You've gotta have faith...Or so the popular lines of a song would have us believe. But do you have to have faith? And what is faith? As I grow older I find myself reflecting on faith and what it means to other people. The dictionary defines faith as a strong or unshakeable belief in something esp. without proof.
I try to lead the kind of life people with faith define as being Christian. I help elderly people in supermarkets, I bundle up my family’s worn-out clothing and put it in the brotherhood bin, but neither of these gives me any sense of faith. Nor is it out of any sense of faith that I encourage our children to give thanks for the food on our table. Quite simply, I was brought up in Africa. I don’t pray if my family is in turmoil. I might have a few quiet tears. I might mutter Oh help! Or, Somebody, please help me. There is never a response to this of course, but putting the words out there seems to calm me.
On Saturday, close to sunset, I walked our blue-heeler on the nearby golf course. A storm had recently passed through and the sky remained heavy with bruised and threatening clouds. The vast expanse of shorn wet grass was a dark luminous green in the queer half-light. Pale ethereal trunks of solitary gum trees loomed from the sidelines. Ahead of me in the distance occasional jagged remnants of lightning flared. What I experienced then – tightness in my chest, tears behind my eyes – cannot by the dictionary’s definition be faith. Some might say I was simply moved by a sudden and overwhelming love of nature; others will prefer to analyse differently. They may both be right. What’s important is that it seems to be enough to sustain me.