Leaving the counselor’s office the youth walking beside me is fuming. He has spent an hour by the court’s order to attend a session with an addiction counselor. She spent the hour interrogating him and berating him for his behaviors. If her intent was to cause a change, she failed spectacularly. “She treats me like dirt,” he says. “She doesn’t believe I can change.”
“I believe that you have the capacity for change,” I announce. “And I also have faith in you.”
“What is the difference?” he rejoins.
“When I believe, I think with my mind of all the things that are possible,” I say slowly hoping that the difference will come to me quickly. “Faith is more difficult. Faith changes us. Faith implies that I trust the promise. My faith in you is that you will change, not that you can change” I say tentatively. “I believe that you can stop drinking. I have faith that you will stop when you so choose.”
He nods, “So what is this faith in God thing?”
I sigh a little, “I trust that God keeps his promises that I can be healed, and that I am never alone. What do you have faith in that changes your life?”
He thinks for a long time. Finally he says, “I have faith that God doesn’t think that I am dirt.”
With that pronouncement, I begin to see a long line of defeated people who never believed that they are valued and cherished. Without this fundamental faith understanding, change is not possible. And faith requires trusting, which is tough on those whose days are overflowing with fractured promises.
I look again. It’s another distinct line of those we count in the community of saints with Moses and maybe Abraham and Sarah who took the risk of trusting God’s promise. Yes, I even see my grandmother marching along.
I am so glad we are in this rich tradition of those who lived ‘by faith.’ Perhaps we can write about this young man one day — By faith, he went beyond racial insults. By faith, he gave up alcohol. By faith, he was restored to wholeness. By faith, he chose a different path. By faith, he lived in joy. By faith, he led his people.
Thanks be to our God who keeps his promises.
Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at infaith’s posterous