“How can you do it”, they ask me. “How can you believe in something that isn’t there? You can’t see God. You can’t hear God. You can’t experience God in any of those measureable ways. You can’t investigate something and say, ‘yes, that is due to God’s influence. Why, there is no other explanation.’ There are tons of other explanations, most of them way more plausible. So, what’s all this God stuff? Any time we try to isolate God in an experiment, She isn’t there…”
And yet, I have no trouble believing. I believe in all sorts of circumstances, sometimes easily and fully, and sometimes with doubt and questions, but always with conviction. Frankly, I don’t care if it can be proved or not – it doesn’t do much for me. I believe because that’s the universe I want to live in – one where God is, where love is, where I am a part of a bigger universe. I prefer that world – and if you say, well, you might as well believe in fairies on that basis, I do. I prefer a universe with fairies, so my universe has fairies in it. My universe has unicorns in it. My universe has religious holidays full of joy, and love, and kids who learn stuff that people thought they couldn’t learn, and hope, and wishes that are sometimes granted, and kittens and babies and friends and all sorts of crazy miracles. My world is rich with layers and flavours and colours and it’s my belief that adds another dimension to everything, making it that much more real.
I don’t just believe in God and fairies either. I believe in people. I believe my students can learn what I teach, I believe that my friends do love me or will love me, I believe that I am beautiful, intelligent and successful. Some of these things are ones that can be proved or disproved – but many cannot. Can one prove love? Learning? Beauty? Belief is the way to relate to some of these aspects of the universe, not proof. This is not easy. Sometimes, God goes out of Her way to make it difficult. The people act unloving, the universe feels deadly dull, and I seem to be acting clumsy, stupid and slow. Still, it’s at moments like this, I believe harder.
I do recognize that belief is dangerous. It can cause people to do things that are crazy and evil and not do things that are helpful and necessary. I know about the God that tells people to kill those that don’t believe in Him, and I know about the one that requires worship or you’re doomed to Hell, and I don’t believe that. I also know about the dude who drowned while waiting for God to save him, refusing to be rescued by boat, canoe, or helicopter because he was leaving it up to God, and I am totally aware of how when he argued with God about this, God said that He sent a boat, canoe and helicopter. Mostly, it’s up to me to make the good choices.
So what’s the point of a belief like that? One that can’t be proved and doesn’t guide my choices? Are you kidding? Belief is the most powerful tool I have. It’s what keeps me going on those tricky mornings when getting out of bed isn’t a thing, and I say, “God, I need to get up, please let me make it to the shower at least” and all of a sudden, I can. There are bad days when I feel everything is hopeless and the things I try are never going to work and I say, “God, this is Your mess, take it away please.” And then I can see how funny things are and it’s OK. Or the times when I’ve screwed up royally (happens frequently, unfortunately) and I’m trying to hide it from everyone and I’m super embarrassed and hiding and I say, “God, I’m sorry I messed this up, help me do better next time.” Shockingly, sometimes I do – and even if I don’t, at least I have the courage to come out of my room and try again.
It’s my most powerful teaching tool too. One of my students – the one who went from a fail to an eighty in my math course, much to his surprise – said, “I will always remember you standing there over me during a test, saying, ‘I believe in your ability to answer this question’.” It made me happy, because I did. And because I did, he did.
You have other ways to motivate yourself and others? Great! Use them! This isn’t about you. For me, belief is security and motivation, strength and entertainment, courage and delight. For one more year, I follow Puddleglum Marshwiggle (book 6 of Narnia for those who need a reminder) as he says that the world of belief might be a childish one, but it’s a darned sight more cool than the world without it. I’ll keep believing, no matter how challenging it gets, for the power and the beauty.