These two angels came from a set of six. This was relatively early in my practice of distributing Christmas decorations around my loved ones: two angels went to my mother, two to my father, and I kept the last two. Three of them carried banners, and three of them other objects. A trumpet, as you see here, and I think perhaps the other two had a star and a bell. The banners all had different words. I forget what the other two said. JOY? LOVE? PEACE? Fairly standard Christmassy sentiments, anyway. FAITH seemed a bit incongruous, somehow. Which sounds odd, given that it would go very happily with HOPE and LOVE, but I bet you know what I mean.
It took me, a lifelong churchgoer, a very long time to feel even halfway comfortable with the idea of faith. I think I used to imagine it as a sort of holy willpower: you can do anything if you have enough faith! With the (usually unspoken) corollary: if it isn’t happening, you clearly don’t have enough faith. I also used to get it mixed up with belief, which didn’t help: if it isn’t happening, you clearly aren’t believing the right things hard enough. (What ‘it’ was, that might or might not have been happening, I’m not sure. I don’t think I made any practical test of this, just grumped about it.)
It helped when somebody expressed it as the relationship you have with the Divine. It helped when somebody linked it with trust, truth, troth. I wrote out all my complicated feelings about my ancestors converting from other religions and denominations to the Church of England, and then tripped over John 15:16. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I read Nicholas Lash’s book on the Creed and felt happier about the believing thing too. In the last couple of years someone pointed out that my continuing stubbornly to show up (to church, to pray, generally) even when, mid-depression, nothing seemed to be going on at all, might be what faith looked like. It doesn’t feel like that, but maybe that’s the point.
I’m not sure that I ever chose faith (see lifelong churchgoer, above). Sometimes I think it was chosen for me (ibid). Sometimes I think that it chose me. Maybe none of that’s relevant. Anyway, I keep on showing up.