Sometimes I am so slow. Sometimes I am so forgetful. Sometimes I need to get bonked on the head by God. Faith isn’t just something you believe. It’s something that you live. Faith isn’t just something that your head acquiesces to. Faith is something that abides in your heart and is reflected in your life.
Faith needs to be fed. Faith needs fuel to grow. How does one feed faith? How do we get our faith to grow? Practice. By living and practicing our faith we receive the grace to grow.
To an outsider, the Orthodox faith may be full of routine rituals that seem dead and boring but they contain an important key to growing your faith. The key to a living faith is to do. Do the prayers. Do the almsgiving. Do the fasting. Do the living that brings faith from the head to the heart and causes it to shine forth in your life.
I forget that. I get lazy. I make excuses about the Wednesday and Friday fasting. I shoot up short little “Lord Have Mercy” prayers because I just don’t want to take the time away from an already busy life to pray and connect to the Triune God.
Now here we are in Great Lent. This time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving forces us to take a hard look at ourselves. We wrestle with the idea that we really are sinners. We really do fall short. The more time we give to prayer and the pursuit of more spiritual things the more we realize how much we have personally fallen from the ideal.
We are over half way through Lent and I have not really started the book I planned to read during Lent. I told myself I would spend less time on Facebook and use that time to read the New Testament. I’m hopelessly behind schedule with my NT reading. I struggle with just giving up. There’s always next year right? But a tiny voice inside me whispers that reading even a few words from scripture daily is so much better than not reading at all. It will profit my soul to read the New Testament even if it takes me until next Pascha to finish. But my flesh twists and distorts the meaning of perfect and I think if I can’t read the 7 chapters a day and be “perfect” with finishing the entire New Testament on time, then I should just give up.
Doing hard things like reading the Bible, saying our prayers, fasting, and giving alms all work together to build our faith. It isn’t easy. It is often painful. If I give more money that means I have less to spend on myself. I am forced to face my selfishness and facing my faults and sins is painful.
There is more to doing than just fasting, praying and giving alms. Jesus gave us two commands: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. When we actively love our “neighbor” by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. we do these as if we are doing them *to/for* the Lord. I’ve focused on fasting, praying and almsgiving in this post because it is Great Lent and this can be a time of great spiritual growth.
I am reminded of the Epistle of James and the verse that says he will show us his faith by his works. Our faith should produce works but I think our works or our doing helps to increase our faith.
May my heart be truly prepared to celebrate Pascha. I pray also that the lessons I learn this Lent carry forward for the rest of my life. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.