On Reformation Sunday I just confirmed three young people who are at the beginning of a lifelong journey that will take them beyond the walls of our church, and perhaps even beyond the borders of our community and this country. I am never surprised to see the many fascinating lives that start out here at the altar when they are confirmed, become very profound and successful. One thing that does bother me is that many people think confirmation is the end of your faith journey, or at least the educational part of it. I went to class, I passed the test, and Pastor confirmed me. For many, that is as far as it goes. What we really have is a childlike faith at that age.
I recall the story of nine-year-old Leo Tolstoy who was convinced that God would help him fly. He dove head first out of a third-story window and had his major crisis of disappointment with God. Fortunately, Tolstoy survived the crash landing, and years later could laugh at this childish test of faith. What child is not fascinated with supernatural powers? Lord, help me walk across the lake; help me beat up that bully; help me get an A on my math test.
Somehow we look for answers like at a genie in a bottle that God will grant us our wishes, our wants, and our desires. However, in the dark hours of disappointment we even turn against the divine. We are angry when we don’t get what we want. It can go even beyond anger when we try to find meaning in the sad and dark experiences of life where people get sick, where death takes us early in life, or where things don’t work out the way we planned. Many want to blame misfortunes on God. For others, the confirmation faith vanishes when their first philosophy professor challenges them.
One of the reasons I went to seminary was because I had many questions for which I wanted to find the answers. I did find the answers to some, but in the process more questions arose. Soon I learnt to love the questions and live without all the answers. I guess you could call this faith. Faith incorporates in its definition doubt. Without doubt there is no faith. When people cry for certainty I find myself disappointed. We are not about certainty, rather we are about trust.
So, when I think about those kids who know nothing of what they will have to face in the years ahead, I am reminded of two quotes. One is from St. Augustine’s “Confessions”: The heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee. As a restless, struggling, doubting faith-loving person, I find great comfort in those words.
The other passage, written by T.S. Eliot, reminds me of where I began long ago in my faith journey, wanting to explore and discover and know so much. I later discovered how little I really knew, but faith took me on quite a ride. Eliot writes:
And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.