Sunday 21 November 2010

Faith and doubt

Sometimes, talking to her makes me doubt the veracity of my own experiences. It's as if the things that I feel regarding doubt, as strong as they may be, never registers with her because of the assumption that because I was born in a Christian family, I would never have faced the same kind of issues regarding doubt that someone coming from a non-Christian family, or someone who has faced great trials and tribulations would have faced. It's like a slap in the face to be told that I just don't understand. (Mentally I tag on the words and don't pretend that you do).

I am an Isaac. That in itself is true, and the testimony of my much-blessed life is a testimony of His faithfulness to my parent's work and prayers and diligence. It is true that I stand on the shoulders of giants, which makes reaching for God (and the stars) much easier because I am that much nearer, I have that much inheritance of strength and faith and love. It remains true that many privileges of making ministry work is because people know me and know of me through my father and they are willing to take me on that trust, at least at the initial stages. I grew up knowing many things about faith and ministry that many of my peers are just discovering now. I tend to come out of conferences going well, I knew that already where others are going woah, that's new!

Still, at the same time, there remains a dichotomy of being. There is a warring of the soul that says I believe and yet I'm not sure that I really do.
I may not be able to say that I have gone through a traumatic hospital experience, praying for loved ones to get healed and struggling with faith regarding God's power to heal. It could be something to do with my cynicism regarding the pursuit of miracle healings in the first place. I believe in realism, that you need to prepare yourself for the worst possible outcome, and yet to hope that God will do something. And whilst realism on one hand negates the faith that you think you should be having, doesn't that make the room for hope all the more?

That feeling is one that I am familiar with. The one where you know you should have faith, but you don't. The one where you think that God won't work if you don't have faith, and yet your faith falters and shatters to crystals on the floor. The one where you're going God, haven't I prayed enough? Don't you love me enough to make this happen? Or are you not powerful/loving enough? Or have I done something wrong? It's living with two realities, something that every person of the faith should be living in. It's knowing this hurts; this isn't right; and asking why God isn't doing anything about it - but it's also at the same time affirming (even if it's only with your mind) that God is all-powerful and all-sovereign and doesn't have to act the way we expect Him to, because this is coming to terms with Lordship

It's the ability to say I don't know if it's true even whilst you acknowledge that God has been and is working good in my life. It's being able to say I don't have all the answers, something that church has always secretly taught us not to admit. It's being able to sing Your Kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever when nothing in your life is going right and doesn't seem like it will ever make good. It's being truthful enough to say I'm not sure I really believe whilst allowing that core of your being that does to hold you in check and declare but I have decided that I believe and I will set my sights on what I know is true and right and constant, even if I can't explain how I know it.

And sometimes faith on a string is enough.

It's just enough to be strong
In the broken places, in the broken places
It's just enough to be strong
Should the world rely on faith tonight
Faith Enough; Jars of Clay 

Monday 1 November 2010

salt and light

We were talking about being salt and light, thinking of practical things we can do in the coming week to make an impact in the lives of our friends and family. Simple as that. We've talked about this in iBridge camp on a slightly larger scale - practical things that we can do to make a difference in the different spheres of our nation, i.e. politics, economy, health care, social works (I can't remember the other one). 

These problems seem really big. I mean, you start thinking about it, and you get frightened. It's overwhelming. You look at the forest and go woah, and what were we supposed to do again? But frankly, it isn't our job or our responsibility to change the whole world overnight. It isn't our job to overhaul the system. We can't. The system is rotten and we know it. But right now, with the resources we have, we just cannot change it.
However, what we know is this: if enough people do something about it (or even say something about it), things will change. It's not good enough to say that the system is rotten and it's not fair. We know that. The question is, what are you going to do about it? It only takes a single stone to start and avalanche (or maybe a single snow ball). It doesn't seem dangerous when it starts but it gets big pretty quickly and that really changes things.  
It really isn't any use lamenting the fact that we know that these things aren't good and fair and complaining or wondering why those with the power aren't doing anything about it. We know they aren't, and probably won't unless a miracle happens (we can pray). We know they have too much interested vested in it. It doesn't work to go, "but well, if I were the son of the MP/person in charge/person with power I would do something" because they too have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  
But the best way to make sure that the people put in charge really do the right thing is not to sit around and complain about it. It's to go out there and give your opinion loud enough so that they have to listen. It may even be about replacing those people in charge with the right ones who will do something. 
It isn't easy and it isn't safe. But doing the right thing isn't about being safe. I can't remember who said it at camp, but he said if you're doing something right... expect to get into trouble. Why? Because all those who have interests vested in it aren't going to be happy. And they're going to try their best to shut you up. The thing is, it's never going to change if we never do anything. And if enough people do something, no matter how small, things WILL change. 
How was slavery abolished? By one guy constantly bugging the parliament and attempting to garner support in bugging the parliament. How did the Missionaries of Charity get started? By one woman doing all she could in the slums of India. It works everywhere else... why not with Malaysia?

The problem with Malaysia now... is really our mindsets. 
I guess it stood out extra clearly to me today during our discussion as one guy kept going on about how the system is rotten and how we can't do anything about the system being rotten. What we kept telling him was that yes, we know the system is rotten and we can't do anything about it now, BUT if everyone of us just starts doing the small things that we can do (for example, vote. Or even just helping out in social work, or getting involved in ministries that help the poor and the broken and the migrants) then something will start to change. Even if we can't change everything for everyone, at least that one person you are able to help will have received what he needed. Even if the other 49 still can't fish, at least there is one more person who can fish, and who can help in the work. 
He just couldn't accept that. He kept going on about how it's not his responsibility. He has done his part by paying his taxes and the government should do that bit. To each his own, and let each man decide for himself what he should do. It smacks of selfishness, but we really are selfish people. We want to have our cake and eat it. We want to complain about the state of things but expect that other people will fix it for us. We don't want to get our hands dirty. If I could generalise, I'd say that our age is an age of irresponsibility. We've learnt to pass the buck so well, that we don't know where it stops. 
Our reply to this was fine, to each his own. You decide that you can't do anything and you will not be part of the solution, then that's up to you. We believe that by just doing the little that we can, it will help be a part of the solution (erroneous or not) but we'll take up that responsibility to do that bit. 

I think what really clinched it for me today was the idea of functionality. We normally talk a lot about the analogy of salt and light; salt as a preservative, an aid to healing, a purifier, giving taste and light to show the way, drawing people and giving hope. But we hardly ever think about the fact that salt and light just has a very clear purpose. True, it's wonderful that there are so many things to say about salt and light. The fact remains that for it to just be useful, it has to be used. 
There's no point in having a lit candle if it's already in the light. No one can see it then. For the candle (torchlight for modernity's sake?) to be useful, to serve its purpose it has to be in the dark. And no matter how small or unstable it is, as long as it's there, someone can see. 
For salt to preserve or to heal wounds, or give taste, it has to be in that meat. And meat is by nature, messy and bloody. And if you cook it, it's going to be hot. 

The fact remains that perfection is never going to come in this lifetime. The question is, do you just accept that it isn't and then do NOTHING about it, or do you still do your best to at least get nearer?

Then again, this is just talk. This is just another blog post. What then will we - I - do to make the difference we are talking about? That's where the rubber hits the road, innit?