Blind Faith

I can’t even write the words “blind faith” without my skin crawling. Despite forty-six years of attending church and more than half that time intentionally engaged in spiritual practices, enough of me is rational, academic, and post-modern that I’m unwilling to “blindly” do anything. Isn’t blind faith the purview of global warming deniers who believe humans were given dominion over the earth and the earth’s preservation is in God’s hands? Isn’t blind faith the stuff which sends terrorists careening airplanes into high rises?

That said, I confess to dabbling. For years I was single and lonely, and tried to have blind faith that God would find me a partner. Finally I got my butt out the door and started dating. My blind faith was really laziness—I wanted God to do my work for me. Or my blind faith was a misguided assumption that just because I wanted love I would get it.

With hindsight—that is, with the seeing faith I have now—I’m grateful for those aching years because they motivated me to take responsibility for my desire. I recognize faith in the stirring of my heart, in my own agency, and in the remarkable way I was called out of hiding. I no longer feel like a victim of circumstance. Instead, I participate in accepting what I’m given, claiming my desire, shaping my life and being shaped by my life. As Jungian analyst Ann Belford Ulanov wrote, “Aliveness springs from our making something of what we experience and receiving what experience makes of us.”

But this too is faith. The call and response between human and mystery, between body and spirit, between who I seem to be and who I essentially am is a stunning dialogue. Faith is an interchange between receptivity and activity, and I don’t understand it one bit. I’ve been reading a lot of St. John of the Cross lately, and for St. John faith is dark, an abyss, a road of nakedness, not contrary to reason but transcending it. Blind faith is the embrace of mystery within our reason, our will, and our relationships. Even when we exercise all our human faculties, there exists this life, this aliveness, which springs from our making and receiving. It is beyond our comprehension. Faith is the only way to approach it, and faith, St. John writes, is blind.

Here I sit, squirming. And yet, and yet…

2 thoughts on “Blind Faith”

  1. Thanks for this. It speaks to something that bothers me a lot, something I wonder about. There are a lot of people in my life who talk about “God’s plan,” about God wanting something to happen — which irritates me to no end. My stepson talks about his own successes as a violinist this way, and I want to say to him — “No. You made that happen. YOU practiced and worked hard and YOU took the talent you were given and did something with it.” I don’t see God as an entity up there working out little plans for all of us (what about the unlucky among us? The downtrodden? The poor? What about those nine people in S. Carolina?). But this way of faith that you’re talking about makes so much sense to me, but I didn’t have words for it. Thank you.

    1. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

      Exactly! Thanks for writing this, Patty. I had a good laugh the other day at a whole chapter in St. John of the Cross’s THE ASCENT OF MT CARMEL where he identifies all the places in the Bible where God declares what’s going to happen and then it doesn’t happen, and all the places where God tells prophets what to say, they say it, and then what everyone expects to happen doesn’t happen. Basically John is saying, “We have no idea what’s going on here!” and that our faith needs to be an active relationship with mystery. I can barely wrap my mind around it!

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