I believe that faith is a CHOICE.
Often, people talk about faith as a FEELING, a feeling of certainty, and for many, that’s how it is. But it helps me to believe that faith can start with a CHOICE, and that the FEELING may follow at some time, more or less as a gift.
I’m an ordained Episcopal priest, so I know what I’m supposed to believe: The Bible, as outlined by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.
But recently, in a Bible discussion group, I had to admit that my faith, as a FEELING of certainty, probably never goes higher than 95%. The moment I look inside myself, and ask if I truly believe, at least 5% of doubt creeps in.
I remember deciding about my faith. I was in the Navy. Our group, two destroyers and a tanker, was circling between Bermuda and the Azores, waiting for America’s first astronaut John Glenn to go into orbit. If a problem developed between 8 and 11 minutes into his flight, he would be brought down to us.
I had just qualified as Officer of the Deck, and during the quiet moonlight night I got into a theological discussion with my Junior Officer of the Deck, John Harrell.
John was from South Carolina, had grown up as a strongly believing Baptist, but then came to university in New England, and of course had lost his simple faith. So he was asking me, “Do you believe, for example, that Jesus really walked on water?”
Looking out over the calm Atlantic waters in the moonlight helped, but mainly I didn’t want to lose the argument, so I said, “Yes”.
Later, in my bunk, I had to think. Had my “yes” been honest? I decided that if I believed in a God who created the universe, and its laws, then He had the right to overpower them sometimes.
So I CHOSE to be a believing Christian.
And buying into a system that says that our Creator loves us, forgives us, that His human incarnation died for us, that He wants us to love our neighbors as our selves, – that seems like a pretty good choice, even if I can’t be 100% sure.
And there have been times when it seems that God has had an important hand in guiding my life and getting me through some difficult times.
I went back to that Bible group a week later, and told them that I had thought about it, and there ARE moments when I’m 100% sure of my faith. It’s when I’m singing a hymn whose words and tune I know well, when I’m singing among other Christians so I don’t need to be self-conscious about my own voice. Then come moments when the faith I’ve chosen to live my life by seems to fill my heart, and the FEELING of 100% certainty is there.
As long as I don’t try to think about it.
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