When Belief Isn’t Enough

When Belief Isn’t Enough

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I spent Earth Day 2015 outside. Having decided that I wanted more gardening space for tomatoes, I dug up part of our lawn. This part was easier than I thought it would be. In my exuberance, I overloaded the wheelbarrow with sod and wasn’t able to move it, so I texted my husband with this little honey-do for his evening. Then I surveyed the backyard.

It was April, so the weeds were taking over. They were poking out everywhere, including in between the stones of our flagstone patio. Why they are able to grow in that gravel is beyond me. They were also growing in the grass and despite the layers of plastic weed barrier and mulch, they were growing in the borders along the house. Weeds everywhere. With the still-dormant brown grass everywhere, our house looked trashy and unkempt, not at all lovely and spring-ish.

There was only one solution. I stomped into the garage, my happy go-lucky “I’m going to nurture a garden” attitude gone. High up on the ancient refrigerator that stores extra frozen food and home brewed beer, sits an old bottle of Round-Up. I remembered my husband bought it once in a similar fit of irritation at a patch of steadily advancing thistles.

The irony of spraying a wide swath of “Round-Up Extra Strength Kill Everything in Sight” on Earth Day did not escape me. That I was doing this while pondering what earth-related prayer I might do with my daughter to celebrate the day and also meet my self-imposed blogging deadline did not escape me either.

Apparently, no matter how fervently you believe in taking care of the planet, earth stewardship, creation justice and all those fancy words we religious folks like to throw around, you can be pushed over the edge by too many weeds, too little time and the slightest sense of despair lingering right around the corner.

It’s a parable of sorts, a reminder that “belief” is not enough as long as it stays an intellectual experience.

No matter how passionately we believe something, if that belief is mostly in our heads, it doesn’t really matter. We can talk all day about what we believe: God, Jesus, love the whole bit. We can craft creeds and mission statements and we can make people say them or else. But beliefs need to be held loosely so as not to choke the power out them. They need to be given room to grow wings and fly into the wind. Once they are held so tightly that they become the very focus of our faith, then they lose the power to change us.  Look, I have this belief in a lovely cage. See how pretty it is?

Faith needs room

I have long been a critic of traditions that place too much emphasis on belief and not enough on trust. Beliefs were never meant to be a litmus test for godliness, they were an invitation to know deeper. They were a starting point that lead to a relationship, a pointer if you will, not The Thing Itself.

We can blame language and translation issues for part of the problem. There’s a bit of evidence that the original Greek for belief held more of this idea. Faith, trust, abide, even. Belief is a starting point and a resting place, not the destination. You don’t get there and stop, you get there and start.

(Well now, this sounds all harsh and judge-y. Sorry. You can remind yourself that I was the one spraying Round-Up on Earth Day.)

Really, though, it’s not really meant to be judge-y. It’s meant to be an invitation. Let’s start here, together. Let’s start with what we believe about weeds and fruits, earth and God and then move forward. Let’s start with what we believe today and then see where that takes us tomorrow. Let’s let our beliefs fly, like butterflies discovering new wings. Who knows, we might just believe ourselves into a better world.

Path

Linking up today with #wholemama. Check out some other takes on “belief.” (You have to click the frog to see the other bloggers.

5 thoughts on “When Belief Isn’t Enough

  1. I love your progression here – from frustration to joy and promise – “Let’s let our beliefs fly, like butterflies discovering new wings. Who knows, we might just believe ourselves into a better world.” Great post!

  2. This post is kind of exquisite; it really is. These words are ringing so true in my heart and my mind: “Belief is a starting point and a resting place, not the destination. You don’t get there and stop, you get there and start.” And then we keep going…

  3. What a beautiful analogy. I laughed about the cage 🙂
    And this sentence leaves me thinking: “But beliefs need to be held loosely so as not to choke the power out them.” Makes me wonder what I’m clinging to and choking out at the same time.

    Thanks for the beautiful post, Amelia!

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