Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Foolishness of Faith

If Hannah was no longer sad simply from the act of praying, then isn't it true what Karl Marx (I think it was Karl Marx) once said - that religion is simply the opiate of the people? Isn't it true for what the world mocks us - that we are simply fooling ourselves, and dumb enough to fall for it? 

After all, nothing had changed in Hannah's life. Nothing real, anyway. She was still as barren as she'd been a mere five minutes before. She was still a wife, and Peninnah still a mother. She was still empty - she felt it and she knew it, but she convinced herself by her mere belief in prayer that she was actually full, though no new life leap't inside of her. 

The wisdom of the world says it takes quite a fool to just believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The wisdom of the world says it's a weakness, perhaps even a fatal one, to be changed by what has not seemed to change anything at all. The wisdom of the world says this...this is the very problem with Christianity: it bears no fruit but convinces us all that we've got juice dribbling down our chins. 

Make no mistake - the world is watching, just the same as the priest watched Hannah. And they're coming to much the same conclusion:

Are you drunk?

And we tell them, no, we are not drunk. We are blessed. We are beloved. We are forgiven. We are saved. We are beneficiaries of a tremendous grace, recipients of a gift we never could have merited. We are products of mercy and children of the one true God. And this pretty much confirms it for them:

We're drunk.

Or in some amazing form of denial that, honestly, the world kind of envies, even though they know they'd just be lying to themselves. 

But the world is not unfamiliar with this kind of shift, with the way that the heart sometimes just...takes over and convinces us of things for which we have no "evidence." Take, for example, the sudden peace that someone has when coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. It is not uncommon to hear of a moment when the whole heart just shifts and is suddenly at peace about living and dying. 

Or think about a dream that's finally becoming a reality, that moment when the hard work doesn't seem so hard any more because you know, you just know, that it's going to succeed. Maybe it's the first coat of paint on the storefront or the first benchmark of money from investors or the first time you see the boxes for shipping or the first customer walks in the door. Whatever it is, there is a moment when the dream becomes a reality and the hope becomes a life and you feel it in your heart. It just...is. 

We do not say this is foolishness, even though nothing here has changed, either. The cancer is not gone; it is simply accepted. The hard work of living the dream is still hard work; there's just a new energy behind it that seems to lessen the load. The truth is that the cancer patient, the dreamer - they have to do the same things today that they were doing yesterday; all that has truly changed is the position of their heart. 

The same is true for the pray-er. 

Our lives don't have to change for our hearts to change.

That's what happened to Hannah. It's not that her life suddenly changed just because she prayed; it's that her heart shifted. It came around to line up with the living faith that she possessed. It was the moment in which she settled into her peace, settled into His presence, and in a breath, it washed over her. This is good.

Foolishness? Hardly. Are you drunk? Not at all. Are you sure? Pretty sure. 

Just call me "blessed."

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