Many thanks to Carol V. for providing this week’s SJT focus word!
Believe! [exclamation point]
Believe? (question mark)
“Believe” is a complex construct, as changing the punctuation after the word reminds me.
As I look over the list, I realize that I could easily reflect today on each one of those differing nuances, of differing emphases in meanings.
However, quite unexpectedly, what intrigues me as I look at the list (even though, at this moment, I have absolutely no idea where my reflection will take me) is reflecting on this presentation of the word:
For what was screaming out at me as I looked at the word “Believe,” listed seven times above, was the accusation I saw within:
lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie….
“Religion is the opium of the people,” Karl Marx observed. And if I recall my economic and political histories correctly, he accused religion of keeping people willing to sacrifice material goods in this life–to accept “political and economic put down,” if you will, in this life, in trade for a promised better life after death.
Though Marx is long dead, there are other voices, supposedly intelligently superior voices, cynical voices, atheistic voices, somehow personally angered by believers, voices that taunt, accuse, protest: lies, lies, lies…they profess.
Praise God! For generations–how many I do not know, but look forward to learning when, please, God, I am in Heaven–individual family members, anonymous to me except for my parents and grandparents, believed and passed on that belief to me.
If there were a reason for me (beyond curiosity) to study a family tree, it would be this reason: to learn by name -and, if possible, by face–to know to whom I owe the gift of my Faith.
A Jewish colleague, commenting on the Rosary beads she saw me holding, compared the strung beads to the mental image she has of her Jewishness. She said she imagines that her ancestors in faith are linked together, like the jewels on a necklace, in chronological order, passing the faith to the next generation.
I really loved that imagine of passing along the Faith, of being linked to those who have preceded us, as well as to those who will follow us–a long chain of believers, if you will. That image makes me grateful to those I do not know by name or face. And I praise God for their faithfulness, their decision to keep the Faith. And I can’t help wondering what would have happened to me if along the way, going back to who knows how many generations, one of them had given up the Faith–through indifference, through laziness, through cynicism, who knows…
Would I have Faith if I had not been gifted with a Faith heritage from birth? True. Yes. I have questioned. I have doubted. I have searched. But always I had a Faith-foundation undergirding those questions, doubts, and explorations.
What if there had been no Faith foundation? What if there had been a religious tabula rasa? Would I believe? Is belief more supernatural gift or more human nurture? Is it an inherited or acquired gift?
lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie
For me, the lie is that belief in God, being a member of a formal religious community diminishes, makes one immature, and belies one’s intelligence.
I praise God that I believe, and I am indebted to those, living and deceased, who have given and or nourished and supported my belief, even–and especially– when what I believe is different from what they believe, even when they say they believe nothing at all.
God works wonders in amazing ways! Those whose faith is different from mine have been among those who have most edified and encouraged my practicing mine. And when those who profess nonbelief in God go about doing good–better than I do–their witness to God’s presence within them, despite their protesting that they do not believe in Him, challenges me to live my Faith more authentically.
I love the answer St. Martha gave Jesus when He asked if she believed that He is the Resurrection and the Life, and that those who believe in Him–even if they die–will always live: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”(John 11:27)
Yes, Lord, I believe.
Bobbie, I am particularly drawn to the first set of thoughts you wrote. Depending on the insertion of the punctuation mark the meaning of the word believe changes. If I use … I have infinite thoughts as opposed to the question mark that assumes I have doubt. I choose the ellipsis to move my thoughts to a world of possibilities. Thank you for moving your thoughts to a deep level of commitment about faith.
Thank you for choosing and sharing Believe as your OLW. Thank you, too, for taking time to read my thoughts. I’m always very appreciative that you find something genuine to resonate with…I agree! The ellipsis can take us places…And I’m just realizing! Since they travel in three’s, maybe there’s something of the Infinite/eternal in them. Once, as a graduate assistant in the English Dept., I felt I needed to take a chance to end my paper with ellipses. Our prof, who was teaching us writing as a process affirmed that ending. It was a growing up moment of more belief in myself to break the conventions. God bless you! Not only do I “believe”; I know that you and the rest of the SJT community who read and respond each week are key instruments of the Lord’s in my life. Like Violet and Holly, you have been a special gift since I welcomed by the three of you in October. Thank you!
Very interesting, Bobbie Ann! I like where your meandering thoughts take you and us. I’m sure your pointing out the word “lie” within belief will not soon leave me. On further reflection I would say, we all believe in something and owe it to ourselves to examine our beliefs with care and honesty (as in, what are they based on, and just because I say I believe something, do I really if my life doesn’t line up with it?).
Whoa! Another word of wisdom. I was thinking about “lie” in terms, only, of those who put down Christan believers’ willingness to believe, but you have given me a whole other way of reflecting. Am I living the Faith I say I have or am I living a lie? Regardless of what I profess to believe, to what am I witnessing? “Funny” thing is that for all the millions (“slight” hyperbole?) of times I’ve seen the word “believe” in print, I never noticed that embedded taunt until I started writing the post. Based on your insight, I doubt I’ll ever say, hear, read, or write that word again without giving pause to what you wrote! Thank you! Your insights are always filled with such wisdom that I feel especially graced when you share them in reaction to something I’ve written, so that I better understand the implications of my own thinking. God bless you, and thank you for all the ways you always help and challenge me to clarify my beliefs, as expressed in my writing.
Isn’t it amazing that when you set out to write, and really have no idea where that writing will take you, that it can lead you down such an insightful and important path? That certainly happened in your post. Your first musings, playing with various end punctuation marks (I would love to do something like that with my students to illustrate the power of punctuation), intrigued me, but then you wrote about such convicting things in your “lie, lie, lie” thoughts. I wrote a little about where my belief came from in my post and credited those who came before me, also. I love thinking about that – the “jewels on a necklace” banding faithfulness together on a family branch. Thank you for your thoughts about BELIEVE!
Thank you for taking time to read and to respond, in your usually upbeat, reasoned manner! I wrote the post last night, and once again!, I’m stuck when I read your post how much we’re on the same wavelength:) …I enjoyed having students look at what happens to meaning–even to just one word–when punctuation changes, affecting what words “logically” might come next, based on syntax. If you try that exercise, I hope your students have a good time with it! …Given how family-oriented you are, it doesn’t surprise me that my friend’s analogy would resonate with you. God bless you, and thank you for responding in such detail!
Bobbie Ann, I love this reminder about our ancestors and the long chain of believers to whom we must credit at least some of our faith. For a long time I had a bumper sticker on my van that read “Loving Kindness is my religion.” I got it after meeting the Dalai Lama and those words made me feel connected to all people who have come before me, whatever their particular religious heritage. I am grateful to all of them and to you for sharing so beautifully your thoughts about the lie lie lie that exists inside the word Believe as well as the beauty of punctuation!
Thank you so very much for taking time to read the post and to share your personal experience reactions! Thank you, too, for your affirming comments. As much as you and I love words, they really are limiting, aren’t they? If only we could articulate fully what we believe. Maybe if we could do that, we might get some insights into our own beliefs! God bless you!
So many nuggets of thought and wisdom can be found in this post. Believe is complex and looking at the word and all its meaning with the different punctuation makes it even more complex for me. Then seeing the word “lie” with believe…I interpreted it like Violet did. Interesting the different perspectives. I am also Catholic and the image of of rosary beads being links of faith – truly what they are. Thank you for your many perspectives on one liite word.
Bobby- your post gave me a lot to think about. I especially love that we are linked to those who preceded us by our faith. I never thought about that before, but it is so true. Thank you for this very thoughtful post. I learned something today!
Thank you so very much for taking time to read the post and to share your very gratifying affirmations. I’m indebted to my Jewish colleague for raising my sensitivity to that idea of being linked and being indebted to those who were faithful. Sometimes I wonder just how many generations of relatives stayed faithful, in tough times and easy, in order for me to be gifted with Faith! I’m so very grateful that the chain wasn’t broken before I “latched on,” and I pray, with God’s Grace, that the chain continues unbroken…Thank you again for sharing your thoughts; every comment helps me better examine, understand, and clarify my thinking. I thank you! God bless you!