Jamie Smith argues in You Are What You Love that we have a tendency to reduce human beings to what they are thinking about, as though they are brains on sticks.
In this context, and more particularly, we tend to reduce faithfulness to adherence to a particular set of theological principles.
Yet it seems to me that faithfulness is as much something as we live out as something we believe.
Lately, I’ve been facing a situation that makes me pretty anxious.
It’s not a health issue, nothing life or death, but it’s always there, lurking at the back of my mind. I feel all the time as though I’ve had one too many cups of coffee.
I could choose to bring this thing which is causing me anxiety from the back of my mind to the front. The other day, I was testing the freshness of eggs by dropping them into a glass of water; the eggs caused the water to slosh over the side of the cup that I was using.
Something similar would happen to my life if I focused on my anxiety. It would become unbalanced.
Things that really matter, like my work responsibilities and spiritual life and physical health, would get pushed out of the way by this new thing.
And because I can’t really even do anything about this new thing currently, I’d wind up doing things that don’t matter at all, like reading Buzzfeed posts about what people wore to the Golden Globes. I don’t even care about the Golden Globes, but the anxiety does not let my mind focus on anything more substantial.
Or I’d hover aimlessly in the kitchen, eating way too many chocolate candy melts and then feeling even more unsettled thanks to the sugar rush.
That’s one option.
The other is what I’ve been trying to do: to choose, moment by moment, to focus on what’s important now: planning my lessons for the end of this week, getting my Mac ready to take in for service, taking care of some important things in my personal life. If all else fails, I clean my apartment; if nothing else gets done, at least my floors will be swept.
This, I think, is what faithfulness is: the choice to do what needs to be done, to act as we are called, regardless of how we feel or what we’re facing.
Faithfulness is as much a way of living as a way of believing.
Being faithful does not make the anxiety go away. It doesn’t even make it easier to deal with; it is impossible for me to just get rid of that little niggling worry at the back of my mind, the catch in my breath, the continual turn of my thoughts back towards this thing.
But the fact that the feelings of anxiety do not go away is no reason not to do the things that need to be doing.
Nor is the anxiety a reason to give into despair.
It’s cloudy out today, and snowing a little; the gloomy day makes it even easier for me to feel nervous and down about everything.
Yet I can choose to cultivate gratitude, to be glad for the things which are good in my life.
To name just two that have been on my mind:
I made homemade bread yesterday; I’ve gotten so much better at this since I started working on this last year!
I am blessed with a God who intervenes in my life, forgiving my sin; what more could I ask than to be free from the monsters that haunt me?
This is faithfulness, this moment by moment choosing to think about the things that need to be thought about, to do the things that need to be done.