A few Saturdays ago I had to go shopping in the city centre, very close to where I work. In fact the most convenient way to get there was to use the route of my normal commute. In doing this, I travelled a familiar route but at an unfamiliar time and with travelling companions who weren’t familiar with this stretch of the London underground.
I knew which carriage I needed to be on and which side the doors would open on. When I got off the train I knew when to turn left and when to turn right. I didn’t need to look too hard in order to know where I was going. My eyes were open and I made sure I didn’t walk into other people, but I had assurance of where I was going so I could step out in confidence. In contrast, the tourists around me were hesitant. They had to stop and look at the signs in order to get where they were going. Even after having seen the signs, their steps were still faltering and they kept looking behind them.
We all ended up in the same place eventually, using the same route, but just with different mindsets. It was as I ascended the steps into the spring sunshine that this gave me a refreshed understanding of what we mean by “walking by faith, not by sight”. I wasn’t blind as I walked through the corridors, but having done the route so many times, it wasn’t necessary for me to constantly look out to make sure I was on the right path. I had confidence, based on the evidence of my experience, that I was going the right way. This was a demonstration of faith in my own ability to navigate.
When we speak of faith, there ought to be two elements included to give proper meaning. The first of these is the object of our faith. i.e. what is our faith in? In the case above, it was faith in a particular skill. The other element is the basis of faith. i.e. what is the epistemological source for that faith? In the case above, it was the experience of having done that route hundreds of times before.
So that’s my challenge both to myself and to you: when we speak of faith, let it not be left dangling, in isolation, prone to misinterpretation. Let’s be clear about the object and basis of our faith.