Today I spoke with a friend about what it was like being a dad, and how I had no clue what I was getting into when I started. I had thoughts, of course, but really, I had no idea. I might as well have been on that mountain with Peter, seeing Jesus with Moses, and Elijah, followed by the cloud and a voice. There wasn’t a voice except the one saying, “It’s your turn to get up with the baby.” Followed by my “I was just up with him.” And then in reply, “no, I was just up with him.”
Becoming a parent. It’s transfiguring. The moment of birth is an awakening that brings responsibility. A little while after I married I consented to having a dog, because it’d be a practice of sorts, before having a baby. After my son’s birth I wondered what person thought the two were analagous. It’s there, yes, but palely. Living into the full reality of what being a dad was really like, and understanding what the role requires is something that happened over time. Along the way at various points I was like Peter suggesting to his mom that we build our own shrines. Me seeing being a parent as something I did, and not something I was.
Faith is like that in a way. We can find ourselves longing for an experience we had of church in the past. Or a sense of who God is, which is sure, that we haven’t had since before college, or high school. I’m fond of a phrasing Peter Rollins uses in his book How (Not) to Speak of God saying that “To believe is human, to doubt divine.” It’s so easy to cast things as black and white in our spiritual life, even when we know we’re surrounded with grey in so much of what we do. We forget that Jesus doubted. When we doubt, we’re being like him. For Rollins, “doubt is a purifying fire that helps us find out what we really are.” The things you doubt, those are the questions that are yours to love, so you can live your way into answers (Rilke).
Christian Wiman makes these same points when he says “[T]here is no way to “return to the faith of your childhood,” not really….No. Life is not an error, even when it is. That is to say, whatever faith you emerge with at the end of your life is going to be not simply affected by that life, but intimately dependent upon it, for faith in God is, in the deepest sense, faith in life–which means that even the staunchiest life of faith is a life of great change….God calls to us at every moment, and God is life, this life. Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase.” (My Bright Abyss, pp 7-8). Life changes us all the time. Our sense of who we are as people who have faith, informed by our lives should also change. Let yourself be transfigured.