In the course of these letters I’ve talked a bit about faith . . . and a bit more specifically about my faith. I haven’t said much, because for me all of the things I’ve written in these letters are so integral to that faith that I felt it necessary to work through them first.
In these last two letters I’d like to tie things all together.
In my last note, I wrote that I hope you’re able to navigate the difference between a sometimes unhealthy drive to “be perfect” and a healthy sense of being complete in yourself.
In this letter, though, I want to clarify that “being complete” is not a one-time thing. It’s a long-term commitment to a continuous process. I’ve written elsewhere in these letters about holding on and letting go – that’s part of this process. I’ve also written about truth and the methods of learning it. That’s part of the process as well.
If your worldview remains static over time, it could be because you’ve discovered something true and held onto it through having it questioned and tested and challenged. Or it could be because you’ve held onto something for sentimental or psychological reasons, and your worldview has stagnated because you refused to consider alternative viewpoints. Only you will know for sure which it is, and only one of these approaches involves a “self” that is complete, and is constantly being completed.
And here is where faith comes in: because there will come a time in your life where you have to make a choice of what to believe, and when your choice cannot be 100% confirmed by facts and evidence and logic and reason.
And that’s ok, because while we have all of those tools to help us arrive at truth, we have other tools as well. And one of those tools is faith.
If you wish to avoid stagnating, it’s inevitable that you will come to have faith in something. That’s because, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, there are limits to human comprehension – limits that mean we can only learn so much through the tools of logic and reason.
To go further, you need faith.
The Christian Scripture, in Hebrews 11, provides the most beautiful definition of faith I’ve come across so far. It says “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Things hoped for . . . things not seen. This is the stuff that reason and logic and observation can’t get to.
This is what I want to share with you about being completed . . . not, as so many people believe, that you need another human being to complete you, but that you need something outside of your own ability to see, hear, taste, touch, smell, reason, or explain. I’m sure that throughout your life you’ll hear – probably many times – discussions about science . . . about how reliable science is, about how to do science properly, or about how some people are “anti-science” because they choose to think or believe certain things.
Far less often will you hear about the limitations of science. Science can tell you so very many things . . . but only about that which can be observed. If it can’t be observed, science can’t speak to it. And so again we come back to the realm of faith.
And what a good scientist will tell you, but which far too few science apologists will not, is that there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with letting science tell you what it can, and taking the rest on faith. There’s nothing wrong with learning as much as you possibly can from your own observation, your own reason, and your own intuition . . . and then letting your heart guide you to that which cannot be observed, reasoned, or intuited.
There’s nothing wrong with hope. Remember . . . Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
But “hope” is an emotion . . . and people on both ends of the spectrum we’re discussing tend to distrust emotions. One end of the spectrum consists of those who distrust faith as something irrational . . . who rely only on the mind and what can be conclusively known to guide them. The other end of the spectrum consists of those who rely on blind belief even if it contradicts their own observations . . . rely only on what their trusted sources tell them is true. To quote one person I know who falls near this end of the spectrum, “God said it. That settles it.” I’m not sure there’s any true “faith” there . . . because there’s no true “hope” there . . . there is only what they know – or think they know. Hope requires doubt, by definition, and at this end of the spectrum there is no room for doubt.
At their root, I think both types of people are incomplete.
I think we are perhaps culturally conditioned to distrust emotions. They are considered unreliable and irrational and untrustworthy. But I think one’s emotions can be incredibly valuable in some of the very ways we’ve explored through the course of these letters. I think learning how to think through and assess and articulate one’s emotions can do a great deal to draw the map one needs to “know oneself.” I think emotions can help us process a need or a gap in our “selves” that we can’t necessarily discover just through reasoning it out or reading about it in some devotional.
That’s not to say that one should trust wholly to emotions, to the exclusion of either reason or belief. Rather, it is to say that all three have a role to play in the construction of a completed self.
And like knowledge and belief, a healthy emotional self will constantly be growing . . . exploring . . . discovering new depths. So the process of “being completed” is never truly finished.
So my hope for you is that you grow up learning, yes, to trust your observation and reason, but also your capacity to feel and believe. Because as we’re going to see in my next and final letter, once we open ourselves up to the “evidence of things hoped for,” it becomes pretty apparent, pretty quickly, just how much there is to hope for.
My hope for you is that you learn to love it, seek it, search it, find it, and hold onto it like the treasure it is.