Probably the best Church sign I’ve ever read was a sign outside a Baptist Church the week after Christmas. I was in my car and stopped at a red light. Robotically my eyes were wandering, randomly taking in the sights when I notice the billboard outside the Church and had to chuckle.
The sign read something like: "It was great to see everyone last week at our Christmas services… a reminder to all of you… we actually have Church services 51 other Sundays of the year…"
The sign made me laugh - and then the light turned green and I carried on my way. As I drove, I started thinking about the truth of that sign. So many of us see holiday occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter as the times of the year to get ourselves and our extended family members out to Church. The token church appearance that makes us feel as though we did our spiritual duty for the year.
Over time, that sign has kept me thinking about my own spiritual journey. What I have come to realize is that for a large portion of my life I have believed in my Church, in my God. But I have not owned my belief. My belief in Church and God can be attributed to the fact that my foster parents, Jim and Edwina Watson, had tremendous faith lives. Both of them were strong Christians. Jim Watson, a long time Pastor, Edwina Watson, a Pastor’s wife. They lived and breathed their faith so strongly that I couldn't help but form some sort of belief of it in myself. It was as though through osmosis I believed that the Watson’s faith resided in me – but I really didn’t know why or how. I didn’t own my belief – I simply assumed the Watson’s faith and believed it was mine. As I grew, as I got out on my own, away from mom and dad Watson and made my way in the world I realized my belief in Church and God had faded – I stopped attending Church, I stopped thinking about God and God’s role in the world and my life. The truth was that my belief was weak – it was assumed from mom and dad Watson and as strong as their faith was in them, my belief was equally as weak in me.
It wasn’t until a decade or so ago that I began to really get a sense of how weak my belief was. Tragedy had struck our family and that forced me to start to analyze my beliefs. As I did, I came to a conclusion that having a belief is far different than having faith. Faith is an expression of hope for something better. Faith in God, I reasoned, was the hope for something better. Faith is more than a wish or a dream, it is closer to having a belief but it’s not quite a belief. A belief is rooted in our minds while faith is rooted in our hearts. We can change our minds about our beliefs. Faith, being rooted in our hearts, tends to be unchangeable. If our faith is strong enough we will act on our faith even if there is no real guarantee or certainty. No one truly knows the kind of life an infant will have as it enters the world. Yet people around the globe continue to have children and they have faith their children will have amazing lives. No one can know how life with our spouses will turn out. Yet couples have faith that their union will last a lifetime. Faith speaks the language of the heart. It is an expression of hope that goes far beyond the conscious mind. Belief is shakable, true faith is unshakable.
With those thoughts guiding me the past many years I have come to realize that I have to own my faith. Whatever that faith is. If I want to truly walk in faith it has to be my faith not the belief of the faith of mom and dad Watson. As I have allowed my faith to take root in my heart, in the soul of who I am, my desire to get out of bed and get to Church on the other 51 Sundays of the year – to celebrate and grow my faith and support others in their faith walk has dramatically risen. I no longer attend Church because I believe I should – I go because my faith excites me to go and grow. I am a better person today than I was in my younger years because my faith leads me to a life I am passionate about.
I’d encourage you to take some time to explore yourself and determine if you are a person who believes in their head – or has faith in your heart? It’s an important question for you to answer for yourself.