Faith, or belief, is a curious thing. We humans in the twenty-first century gravitate towards intellectual knowledge as the only true knowing of a concept. I suspect this may be why we so easily fall into depression and anxiety. We ignore the truths our bodies know and follow after cognitive beliefs, treating the other parts of ourselves as symptoms that need to be treated. Anxiety can be quelled after all with the right medication.
The question that goes unaddressed is what is my body so afraid of? Experiential knowledge requires mind and body working together to teach the self what is safe and what is unsafe, or perhaps more accurately, who is safe and who is unsafe? Once bitten, twice shy goes the saying. More to the point, if you get bitten badly enough by a dog, your body “knows” that dogs are unsafe, no matter how many people assure you that theirs is friendly.
Experiential knowledge generally wrestles intellectual knowledge into a headlock when it comes to fear.
Faith works much better as experiential knowledge than an intellectual concept. The verse that says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” is sometimes used as the anthem of those who navigate their faiths intellectually. I am certainly not going to take issue with memorizing Bible verses or reading the Bible aloud. However, faith is not merely intellectual consent, though it is that. If you want a faith that will move mountains, you and your body have to be on board.
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. “Putting out a fleece” is often times Christianspeak for lacking confidence in God. At least, I know I have used it that way. But Gideon represents something important; the building of trust with God. The word, faith, appears only two times in the Old Testament, King James Version. The word, trust, appears fifty times in Psalms alone.
Gideon puts out fleece after fleece and God patiently sends the dew from the grass to the fleece and back again. God is teaching Gideon how to trust Him because what God is going to ask him to do is frankly far more frightening than climbing a mountain instead of trying to get it to move out of the way. Gideon is going to fight the Midianites at severe disadvantage numbers wise with the added caveat of just candles and musical instruments as weapons. The whole thing is laughable. I really mean that. If I were Gideon, I would laugh hysterically just before I began to tremble uncontrollably. Talk about a full blown anxiety attack.
But Gideon knows God at this point. And real trust is an emotional and physical reality. Trust is earned gradually.
Truth by truth, moment by moment, trust starts as a pile of bricks and ends as a sturdy structure in which we can take shelter.
So how do we build that structure? I resist easy how to instructions, but on second thought, nothing is easy about these instructions.
- The whole truth, every time. Marriage counselors often find that couples who learn to speak even the ugliest of truths to each other reconcile more often. To lie is to turn your face away from someone and show them only a mask. Before you confess what you want to believe, confess what your body is saying you believe. We skip confession and repentance so easily and move on to mouthing the correct verses. “God is good!” we say, but our souls hold fear and anger. So tell the truth to God. Ask Him to change what you know. Ask Him to change what your body knows.
- Build memories with God. I used to get into arguments with the vicar at my small, ultra-conservative vicar at the small Lutheran school I attended in middle school. He would tell me that we cannot trust our experiences and that instead, we have to stand on God’s Word. I would point out to him that the whole Bible is nothing but a record of man’s experiences with God. Loving God with your heart, mind, and body means all three have to get on the same page.
Each person spends time with God differently, and just like any relationship, it takes time. If you spent only ten minutes a day with your husband, how would your marriage look? I read a lot of books about God, I listen to music about God, God helps me with my household responsibilities, and I tell Him everything. And then I listen to Him. I even tell Him jokes. He laughs.
- Build your testimony. In my family, we retell stories over and over. Those stories bear witness to our love for each other and we laugh, not because they are hilarious, but because we are remembering the joy. I cannot emphasize this enough. We conquer by two things alone: the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. The story of your experiences with God means far more than the most eloquent theological arguments. My old vicar missed this. Whether or not I understood how the Trinity works will not help me when the flood waters come. What matters is that when I reach my hand above the raging waters, I know that His hand is there to pull me up. It matters that when I cannot comprehend my circumstances, I can comprehend God’s presence in them.
No person in the Bible healed the sick, won impossible battles, slew giants, or raised the dead without first nurturing a deep and abiding trust with God.
They told Him the truth, and He showed them the Truth.
Even Jesus had to grow in wisdom and stature. Wisdom and stature. Mind and body.
I love watching dancers fling themselves up into the air, knowing they will be caught. Such a perfect illustration of trust, but before that happened, the dancers practiced, learned their steps, taught their bodies how to catch and be caught. By all means, employ your intellect, for that is a form of worship. But don’t neglect to bring your body along for the ride so you can fling yourself into the arms of the Lord of the dance.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. 1 Samuel 22:31
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Psalm 25:30
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4