July 2, 2010
Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe. Saint Augustine
Something happened at our church two or three Sundays ago. Having found out from Sis. Nini’s report that our collection for the raffle, our first fundraising this year for our building, was barely enough for the promised prizes, I snapped. I requested Pastor Armand to yield me no more than 5 minutes to speak to our congregation.
While at the pulpit, I was filled with frustration and my emotion got the better of me. I felt betrayed by the very leaders with whom I work on other projects they chair. Blasting the people for not doing their share of work or giving it enough time and attention I demanded them to sell those tickets given to them or buy them themselves. After our service, I learned from people’s feedbacks or by directly talking to some how they felt about my action. Understandably, there was a mixed reaction. Whereas some understood my point, others were taken aback. Still, some others kept to themselves but didn’t promise or show any intention to sell or buy the tickets just the same.
I went home feeling more frustrated than I had been while at the church. I thought how unfair some of these church leaders could be. By midnight, I was determined to resign my position as Ways and Means Chair. My plan was to just finish this raffle fundraising but email Pastor and Sister Bless, my resignation that very moment. And I did. After writing my resignation, I hit the send key, went to bed and gave the thought a rest. Two days passed but there was no response from either our pastor or Sis. Bless. And I thought that was unusual. The least I expected was for one of them to ask why I was giving up on something I used to be so passionate about.
Not willing to second guess their thoughts and feelings, I wrote Sis. Bless if she saw my email about my resignation. She had no clue and didn’t see it at all. She requested me to send it again. And that was when I discovered that not only did my email not reach them, but it was also missing from my Sent folder. I checked repeatedly but there was no trace anywhere in my files of the letter I had written and supposedly had sent.
But I’m neither jumping to conclusion nor treating that glitch as a miracle from God. I think it would be more of a system failure or human error. I do believe, however, that it happened for a greater reason and that belief made me reconsider my decision, only this time, I promised I wouldn’t push myself too hard or expect too much from people. At this point, I paused and did a little self-introspection. I searched my heart for a reason to hold on to for this self-imposed obligation and no small responsibility. I can get frustrated again, stressed out and regretful that I have once again set myself up for future conflicts with some people. There, too, are some of my very own issues with certain positions our church leaders have taken concerning the different ministries and church policies.
Where do I reconcile faith with reason? How can I simply sweep logic under the rug and cling on to my faith without being “untruthful” to myself? Why must I simply drown the nagging questions in my head with a stubborn belief that everything is God’s design or that everything our pastor quoted from the Bible is why it is and how it should be?
The truth is, it isn’t easy just suppressing your thoughts and keeping your opinions to yourself believing you have something good and a worthwhile thing to share. It isn’t at all easy letting everyone else guide your way when you have been so used to guiding the way. It has nothing to do with ego but a mindset that is rather difficult to reprogram. And then I think about all those who have come to worship and eventually became part of our church for a few years. Many of them were on fire and were quite expressive of their strong faith, and whose declarations and testimonials attesting to the great work that God has done in their lives I never once doubted. I wonder where they all have gone? What led them away from the congregation?
How could someone so hot in her newfound faith lose that fire so easily? What doused that enthusiasm? How can the church prevent its flock from going astray…From leaving just like that and not finding their way back? Our pastor mentioned the crisis within the church and the need to battle that crisis to preserve the flock. But to do this, there’s a need first to know why they left or what caused them to lose their interest.
And I thought about my case. My ideas that didn’t find their voice for fear they would do more harm than good. I thought of my silent position on some issues that sometimes yearned for expression. I remembered some awkward moments of disillusionment in the face of conflict and a near decision to stop going, find a new church or simply keep to myself. I’m sure these experiences and dilemma are not unique to me. Somehow, these people must have been to those same dark corners I had been but rather than stepping out of the dark and into the light, they went deeper into this darkness with an endless string of doubts, questions and rebellious spirit.
What must we do to keep our people together?
I believe we should find time for a meeting that allows self expression. Rather than always being lectured on, people have to be encouraged to think aloud for only in doing so will we know what their state of mind is. To be meaningful and lasting, learning should be dynamic and interactive, not spoon-fed.
Are we, as a church, open to new ideas? Can we handle some criticisms and be ready for some badly needed changes? Or are we just like other churches with tunnel visions, resentful of dissenting opinions and unwilling to accommodate freshly discovered truths?
Our honest answers to these questions are the key to securing and keeping our flock.
What’s in between faith and reason? It’s the thin thread where faith and reason cross over and blend together in perfect harmony. Still don’t get it? How about a dialogue?