will, without question, hold you throughout your ride. I will even get on and swing, showing before your eyes that it will hold a heavier person than you most likely are to be.

The first time visitors come to the swing, some get straight up on the platform, get ready, get set and immediately jump. (although if they don't emit some kind of sound my kids are disappointed.) Others get up, get set and get setter and get still more set and then eventually go. Yet still others get up, get set and then come back down. And then there

's some that say, "Nope! No way, There's no way - I'm not doing that."

It is a picture of faith to look at those responses to the swing.

Some go, not even thinking about the support. Some see the support, trust it and go. Some see the support, get into position, but in the end don't trust it enough to go - and get off. And some aren't even going to consider the whole proposition.

In my life faith is ever more clearly being seen like my swing. God want's me to believe and act - trusting that His support will be there when I am doing what He wants me to do. It's not about "obeying the rules." It is, instead, trusting in the God who set up the universe to know how He made it to work. And to choose to do things His way, because I believe He knows what He's doing.

And for those who have the Faith to jump, he promises Joy in the ride.