Outside the church, the air was brisk and salty. I pulled my heavy sweater closer to my chest and looked up at the sky for an answer.
Darcy was next to me checking her cell phone. After noticing that she didn’t have any messages, she closed it and turned to me.
“Listen, Val. I understand what you mean about belief, but I don’t have any belief. I can’t just pull it out of the thin air.”
I let out a sarcastic huff and nodded. “You’re preaching to the choir, Darcy. I know what you mean. Developing belief is about knowing who you are and what you’re capable of doing. It’s like faith, you know, it’s like belief.”
“Faith?” she quipped. “No, I don’t think faith is the same as belief.”
I let out a deep breath and looked to the sky for the best way to explain this. “Well,” I said, choosing my words carefully, “I know that the masters would argue that belief and faith are separate paradigms, but I’d argue that they’re one and the same.”
“How?” she said, looking at me curiously. “Explain how belief and faith are the same?”
I turned away from the front of the church and looked across the parking lot at the Atlantic Ocean. “Let’s go over to the water. I want to show you something.”
As we got up to the entrance of the beach, I said, “Do you see the beach?” I pointed across the dramatic expanse.
She gave me a curious smirk. “Of course, I see it,” she said.
“When you’re away from the beach, do you know that it still exists?”
She nodded. “Yes, of course, I do.”
“So, then, by the fact that you’ve seen the beach many times in your life, you have a firm belief that it exists, correct?”
Again, she nodded. “Yeah, I know without a shred of doubt.”
“If I ask you, ‘Would the ocean be here tomorrow?’ what would you say?”
She looked out into the sea and said, “Yes, of course it would.”
“And how do you know that?” I asked.
She gave a non-committing shrug. “Because I know. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and I know it exists.”
“So, then, not only do you believe it, you know it, and you trust that it will be there. And you know it will be there tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. You have faith that it will, right?”
Again, she looked at me as though I was giving her a trick question and nodded. “Ah, I see where you’re going with this. To answer you, yes, I do have faith. I have belief. Are you saying they are interchangeable?”
“Yep, that’s what I’m saying. The Bible’s definition of faith goes something like this, ‘Faith is the evidence of that which is not seen’. But, what I’m saying is in order to have faith, belief must be established prior to it. When you were growing up, you probably had it pounded into your head that God exists. You never saw God, but because it was pounded into your head, you came to believe in Him, even though you’ve never experienced Him firsthand. So when something good happens, you and your parents say, ‘Praise God’ for the miracle. The miracle then becomes the evidence or the product of that which you couldn’t see. And you say that you have faith.
“You were brainwashed into believing in something that you’ve never seen or felt. You can call it faith or you can call it a belief. For me, it’s all about knowing. And you can’t truly believe if you don’t know. You have seen the ocean. And by seeing it, you believe it’s there. And you have trust that it will be there tomorrow, even though you probably won’t see it tomorrow. So you could say that you have belief or faith that the ocean will be here tomorrow, right? Aren’t they then interchangeable?”
“Yes, they are. You make a really good point.”
“Look, Darcy. For me, belief is something that can change. One day you can believe in the goodness of people but that could change if someone hurts you. You could also believe in God until something goes wrong and He doesn’t come through for you, like what happened to me. As you grow and experience life’s lessons, what doesn’t suit you will be eliminated from your belief system. And that is perfectly fine. Belief is established when you want something to happen and it happens. And if you put your faith in a person who you’ve trusted and whom you know you can count on, aren’t you really saying that you believe without a doubt that that person will always be there for you, even if you don’t always see proof of them being around?
“So, then, what’s the difference between the two? When you have faith, you believe in something; when you believe, you have faith in it. My question is how does a person have a true belief in anything if they haven’t established witnessing the first cause? Unshakeable belief is established after you’ve witnessed the first cause. Faith and belief stem from the first experience of that in question.”
“Gosh, Val, you’re right. I never thought of it like that. You really gave me something to think about. There isn’t any difference.”
“Well, there isn’t, but when someone comes along and tells you to put your faith in that which you have never seen, how do you do that?”
She threw her hands in the air and bobbed her head. “Thank you! That’s what I’m trying to say. How can I believe in something that I’ve never seen or heard?”
I smiled and said, “You don’t, not at this stage of your life, not without investigating it.”
“And how do you do that?” she said, once again throwing her arms over her head in total frustration.
“By asking God to show you, that’s how.”
“Okay, you have to back up a minute. Explain this to me.”
Through an exasperated breath I said, “Darcy, listen. Before I made my connection, I didn’t believe in anything—not spirits, not ghosts, and not even God. Then I had a very desperate moment, and I begged for proof. I begged for something to believe in. Because let’s face it—many humans say they have belief—they say they have faith, but deep down, they don’t. Right?”
“Well, I always believed in God,” she said.
“Oh really? Why? Because you went to Catholic school and your parents believed in God? Because you had it drilled into your head from the time you were old enough to speak? Because you were brainwashed into having the faith that something existed without seeing it? Then throughout your life when you called on that which you had never seen, and it didn’t answer you, it rattled your faith? Right now, right this very minute, prove to me that God exists. Tell me something, tell me anything, that makes you have the faith in His existence.”
She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes and looked at me with suspicion. “This is another trick question, isn’t it?” she chortled.
She let out a deep breath and nodded, taking on the challenge. “Well,” she began, “I know that God exists. That’s without a doubt.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I just know.”
“But how do you know?” I pressed. “Where is God? Have you had any experiences with God where you can claim, as fact, that your proof or evidence of His existence came from Him? What makes you know this?”
Suddenly her smile went taut, and her eyes turned glassy, and without warning, tears filled her eyes. “Darcy, don’t cry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you this upset.”
Her tears were now falling down her cheeks, and she just let them. “Val, I don’t have an answer and I don’t know. And to be honest, there have been many times when I doubted God’s existence but felt guilty for doing so. You’re right. I can’t prove it. I don’t have that deep unwavering knowingness. I don’t have total belief. I guess I don’t have faith.”
I gave a sympathetic shrug and a small smile. “But I do,” I said. “And I didn’t just get it by having it pounded into my freakin’ head. I got it by asking for it. I got it by going within and seeking it. I asked, and I received. And that’s how I got my proof of that which I can’t see. That’s how I got my faith.”
She pulled both sleeves of her light jacket over her hands and wiped her face. “Teach me,” she said. “I want to know more.”
“Teach you?” I repeated.
I looked back to the ocean and asked myself, Am I the one to do this? And I heard, Yes, you are.