OUTSIDE IN — Faith is simple?

By on October 31, 2020
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By CHRIS BATES

 

Faith is simple?

Columnist Chris Bates’ daughter took this photo on one of their many camping trips.

     Each spring and fall when my daughter was younger,  she and I would go to camp at a different state park for a few days. It was always a great escape and memorable time for just the two of us. We would rent a rustic cabin or camp out and explore whatever each park had to offer. We would hike seemingly forever on a nature trail or catch fish from one of the lakes. One park had a massive 14-foot alligator in a large pond enclosure where we sat on the grass and watched for what must have been hours.

 

     It was truly amazing to see how she would be fascinated with the small things that I often looked right over. I would be worried about the weather or the camping gear or what food items we had packed. Her concerns were much more about things like seasonal flowers or different tiny animals and how they acted.

 

     On one particular camping trip, she announced that her big priority for the weekend was to have lots of pictures so we could reflect on the memories for years to come. My mind’s eye went to landscapes or cloud formations or the woods around the cabin where we stayed. After the trip, when I looked back through the photos she took, it struck me that almost all were noticeably micro-focused.

 

      The takeaway is that her mind was much better at being present in the moment. A less cluttered mind can more readily connect with the small (and meaningful) wonders. We all know that the same is true about practicing our faith today. Admittedly, my mind and spirit are usually consumed with the concerns and tasks of the day during most of my waking hours. Business, family, and the many distractions of real life are powerful detractors from being able to see what is right around us.

 

     Practicing faith usually does not make the to-do list. We tend not to scribble it in between the office deadlines and the grocery list. All who are believers have the intention of doing better by reading the Word more, making church more often, or spending more time on our knees. Those are all important action steps, but we may think of them as checklist items within our spiritual lives. If we do them more regularly, then certainly we will feel better connected to God. We know also, though, that God’s side of that relationship is not the issue — it’s us.

 

     The salient point here, and the lesson garnered from my daughter’s simplified perspective of what was around her, is that practicing our faith is not just about getting the big things done. There is not a plateau to be reached that finally satisfies our spiritual growth for the rest of our lives. It does not look like the completion of a project or a checklist. Our effort should be both to absorb it and exude it at the same time, all the time, through the simplest connections with who and what is around us. Faith is not a thing we do. It is like the wet part of the ocean.

 

     C.S. Lewis said it well when he wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” He had the right filter in mind. By looking through our faith at everything around us, what we see then changes. The content does not necessarily change, but the parts of it we notice, and how we interact with it, entirely shifts.

 

     To deepen our faith, we desire to have evidence. The disciple Thomas wanted it when he heard that Jesus was resurrected. Immediately after that story about Thomas, John 20:30-31 tells us that “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” The right question today, then, is to each ask ourselves whether our own story also shows a body of evidence.

 

     It takes a simplified perspective to weed out the noise and see God’s small yet infinite world right around us. Be challenged to be more grateful and more simple. Let us carry our faith with us in every moment as we live it and pass it along to others.

 

 

Chris Bates is CEO and co-founder of AgoraEversole a full-service marketing agency in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraEversole.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children AgoraEversole.com live in Madison.

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