A Matter of Faith

If you know me at all, you know that the issue of “faith” is at the heart of so much that I think and talk about. Well this is not going to be an exception. I talk about faith in “Dear Mom and Dad” a number of times; starting with the sermon delivered on August 18th 1963 by Reverend Mark H. Miller. It took a long time for the concept which he presented to soak in.
The concept, as I understood it then, was a matter of will power. Did I have the will power to facilitate the results and benefits of maximum faith? In other words, as Dad put it, did I want faith “bad enough?” The experiences in my life that followed had no faith at all; lots of wishful thinking, but no faith at all. My experiences became a matter of repeated disappointments and a sense that I just wasn’t good enough, or just didn’t have the will required to succeed. An addiction to alcohol and the havoc wreaked by the effects of alcoholism ultimately led me to a better understanding; not a perfect understanding mind you, but a considerably better understanding of faith and its benefits.
The understanding which I eventually acquired came in bits and pieces. Sometimes the pieces were big and sometimes the bits were tiny, but they came. The crux of what I eventually understood was that, at least for me, faith of any kind required two key elements. The first was surrender, resignation of my will. That took a lot of work. In AA meetings I repeatedly heard people refer to “taking their will back” and the results of doing that, which were always dismal. In my case it was a matter of expecting my ambitions and desires to become reality. It just didn’t register that since I’d surrendered my will that my ambitions and desires had to accompany my will. Surrender isn’t a matter of just not fighting the inevitable anymore, and just sitting down on the battlefield and never moving. It meant that I had to give up my aspirations for outcome of the conflict and accept a new direction for my life.
The second element of understanding the requirements of faith was trust. Trust didn’t come easy for me. I was suspicious of God. I was fearful of what would follow surrender. Would I, like surrendering soldiers be placed in a stockade surrounded by guards and barbed wire? Obviously it would have been a “virtual” stockade and not a physical stockade, but would I be placed in a “stockade” nevertheless? Would I be subjected to a lengthy period of re-education and indoctrination? Each of life’s inevitable potholes was construed as part of that process. After all I’d been taught to believe that misbehavior was always followed by punishment and/or discipline. It took a long time for me to quit emotionally flinching each time I realized I’d “misbehaved.” I finally quit thinking of God as a demanding, punishing parent, and instead began to trust Him as a loving parent whose primary interest was in seeing that I recognized my own worth and abilities.
And now back to faith. For me, faith is a difficult concept to live within and can only be fully applied to my life when I completely surrender the outcome of my life, the current efforts and situations, and then place complete trust in Abba. Do I always remember to do so? Not hardly! I only find peace and beneficial outcome to whatever situation, pleasant or unpleasant, when, as they say in AA, I “turn it over;” surrender and trust; have faith.

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