When I was a child, I thought that an effective petition to God came about by gathering all the force of my small will. If I could concentrate and focus and, as it were, shout at God, maybe my prayers would be answered. And then, when my turtle died anyway or we had to move away from my friends, I just thought that I wasn’t strong enough to move God. I couldn’t get God’s attention or believe hard enough. I didn’t have even as much faith as a mustard seed. I kept hoping that my faith would grow and I’d become powerful, like those TV evangelists who were always healing people.
My disillusionment fueled a time of turning away from God. I retreated into my head. The world of my mind is stark and bright. Faith and mystery have no room there. With my thinking self I see what’s concrete and objective. All phenomena have causes that can be explained. The burning bush is the overactive imagination of a man with sunstroke and not much human companionship – a man with an inferiority complex and the guilt of having murdered somebody. There is no virgin birth, just a clever teenager with a lot to hide. Her son’s father complex leads him to imagine a heavenly papa. And, because he is so charismatic and persuasive, he hypnotizes people into putting their trust in him, projecting their own healing powers on him, They even imagine, after the Roman authorities bring him down, that he has risen from the dead. You know these arguments. You have probably heard them before – maybe even spouted them yourself, if you’re honest.
But, do you know, I never stopped praying. I just didn’t admit to myself that I was doing it. My prayers took the form of mutterings. “Ha!” I would say when I saw something painful or ugly, “What sort of deity makes a world full of pain like this one is? A sadist, maybe. Not a God of love.” And I would go on, never acknowledging that I was angry at a very real Somebody.
I couldn’t quit the habit of going into churches, either – of worshiping – of taking communion. I rationalized it with psychological language: my own father complex, perhaps, or the unhealthy need to belong. But I went pretty regularly. And I continued to learn and grow.
My faith does not reside in my head, it springs from my heart. My faith is a small conviction that is lodged there and that has taken over my entire being, like a seed that has spread endless, tiny roots. I am never out of conversation with God – never have been since those early failures in trying to push God into changing the way the world works for my sake. My faith is the size of a mustard seed, for sure. But can it uproot trees? Or is that maybe the wrong question?
The James Webb telescope has revealed a universe that is practically boundless. I’ve come to realize that God’s perspective is so beyond my little ego-bound view that it isn’t even funny. There are probably hundreds of thousands of planets with intelligent species on them. And all those species no doubt talk to God. And on each planet bearing intelligent life, Christ has probably incarnated, for God loves each created being. God’s answer to my indignant sense of injustice and wrong is only ever going to be God’s answer to Job.
But I have a mustard seed faith in God’s unbounded love for me, for my tiny, unique, one-of-a-kind self. I have faith God’s love extends beyond the confines of the created world, and that I will be cherished always. You bet I do!