I watch people walking across the bridge outside my window, confidently, even mindlessly, placing one foot in front of another. But it’s the memory of a child taking her tentative first steps that helps me understand God’s commands: “Walk by the Spirit.” “Walk in love.” “Walk as children of light.”
Walking is something learned, something risked, and, as Wangerin points out in his description of living by faith, or “faithing,” a continuous loss of stability:
“Faithing is the constant losing of one’s balance, the constant falling forward (which is the risk required even for so common a locomotion as walking). It is the constant loss of stability, the denying one’s self and dying into God. . .” (Wangerin, The Orphean Passages, p.10)
I’ve been living this loss of balance lately. I returned a few weeks ago from a week of classes in which we were learning to listen more deeply to God’s voice as he speaks through and between all the other voices that are active in our minds and bodies and emotions. I returned home to an inbox full of emails that I’d ignored through the week, a deep longing to open further to God, and a busy stretch on my calendar. My mind was full and busily trying to bring order to it all, resisting my attempts to be still and rest in God. My carefully honed schedule was unsettled as I made space for new assignments and appointments and wonderings.
The loss of stability has been uncomfortable. But comfort (finally) came as I remembered that losing one's balance is a normal and necessary part of walking.
I cheer Wangerin for telling the truth, resisting the appealing temptation to portray “faith” as a noun. As much as I might like faith to be something settled and predictable and safe, something I can cling to, it isn’t. Faith is a verb, an activity, a continual choice to trust as we grow and change and therefore as relationships, including our relationship with God, grow and change.
I see again the baby learning to walk, her little hand held in her dad’s large one, and lines of the poem that has wound itself through these past few months return to mind:
“. . . It is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time . . .
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)