Faith takes maintenance. It is not something we unwrap one breathless Christmas morning as children and keep for always. It is more like a model airplane, delicate and fragile, painstakingly assembled using toothpicks and glue. Then along comes an accident or an illness – or a mischievous little brother – and our faith is nothing but a pile of sticks and must be rebuilt.
I’m not talking about faith in a religious sense, although it is that for a lot of people. I mean faith in a more general spiritual sense. For those who are deeply contemplative, faith is intimately personal. We may be given the model kit by our parents or other respected adults, but we choose the paint colors, the embellishments. We make our faith our own. Later, when it is knocked down and needs rebuilding, perhaps we paint it a different color than before. We make it new.
Hope is another story. I’m still struggling with hope because at first glance it seems so fundamentally selfish. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines hope as “a feeling that is what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation.”
For this reason hope is a slippery slope. It assumes a lot – for one thing, that we know what we want. I have concluded, though, after much careful thinking (deep contemplation, if you will), that the selfishness of hope depends on what it is we have decided to hope for. This is what I believe: if we are attached to a specific outcome, such as having an illness cured or winning the lottery, then we are impressing our naïve human will upon the wisdom of the universe and are likely to be disappointed.
If, however, we hope for something broader and less defined, like inner peace or my perpetual vague favorite, “the best possible outcome,” then there is hope for our hope. It is still just a tiny raindrop on the surface of a vast lake, but there are those ripples to consider.
This version of hope is congruent with the spiritual concepts that make sense to me. As for my faith, I’m working on it. It’s been through a violent storm (or at least a terrible temper tantrum from a destructive little brother), but I’ve repainted the pieces, and they are drying. I probably can’t put them back exactly the way they were before, but that’s okay. My relationship with my faith is evolving. Change is inevitable.
Putting my faith back together is an endeavor that cannot be done in a hurry, and it can’t be done out of order. Painstaking. Deliberate. Frustrating. Rewarding. Ever-changing. Faith is all these things. It may be constant, but it is also dynamic. At least, this is the way I see things right now. Even that may change, which will, of course, be okay, too, when the time comes. I have faith that it will.