I was recently talking to a friend who has dealt with many running-related injuries. She asked me how I am doing, how I am handling my injury. I told her that I don’t want my latest marathon to be my last marathon. Even though immediately following the race, I said “No more!“, I don’t want to end my marathoning on such a sour note. I want to finish my final marathon with no regrets and good memories.
She asked me if I had any specific marathon in mind as my comeback race. I told her no, I just want to take a long time to recover and build up my stamina again. I don’t want to be pinned down to a race date at this point.
Then my friend asked me a question that I am still thinking about. “Why do you have faith that you will be able to come back?” Her question took me by surprise. I stammered out a response. Something like “I just do,” but I hadn’t thought about why I have faith I will be able to run a marathon again. I just do.
It made me wonder about the nature of faith. How and why do we experience faith?
If we are talking about my running career, why do I believe that I can do another marathon? Why do I think that this injury is not my last? I could rationalize this. I could say that I am in good physical condition, I am willing to put in the hard work needed for rehabilitation, and I have bounced back from injury before, but none of those are really the reason I think I can come back.
The real reason I believe I can come back is something deeper, more intuitive, more mysterious. It transcends rational thought. Just like my spiritual faith.
When I have questions about faith, my go-to resource is the writing of Paul Tillich, a 20th-century existential theologian. Tillich’s definition of faith is as follows: “An act of faith is an act of a finite being who is grasped by and turned to the infinite.” I like this definition. Thinking of faith as active is satisfying. It implies that faith is dynamic.
Tillich goes on to explain that faith cannot be willed into being. It cannot be reasoned into existence. We must open our hearts to faith, to experience for ourselves what is true. It is not so much that we cling to a truth, as it is the truth grabbing hold of us and not letting go.
When we think of faith, we sometimes think of doubt as unwelcome, but that should not be so. Doubt means that you are thinking about your faith. I am a scientist by training and a high school teacher by vocation. Healthy skepticism comes naturally to me. Faith can survive doubts. It can survive close scrutiny. Faith is not something sterile and static that is never taken out and examined.
If we lived in a world of certainty, there would be no need for faith. The mystery of the infinite requires faith from a finite being. That is where courage comes in.
Yes, it takes courage to have faith, to believe in something that transcends us. When we put our faith in something, whether it is God or something finite (like being able to run again), we are gambling with a part of ourselves. We are invested in an outcome in which there is no certainty. Faith carries with it an unavoidable risk.
Tillich says that “Where there is faith there is an awareness of holiness.” And “The human heart seeks the infinite because that is where the finite wants to rest. In the infinite it sees its own fulfillment.” We, as finite and imperfect human beings, use faith to connect with the infinite, the unconditional, in order to be completely fulfilled.
The catch here is that there is no conditional way to connect with the unconditional. In other words, there is no such thing as lukewarm faith. It’s all or nothing. We can’t hedge our bets. That is why, when Christ was asked which commandment was the most important, answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Faith requires us to go all in.
So, I need to ask myself “Am I willing to go all in?” In the case of my spiritual faith and the faith in my ability to stage a running comeback, my answer must be an unhesitant and enthusiastic “Yes.” Yes, I am willing to take that risk. Yes, I am already all in. I don’t have a choice, not really. This is my truth. I do have faith, and faith is active. I had better get moving.
I am linking up with Char at Trekking Thru, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Shank You Very Much for her Dream Team, Running on Happy, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for Coaches’ Corner linkup, Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday, Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart,Eclectic Evelyn for her Words on Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Sharing a Journey for Wellness Wednesday, Debbie at Dare 2 Hear, It’s a Small Town Life for Thankful Thursday, and Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word.