Faith includes noticing the mess,
the emptiness and discomfort
and letting it be there until some light returns.
– Anne Lamott
I don’t remember where I first heard the term “Keeping the Faith”. It may have been in the sixties when someone said, “Keep the faith, baby” or from a revival tent in some backwoods church service. I am reminded of the phrase once in a while when I see Tavis Smiley on PBS. He always closes his show with “Keep the faith.” I think the term may have originated in the civil rights movement in the sixties when people needed a lot of encouragement and solidarity.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I find it to be an important expression that should not be forgotten. The term has been used in a lot of contemporary music, from Billy Joel to Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson. It has also become a slogan for various ministries and even radio programs. And as with every other phrase today, this one also has been hijacked to mean something else. We can even commercialize it: there is a “Keep the Faith” ministry store.
I was recently listening to Bon Jovi who have written a marvelous song called, guess what?, “Keep the faith”. It begins with an admonition to parents, or perhaps even an apology. Our parents are the ones who teach us faith among so many other things. When they are gone, whom do we lean on? It all points to us and holding on to the faith, the values, and the love that our parents gave us.
There is a line that runs through the song – “Faith: you know you gotta live thru the rain/Lord, you gotta keep the faith/Now you know is not too late.”
In the end, it sounds like a confession; yet it is really an admonition that in the face of everything in the world that is painful, tragic, ugly, and sad, we have to keep the faith. We have to keep our trust in the maker of the universe and our Lord Jesus. We have to remain generous in spite of the ugliness of self-centeredness and stinginess that takes place in the world. We have to be faithful to our responsibilities, to family, to friends, and to our community. There is so much to keep and not lose.
If you are a sentimental person, you often collect things. It might be matchbook covers, a cup that says “Honolulu”, a piece of street art that you purchased and that reminds you of time you spent somewhere special. It might be a piece of jewelry that belonged to your grandmother. It is all about keeping a memory, an experience, a moment alive.
Keeping the faith is we what we are about doing as a community of faith. We are maintaining more than simply doctrine or a belief system. We are living a lifestyle that is motivated by our faith in Jesus our Lord. This means we need to be about helping others, sharing our values with others, and living a life that gets us through the stormy, difficult times, or as Bon Jovi says, the rainy days.
I have been thankful to many people who have been my mentors or others I have looked up to who have kept the faith and, beyond that, even shared the faith. I have great gratitude to them, and my feelings, I believe, are captured in this quote by Maya Angelou:
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.