Fides quaerens intellectum…”faith seeking understanding.”St. Augustine
I retired as a minister in the United Methodist Church after twenty-three years of service. Admittedly, this was a mixed bag. I had been the pastor-in-charge for several churches, and when pastoring in Missouri, was the pastor of a 2-point charge. Every other week I would lead the services in a small rural community, and on the off Sundays, the minister leading the service was a Baptist. It was a strange combination. However, during many of my 23 years of service, I was either the associate minister at a rather large United Methodist Church, or I taught in colleges and universities along the Denver Front Range area or both. I suppose if I were to name that which energized me the most it would be teaching, and I taught not only religious studies, but was a part time instructor in philosophy at Red Rocks Community College for over 20 years. Teaching philosophy had become my passion for it provided keen challenges to the simplicities of dogmatic faith that all too often capture people’s imaginations limiting their experience of God and restricting their faith. My ministry, then, was a mixed bag not only because the varied nature of my ministerial positions, but because I yearned to bring the deep existential nature of faith into the highly critical and demanding rigors of philosophical thought to make sense of the divine nature of our everydayness.
However, faith is a quality of life that defies simple definition, and its reality is something that can never be contained in dogmas and statements of belief. When I retired from the ministry, I did not retire from faith; I retired from the medium I had used to communicate and practice my faith—institutionalized religion. In doing so, I admit that church services did not remain a focus in my life, but I have never been able to nor have I the desire to turn my back on faith. Faith, whatever is, is the existential reality of God’s love and grace as we live day to day and attempt to enter graciously into the lives of others. As such, it is a reality that brings conviction of the goodness of life and the belief that in the end, goodness will triumph, More practically, however, faith is the presence of God that sustains us in times of need and inspires us with the thought that no matter how difficult, life will be redeemed.
This is no more evident than when one’s health is threatened by COVID-19. In the midst of this health challenge, faith cannot remain an abstraction, but becomes the very fabric of life allowing us to look beyond the immediacy of the disease to the hope of healing. In faith, we turn to powers beyond the self to aid us, to inspire us and to help us embrace life. While the possibility of death was certainly a nagging thought, faith focused not on death but life. While a person who, like me, is in a high-risk category, the thought of being overwhelmed by the disease perdured, but faith did not allow this to be the last word. It turned my attention from feeling bad to imagining the time when I would walk out of the hospital.
I realize that many who have been overcome by this disease are also people of faith, whose determination like mine was to live. They didn’t make it. I make no pretense to understanding the “whys’ of this situation. I do not know why I lived, and others did not. I do not know why my faith delivered me from the throes of death. I believe, however, that the answer is not found in reason, but the very faith that saved me. Somehow in the intricacies of that moment, the prayers, hopes and kind thoughts of others powerfully interacted with the care and expertise of medical personnel and the disposition of faith allowed me to focus on these words, these efforts and the expertise of others to finally walk out of the hospital.
It is still not over and even though home, I look to the day with eyes of faith. What will tomorrow bring? I do not know. But what I believe is that by keeping my eyes on the prize—life—there is little that can come between me and my hope that the graciousness of our universe will continue to lift me up so that the life I have left to live will be one of hope, promise, graciousness to others, and one of seeking to understand that which is not understandable—faith. Fides quaerens intellectum…”faith seeking understanding.”