What next, when…?
‘Jesus came to make people free. He wanted us to choose goodness freely. He did not crave the base worship of the slave. But free choice can exist only where there is doubt. Where there is certainty, there is nothing to choose; as soon as we understand a proof in Euclidian geometry, for instance, we simply accept it. Faith exists only where there is uncertainty. And so Jesus did not offer proofs. With only his image as our guide, we must choose goodness freely in the face of doubt.
We need to accomplish things where failure is possible, to make decisions that could be mistaken, to take responsibility, and to risk.’
Gary Saul Morson
Thus runs one of my favourite daily readings lately.
In the original the last two lines are a hyperlink to a longer article, but I deliberately haven’t read it, because I am still thinking about them.
But what if it goes wrong?
I mean, reading those last two lines, I imagine success-in-the-face-of-odds, or remarkable personalities striving ever onwards up the tricky stairs of life, or burdens borne with truly stoic fortitude, or risks taken and – what’s the word for a risk that works out your way? That, anyway. Risks that work out. Risks overcome, splendidly, bravely.
But what if? Or, given the nature of life: what next, when the risks don’t work out?
What next, when you miss the bus? What next, when the rocks are slippery? What next, when it turns out you aren’t very good at heights after all? What next, when the crops fail and your community is starving? What next, when you take on something too hard, but you can’t stop now? What next, when the person you lent money to doesn’t return it? What next, when your beloved children turn out to be doing something utterly terrible? What next, when you caught a plane to Belarus, thinking you were going to Germany, and ended up against a barbed wire fence? What next, when you trust someone because you really need to talk, and they are not good at confidentiality? What next, when your home turns out not to be big enough to take in that difficult person? What next, when people around you are dying, leaving you with grief and bigger burdens? What next, when the person you love best in the world doesn’t love you enough? What next, when the party you voted for turns out to be breaking a fragile peace treaty? What next, when that car over there is driven too fast…
I can only think that, it is in those moments that faith shows.
Those are the times of doubt, when you have taken the risks and they failed. Either you keep going on the path of Jesus, or you don’t. I’m not convinced it matters how you keep going (accomplishment through responsible and decisive action is probably good). Just doing it, just choosing goodness at that moment, is the most enormous declaration of faith.
And then continuing to choose goodness even when you are not sure what it is, because the doubt is too great and the circumstances too difficult. That’s faith.
Maybe failure doesn’t matter as much as I think?
Maybe it’s time to read the rest of the article now.
Theme photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash