In an age of doubt and—worse—of apathy and cynicism, we all struggle to “believe.” We can’t believe what we blindly accepted as a child; many passages from the Bible are either confounding or troubling; taken literally, the Creed is a bridge too far. Faith or spirituality was always presented as a matter of “belief”—what you could swear was true, no fingers crossed, no mental reservations.
Once that version of faith hits the wall of reality (and eventually it does), many people just give it up. They stop “believing.” Others become nominal believers: they still mouth the words, but their hearts haven’t been in it for twenty or thirty years. Church and religion and God are good for the family, good for society, the kids and grandkids need “a good moral foundation.” But that’s as far as it goes.
That loss of “faith” is strangely necessary. It brings us finally to the point where we understand that we are not saved by mental assent to certain principles. We are changed, transformed by living in a new way. It’s what we do. It’s what we enact, put into practice. This is what has the power to re-shape our lives and—quite literally—change our entire outlook.
This is the moment when we start saying, You know, it doesn’t matter one whit whether I believe that God is love. All that matters is loving. Actually accepting love. Actually giving it. This is the only way to find out whether it’s “true” or not. Try it. Try it on. Does it work? Does it change anything? Does it make a difference?
We already know enough spiritual truths—knowing is not our problem, doing is. What we do, day in and day out, slowly yet profoundly changes our lives. That’s why Paul writes in Ephesians 5, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved us.” Notice that we are not called to believe in God, but to imitate God! Do what God does, Paul says, the way children follow their parents’ example. You become what you imitate.
There’s an ancient legend about a man with a horribly scarred face. In order to hide his torn appearance he had a mask made. The mask was the face of a saint.
In the legend, he falls in love, and in time his past is revealed. To discover his true identity, the mask is taken away. Stunningly, his visage is unchanged: his face had taken on the form of the saint’s face.
If you struggle to believe, let that struggle go. Act on what you do know. And do it every day. Over many days and weeks and months and years, your face will gradually be changed into the likeness of God.