True Faith

Editor and publisher Peter Marty writes about his four-year-old daughter Rachel’s first swimming lesson.

Even though she’s shivering, Rachel loves being in the water. But the hardest thing for her to learn is how to float. The instructor puts one hand beneath her spine and with the other hand supports her legs. The instructor coaches her to relax and to stay in a flat position — but as soon as the instructor withdraws his arms, the little girl reverts to a V-shape and sinks in panic.

“It’s a lot to expect a four-year-old to understand the physics of water enough to know that the human body can float on its surface. For this buoyancy to work, one has to be relaxed enough to trust the capacity of the water to keep one’s body mass afloat.” 

But, over time, Rachel’s panic lessens and she learns to float more easily — not because she suddenly grasps the science of buoyancy but ”because she loved that strong, friendly guy in the pool and knew that he was fond of her.”

The essence of faith is trust; to believe is to trust what God has done in Christ, to act as if it were true. As Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book Always a Guest: “The word ‘believe’ is always a verb in John’s Gospel. To believe is to wash another’s feet. To believe is to abide in love. To believe is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

“Jesus is not interested in what we think or feel. Jesus is interested in how we act.”

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is not interested in what we think or feel. Jesus is interested in how we act.” For many of us, faith is a list of beliefs that we adhere to, believing (hoping?) that God will answer our prayers if we cling faithfully to these propositions. But affirming a list of “beliefs” is one thing — “believing” is to jump into the pool despite our fears and doubts.

God invites us to trust our own experience of life to find our faith. Thomas neither doubts nor rejects: he recognizes that each one of us possesses, within ourselves, the grace to seek God and discover for ourselves the truth about what God is doing in our lives. True faith is not passive acquiescence to a set of dogmas; faith is to be actively engaged in seeking God’s presence in every facet of our life, to be open in mind and heart to identifying the signs of resurrection and re-creation in our midst. In doing so, we experience the transforming life of God’s grace to the full.