What is faith, she asked me.

We had both read the bible.
The assurance of things hoped for.
The conviction of things not seen, she expected me to say.

But what is it.

When I studied science, my friends would ask me – how can you believe? We discussed the matter rationally. As though faith existed within the bounds of something. As though faith were just perspective. I admire your faith, they said to me.

When I was an activist, my friends would ask me – how do you balance your politics and your faith?
We all wanted to change something. My faith made me sceptical, my faith made me challenge the norms that were handed down to me. Faith made me an unbeliever. I didn’t believe that people’s value was found in how they looked, how much they were paid or how well they could cope. When there was famine or joblessness or suicide, when there was self-harm or self-hate, when I was told this was the truth, that anxiety would win and hunger and poverty would win, faith whispered: Don’t believe in everything.

When I was wrong it was a mirror. When I was sick He was my salve.

What is faith, she asked me.

I remembered working with a charity that mentored young people in the arts. After each event they recounted the people they had met: Ashley’s job interview was tomorrow; Jasmine was having trouble staying clean; Martin was cutting again. Drugs and alcohol were recurring themes. They thanked God for the privilege of meeting strangers and they asked Him to change their city. They wept as they prayed but I have never felt such optimism. Like something was about to happen.

I remembered seeing a woman praying outside my window. She was walking the streets of her city, quietly calling forth the future. She was dressed normally. She looked like everyone else. But something was different.

What is faith, she asked me.

I don’t know, I said. Show it to me.

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