I sent this Go Fish to Heather the other day and she really laughed:

We had a difficult (and very rewarding) conversation last night, through which I discovered that what I am called to in my relationship with her is a lot like faith. That I cannot "hold" her. That I have to let her go (again and again) so that she is always free to give herself. Or not. But, in any case, she must be free or it's not love.

That made me think of some things I wrote about faith in an old journal (Oct 2000-Feb 2001). I'd been thinking about this anyway, because it follows from yesterday's post about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit also comes (and guides us) through faith. So what is faith?

I like this quote by Dionysius the Areopagite:

Attainment comes only by means of [the] sincere, spontaneous, and entire surrender of yourself and all things.
Such a surrender is exactly what I mean by faith. The Love of God is the "attainment" which comes through faith. "The one who loses their life for my sake will find it." (Mt 10.39)

In another journal entry, I expanded on this:
Faith is really inactivity: death to self, openness, surrender. Yet it is the portal to love, which is the source of all good action. Love is the activity in faith's inactivity. Love motivates our good-doing, while we remain in the non-doing of faith. Faith does not strive or resist or coerce. Yet, through faith, love creates, heals, conquers, overcoming all evil. Love cannot be overcome; it is the ground of all being, God himself. And faith is 'harmony' with God.

Prayers of faith (the first is by Charles deFoucauld; I memorized it years ago):
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you--
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me
And in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.

I offer it to you
With all the love of my heart.
For I love you Lord,
And so need to give myself--
To surrender myself into your hands
Without reserve,
And with boundless confidence
For you are my Father.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

...Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."
(Mt 26.39,42)

And here's another passage I think is relevant (or at least interesting). It digresses a little into thoughts about boredom and death, but I think these are closely related to the experience and understanding of what faith is (the meaning and implications of death also came up when Heather and I were talking last night):
At the heart of our fear of boredom is a fear of nothingness. We dread the emptiness of time. Because with no distraction, we become conscious of ourselves AS IS, not in relation to other things but isolated, alone. Or rather in relation to God, from whom we are never isolated. This results in a consciousness of sin, guilt, negation. But that could all be collected under the heading of nothingness. And our fear of nothingness is fundamental--the fear of death.

I think the fear of death and the pride of life are synonymous. Many have said fear is our primary motivator, while others insist that pride drives us. But they're the same. To take pride in my own existence is also to fear the loss of that existence--pride immediately turns to fear once the source of pride is threatened. And nothingness constantly threatens the source of our pride.

I see the struggle against nothingness becoming obvious in several ways. First is the basic struggle for physical survival. But this struggle doesn't stop at "daily bread"--it continues into the quest for security and material wealth and power. The clutching of physical reality to convince ourselves that we are something and will continue to exist as something. Second, the struggle for fame and political power. We attempt to become something real in the minds of other people--the more, the better. With this is all identities based on role, profession, hierarchy, etc. And third is what I've been writing about in relation to boredom: the struggle to fill time with activity. If we can just keep moving, building, theorizing, then we're convinced that we're something. We try to carve out a place for ourselves in the material world, in people's minds, and in time. If we're taking up 'space' then we must be something.

We struggle against nothingness feverishly (pridefully or fearfully, it's all the same) because nothingness is death. To be hungry, poor, ignored, forgotten, lonely, bored is to be threatened at the core of our being. Such experiences question our very existence. It's not just the physical discomfort; it's the threat of death. So we try to establish ourselves in things, in people, and in time--yet these all disappear just as we do. It's a futile struggle, really, but I suppose it does keep us occupied and distracts us from facing our fear directly. And that's generally enough. Because we cannot face our fear directly; we simply cannot face death.

[What about suicides, or those who wish for death but cannot carry it out? I think they are a good example of what I am saying rather than an exception. Such people perhaps come closest to experiencing nothingness. What they plead for is not death (as I have been using the term) but the end of their living death, the end of their conscious experience of nothingness.]

To face death is to live with it, to be conscious of the overwhelming evidence that we are nothing. And this we cannot do.

By ourselves, that is. We cannot, by our own power, face death and live. We can, however, be resurrected through faith, by the power of God's love. Faith is the death of self in which we face our own nothingness, only to be raised by God's free and loving affirmation of our somethingness. This is a somethingness not carved out of crumbling stone or fading time, but an absolute value granted by God. Only God creates, and this is God's re-creation of us. Our second birth.

One more thing. I just remembered this image of faith from my (true) story, In God I trust:
The feeling reminded me of something from my early childhood, something so far back I knew it more from stories my parents told than from my own memories. My father was standing chest-deep in the pool, about six feet from the edge, waving for me to come. And I did come. Pumping my little legs, I rushed to the edge and threw myself into the air. Out over the water. But all I could see was the strong hands, and my father's face. There was a terrific splash. And then I was held and was safe and my father was laughing. And I was laughing. "I do it again!" I scrambled out, stepped back, dripping, and again I leapt out over the water that was too deep for me. Again and again. An old lady in a deck chair poked her husband. "Harold, look at that kid."