I talk to lots of people about faith. Sometimes it is about having faith. Sometimes having A faith. Or keeping faith. Or keeping the faith. Or sometimes just about Faith.
It’s a hard thing to talk about something this abstract because we want faith to be something we cling to (or that clings to us) when we are going through hard times. We hope that we will have enough faith to make it. We are almost out of faith, and sometimes we lose faith.
It took me a long time to understand the saying , “Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?” (Yes, I digress, but stay with me for a moment.) I didn’t understand how this was about being an optimist or being a pessimist.
A couple years ago that I finally realized that being a pessimist means that the glass, which could be full, is half empty-a clear sign of failure, of impending doom, of dissatisfaction. In contrast, being an optimist means that the glass, which could be empty, is half full, providing at least part of what we need, giving some sustenance, evidence of hope.
The image never worked for me because I figured that it’s a glass, it’s got something in it. Why worry about what could be better or what could be worse? Drink the coffee. Be grateful. Know that you will be thirsty again. Know that it isn’t enough for long. Know that it’s enough for the moment–or for some moment.
Yes, this is optimistic. Yes, this is pessimistic. Yes, this is pragmatic. Mostly it’s accurate.
A guy once wanted Jesus to do something amazing, something miraculous, something impossible. What he wanted was his son to be like other kids, like the kids who didn’t have a spirit that threw them into the campfire.
The man said, “If you can do anything…”
Jesus said, “IF I can?”
And then Jesus says “Everything is possible for the one who believes.”
Though this sounds like a self-help statement, the man knew it wasn’t. He understood, somehow, that the faith wasn’t up to him.
“I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”
And then the healing came.
The truth about faith is that we never have enough, we always have plenty. The glass is always both full and empty. And the amount is irrelevant. What matters is not the amount of faith that can be mustered or saved or summoned up. What matters is being honest enough with the giver of faith to look somewhere and say, “I believe You are there. But you gotta help me do something about the fact that I don’t believe You are there.”
And forget the exact amount in the glass. It will be enough.
An additional note of commentary:
And for those familiar with the story, you know that 9 of the disciples hadn’t been able to handle this. Jesus took care of it, and then they said, “why didn’t it work for us?” And Jesus says, “This kind only comes out with prayer.”
Maybe, just maybe, they had been looking for a cool event rather than trying to connect the boy and his father, in conversation, with God. They had been so focused on faith in their power to do cool stuff that they forgot it’s not about having faith, it’s about talking with the giver of faith. It’s about helping people build a relationship.