I was listening recently to a brief video interview of the composer Arvo Pärt. He spoke of how music is an understanding, empathetic friend, forgiving and of comfort. Music offers liberation and flight. He’s woven his life around music until it infuses his very being. In a sense, he has faith in music.
Yet, he also said music is a painful thorn. The video didn’t explore that idea further, but I can imagine some possible scenarios. Music could push him when he’s tired, capture his heart and not let it go, or bring up deep and painful melodies that must make their way into the world through him.
The idea of faith in America today, like love and hope, has been secularized until it retains little of its connection to a true spiritual life. I think of how we “have faith” that the light will turn on in our house when we press or flip a light switch, and how too many Texans got a painful lesson last month in how that isn’t always the case. If we put our faith in low prices and deregulation, that “race to the bottom” will have painful, thorny consequences in our lives.
Then there’s the faith that many Americans put in politicians, to make their lives better with their heady promises. Yet the power of opposing politicians can prevent those promises from coming true, raising anger and pain on both sides of the great political divide. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to result in Americans recognizing that we’re putting our trust in the wrong things. Instead, it results too often in increased rhetoric and a type of mass hypnosis, until people “of faith” can manage to call the former president a messiah without giving serious thought to how far that president strayed from “love your neighbor as yourself.”
As I conclude my Lenten series on Paul’s triad of faith, hope, and love, I’m pondering faith in scripture. Paul states that God is faithful to us—which is an interesting point. We don’t begin this relationship; God does. We have faith because God has already given us grace upon grace and gift upon gift. God has blessed us richly (though perhaps not with worldly riches, but with what our souls need!). God will support us in whatever trials we face, whatever thorns pierce our complacency or alter our comfortable understandings of the world.
So where do we place our faith? Do we return the favor and place faith in God, giving thanks for the gifts of life and breath, beauty and wonder? Do we allow our faith to pierce our hearts as a thorn does, through the pain and suffering so evident in the world around us? Do we trust in the power of love to transform our lives, if we will but step out in faith to support, and perhaps transform, the lives of all our neighbors?
Where do you place your faith? How do you live it out in the world?