Faith is a habit. Have you heard that before? Often we think of faith as something we have or don’t have in the sense of being either a Christian or a non-Christian. But Lewis says we “must train the habit of Faith,” in the reading for September 18 in A Year with C.S. Lewis.
His point is a good one. All of us are caught every day inside the shifting moods of our emotions. If our schedule is thwarted by a slight rearrangement, our health fails us, our food digests badly, or the weather strikes as humid or foggy or simmering, we might begin to doubt everything. “This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway,” says Lewis.
The governor for the sandy shore of our moods is the virtue of faith. Faith disciplines our emotions and teaches them “where they get off,” says Lewis. What then is the discipline of faith?
There were central reasons the early church continually came together. They’re the same reasons as today: to pray, worship, and be built up in the faith. Church is a sanctuary. Far different from any building or gathering of people, the community of believers forms a heaven on earth, a place where the Holy Spirit works in and through his people.
Faith, then, is disciplined through the Church. Private devotion does reassert in us the claims of Jesus upon our lives, but churchgoing forces the love of neighbor and reinforces our needs outside our own management. “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe,” says Lewis. “Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.”
So often we attend church for other reasons. Last week, someone at work said she and her husband were in church, “because it’s good for the kids.” It may become a social stamp of moral approval or an expectation to please family. None of these revolve around faith. Last Sunday, our pastor elaborated on the lectionary reading on the prodigal son and his brother. “No matter if we’re obeying the rules like the older son or scandalous like the prodigal son,” he said, “we are often only looking for what the father can give us, not seeking after the father’s heart.”
Church is a mainstay for believers because it pounds in the reality of sin and deceit while sounding the echos of faith heard over and over again, since Jesus showed us how to pray and how to love.
Our reading for September 18 ends with a question from Lewis: “If you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”