What do I really believe?
“Death is nothing else but going home to God,
the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity.” – Mother Teresa
Many people believe that faith is some form of absolute assurance. I do not believe that. From my own limited experience, there will always be room for some doubt. I think that is healthy and when ‘doubt’ is rejected and pushed underground it can manifest itself in other ways. Being overly defensive as opposed to simply sharing one's faith and viewpoint is one such way. Or extreme rigidity to keep a sense of ‘personal infallibility’ intact is also a common way of dealing with wanting the impossible; that is having absolute assurance. This goes for both believers as well as for those who don’t have a faith of any kind. There seems a need to be ‘right’ in opposition to others.
My faith, which I am deeply rooted in, does not spare me from the deep questions of life. Nor does it surround me with a warm blanket of some better life after this one. No, it tells me that in the midst of this life, with all of its chaos, pain, and deep absurdity…is where my salvation, my deeper true eternal life is. As St. Paul says: “We are God’s work of art”. Sounds good, until you see what an artist has to do in order to create a work of art. In some forms of art, the process can be dirty, messy, and chaotic,…yet, in the end, a work of beauty is produced. Faith in God is not about pretending to have cookie cutter answers, though many try it for a while.
One day I was giving a talk, as I was speaking the thought came to me; “do I really believe in what I am saying”. It was an uncomfortable moment, but in the end, I said ‘yes’, I do believe it. Yet I felt buffeted by this question. Faith is lived, not spoken of. Anyone can talk, write and share deeply, but to live it, well that comes from one's ‘inner guts’. I also believe it takes a type of stubbornness to keep searching, seeking and not being afraid of one's ‘inner agnostic’.
Some people tell me that belief in God is a form of mental illness. I always find that entertaining since it so self-serving to make that kind of observation. As if that is some form of deep truth. What constitutes mental illness is really a cultural construct. A person who is a hapless victim of true mental illness is someone who is outside the broad spectrum of human activity that is considered ‘normal’. I guess in an atheistic state, it is understandable for the government to say that religious believers, are mentally ill, yet are they in fact? The atheists I know are no more normal than the believers I am friends with. For an atheist to say a believer is mentally ill has no basis in reality. Granted mentally ill people who are religious will still be mentally ill, the same goes for an atheist as well. Because they act out in ways that go beyond what is considered ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.
Who is touch with reality? Perhaps none of us are no matter what we say we believe. I can say we are each in touch with a small slice of reality and as we grow hopefully our connection will deepen. I can say this. If God exists then believers are closer to the true nature of reality than an atheist. The opposite can be true as well. The problem is that that question will never be answered in a reductionist manner There are rational reasons to believe in an infinite intelligence. It is also rational to believe that such and Intelligence will seek to reveal itself…Which for me is Jesus Christ. Just because someone is an unbeliever and disagrees with me is not a test for mental competency, unless maybe I lived in China or some other atheistic run Government. Or if believe that I can fly and walk through walls no matter how many times I fail to accomplish that deed.
Mother Teresa was a woman of deep faith, however, she often felt alone, in darkness, yet her faith endured. Below is a quote from her that shows this in a profound manner. She was a woman grounded in the reality of faith as well as showing her deep love and trust in her Lord. She is praying from a place of deep suffering, yet she embraces it. I believe that it is grace that draws this prayer from her deepest self. Many people understand Mother Teresa and where she is coming from. Others have to make their own decisions on how to interpret her. I do so from my Catholic Tradition where the “Dark Night of the Soul” is something that we will all have go through if we want to become God’s true work of art. The ‘death to self’ is an act of pure grace yet we have to give our ‘yes’.--Br.MD
Jesus, hear my prayer. If this pleases you, if my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation gives you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus do with me as you wish, as long as you wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of your heart. Don’t mind my feelings; don’t mind even my pain, if my suffering separation from you brings others to you, and in their love and company you find joy and pleasure.
My Jesus I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer not only now, but through all eternity if this was possible. Your happiness is all that I want. For the rest, please do not take the trouble even if you see me faint with pain. All of this is my will. I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Don’t allow me to do you wrong in any way. Take from me the power of hurting you … I am ready to wait for you through all eternity.”
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a letter to Jesus, from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light