Oh, help me, God! For thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve.
Forsake it not: it is thine own,
Though weak, yet longing to believe. (Anne Brontë)
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2; context)
This week, we are working to reclaim the natural habitat of the word “believe.” I think that the habitat finds its place in God alone. Saying “I believe” about anything else waters down the word. The best way to talk about the word “believe” is to tell a story. Here’s a version of one that I heard a priest friend of mine tell a while back (and he heard it from someone, too, so there’s no telling to whom this story belongs).
A Bible scholar trekked deep into the heart of the Amazon River basin, and there he found an indigenous tribe that had barely had any contact with the outside world. Like any decent Bible scholar would do, he set about learning the language of the people in order to translate the Good Book into the local tongue. While staying in the village, he lived with a farmer and his wife. For months, the scholar worked and worked: he listened to the people talking, made notes, slowly built a lexicon, and then set to the task of translation. He spread his papers out over the rough wooden table in the kitchen of the hut and put pen to paper.
But soon he stopped. He was stuck. In all his study, he had never heard the villagers use a word that seemed to him synonymous with “belief,” which was, after all, an important word in the Bible. He put his pen down and sat there, just thinking and feeling sorry for himself. Just then, the farmer came in from the fields all hot and sticky from a hard day’s labor. He sat down in the chair opposite the scholar, leaned back on two legs, propped his feet on the table, and let out a grateful sigh. In halting words, the scholar asked the farmer what his word for “believe” was. The farmer didn’t understand. The scholar tried to explain using other words, and comprehension dawned on the farmer. “Do you see me sitting here,” he said in his own language. “I am leaning back in this chair after a hard day’s work. My feet are up. I am resting all of my weight on these two legs.”
And the scholar found his word.
Dear God, you are the source of my belief and the foundation upon which I rest all of my weight. Thank you for being a sure and steady foundation; in Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you are the foundation of all truth. You believe in me, which allows me to believe in you.