The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity (love), meaning that they are supernatural gifts and cannot be fabricated ourselves. Knowing that faith is a gift, I had thought of myself as already possessing it. I do believe in the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and all of the teaching of the church. Thank you, God. Box checked. Let’s move on.
I’m sure this comes as no news to you, dear reader, but I lately realized that faith is ongoing. I’m not talking about simply not losing the faith, which is an infinite gift in itself, but about everyday faith. Yes, I have faith that God loves me and is with me, but here’s the real question: Do I act like I believe it? Do I worry about being an inadequate mother for my children instead of believing that I am supernaturally equipped to be the right mom for my children, and that we were placed in this time and place for a reason? Am I anxious about the toxic aspects and confusion in our culture or do I trust that God’s grace and angelic warriors are bigger? If I don’t get to do something I wanted or go to an event I had planned, am I bitter and resentful or do I trust it’s for my best?
It’s this kind of everyday faith that is required to wage the daily battle for our souls. It came to my attention because of a lovely little book I am reading by Father Jacques Philippe entitled Searching for and Maintaining Peace: a Small Treatise on Peace of Heart. By page 13, it became clear to me that maintaining interior peace requires a whole lot of faith. It means that when I fail and yell at my kids, I have faith that God that will draw good out of sin. It means that I trust that God loves my children even more than I do and that despite whatever looks dire on the outside, He will use to draw them nearer to Himself. It means that I have faith that He will make me into who He wants me to be in His time. This kind of faith is God-given, but it is worth asking for and striving to maintain.
As I was reading Mark 10:13-16, I came across the episode where people (in my imagination, mothers) are bringing their children to Jesus to be touched by Him. The disciples, apparently zealous for a more “important” use of Our Lord’s time, rebuke them. In response, our Lord rebukes the disciples, invites the children to himself, embraces them, and uses the opportunity to teach the adults something: to such as these belong the kingdom of heaven. But how? In what way must we become like children? I’m sure there are many answers to this question, but one element certainly is in their interior peace.
In reasonably healthy homes with income to cover basic needs, somewhere around the age of 4, children possess an astonishing amount of interior peace — that is to say, faith. They have utter faith that their daddy can fix anything and that he knows everything (to my wry amusement). They have no concern whatsoever about where we will get money to pay for something or how we will buy food (my 3-year-old cheerfully tells me that all we have to do is go to the bank and get more money). They don’t worry about tomorrow but delight in the little surprises and treats of today. They entrust themselves wholly to their parents, who they know love them.
Father Philippe says that we adults are usually fighting the wrong spiritual battle. We want to become holy, yes, but we want to do so on our terms and in our way. The better way, he says, is to fight for interior peace: to become like the little children. He uses the illustration of water to make his point. The more still the surface of the water — that is to say, the less it is agitated — the more it accurately reflects the sun. So it is with our souls. The more we quiet our spirits to maintain a faith-filled peace, the more God Himself is reflected there. And this, he says, is efficacious not only for our own family’s conversion, but for the world’s. In a culture that has jettisoned objective goodness and truth and is characterized by frantic, strident discord, interior peace stands in stark contrast: and it’s attractive.
What does this mean practically? The kids are sick, so we couldn’t go on vacation? Everyday faith means we believe it must be for our best. Our oldest is going off to a week-long summer camp? Our act of faith is that Our Lord loves Him more than we do, and we do not fret. We are running late (again)? We apologize and have faith that God will grow humility out of these apparent failures.
Faith is not a boxed checked once and for all. Instead, if we are to cultivate interior peace, we had faith, we do have faith, and we are having faith — all by the grace of God. Like the father of the boy possessed by a demon (Mark 9:24), we say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel
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