Faith and Fear Introduction: Seeking to be Congruent
My faith is the part of me I treasure most. It is life-giving. But it is also the part of me that is most easily drowned out by all the other things that make up my day-to-day existence.
But please don't misunderstand me...
“He’s religious?!” Some of you may now be thinking, “Oh no, here’s another religious nut trying to tell me how I should think, live or, worse, tell me that I’m going to hell.” I’m not. I won’t. By faith, I don’t mean beliefs, theology or a moral code. Let me explain. The other night, I wanted to walk up a hill by my house to get a better view of the night sky. As I started, I realised just how dark it was and I began to worry. Will it be muddy? Will I slip or trip? Am I going to be safe? I entered a way of being as I walked: fear. This fear was shutting me off to the joy I could have had walking up that hill. I turned back and settled for a better lit, but much less joyful, route through the housing estate in which I live. What does that have to do with faith? Well, by faith, I mean a way of walking through life that doesn’t turn back when confronted by uncertainty - by darkness, mud and risk. A way of being that is the opposite of fear. A way of life that opens us up rather than shuts us down. You could call it a mode of the heart that we can enter and leave, or even hover in the doorway of. Here, I hope to describe a vital part of human experience that is not often acknowledged but rejected in favour of more palatable, popular or profitable ways of being. Faith, you see, is subversive. “Yes, he’s a Christian!” For others of you, I fear you may expect more from this than I can give. (Or, perhaps, less.) I don’t aim here to be ‘Christian’ or ‘religious’, although I may touch on the links (for good and bad) between religion and faith, and my own deeply-cherished and deeply-questioned Christianity. I don’t aim to show how my Christianity meets the questions, conflicts and suffering of existence, and leads us into a more whole life. For now, I avoid writing about this for fear that meets becomes answers, and leads becomes beats. I also don’t aim here to say the ‘right’ things. Faith, for me, is a matter of the soul. Writing about it is to enter the world of authenticity, presence and congruence. Concepts of ‘rightness’ and ‘propriety’, I have found, force the soul into retreat. Our souls have known enough shame already. In these words, I hope you find a call to reconnect with what I believe is the heartbeat of your religion. It’s not your theology. It’s not being correct. It’s not (far worse) increasing in number or successfully converting non-believers or being part of the in-group. Seeking to be congruent I have to say, I’ve questioned whether to write these blogs. What will people reading think?! You might say this approaches the question of whether I am a Christian (or biblical) counsellor or a counsellor who happens to be a Christian. My answer is no. I prefer to be in the in-between space that our culture and religions dislike: we like to label and categorise, we like our prejudices and stereotypes. We like to define ourselves by what we are not. This way of thinking is easy. It tells us what to expect and creates a mirage of control and understanding of existence. I’ve lived a lot of my life trying to be - safely, unthreatening and happily - part of two incompatible groups: the dominant secular culture and a Christian subculture. In doing so, I’ve cut off or suffocated parts of myself that were not acceptable to one or either of those groups. Parts of myself that, I now see, were precious Parts that were the essence of what makes me, me. You see, the soul does not sit happily and safely within our categories: it is not made to conform. And that is its beauty. So rather than keep up the self-amputation, I've chosen to strive to be congruent. What does that mean? It means I try to live outwardly in a way that mirrors what goes on internally. It means I try to say and do what I believe most needs to be said and done, rather than what I think others expect me to say and do. I know that when I encounter people who live like that, I find people that I can trust: they don’t have a hidden agenda nor do they need to manipulate me. Now, some may write me off as a heretic, others as a religious nutcase, others as someone who can’t make up his mind. That’s OK. I’m not doing this for them. That’s the point. Rather, I’m walking this journey into the dark, in faith, that, by seeking to be congruent, even if this means being challenging, difficult and a little shocking, I can have an impact for good and that you will find me trustworthy. But even more, that I will find myself trustworthy.