If you’re familiar with the Biblical book of Jonah then you know that there is a part where he gets swallowed by a fish or whale or some sort of sea creature. A few days pass and he’s vomited up on land as good as new – or mostly at least. Having grown up in a Christian family this story was a foundational part of both my childhood and faith development. It’s ridiculous. As far as I know there is no creature with a mouth big enough to swallow a human whole and it would have to be something of a miracle for the stomach juices of this mythical beast to not do serious damage to Jonah. I still believe it happened.
There comes a point in every person’s life where they make the choice to believe whether or not there’s more than what can be scientifically proven in this world. There is a large chunk of people who believe that we can only believe what can be proven. This is an absolutely legitimate position. Then there is the significantly larger chunk of people who believe in a deity or force or some other supernatural being. This is crazy. There is no reason to believe in any of these forces. There is no rationality in this sort of belief, outside of the belief itself.
In the book of Hebrews the author writes, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” The thing about faith is that it’s not about being rational and it’s not about solid proof. It’s about freedom. The freedom to believe that anything is possible, that at any point the ridiculous can happen. Faith is its own evidence, which can be problematic, but is also freeing. The idea that there is more going on than simply what we see allows for the ability to dream in bigger ways than otherwise possible. There is a saying among many Christians that if you can achieve your goal on your own it’s not big enough. Your goals need to be so big that only God can help you achieve them. In faith life becomes bigger.
I have a good friend who is an atheist and he generally thinks I’m a little nuts for my faith. He’s probably right. Still, for me belief in the ridiculous is what makes life possible. So I will continue believing in fish so big they can swallow a human whole and not digest that person. I will continue believing that thousands of Israelites yelled at a wall and it fell down, that two guys walked on water in the middle of a storm and that the God of everything spoke and out of nothing the cosmos came into being. It makes no sense, but it makes life better.
p.s. I’m teaching on the book of Jonah this fall. Contact me if you’re interested in taking part.