Believing isn’t always easy, but it can allow you to soar

I recently watched “Eddie the Eagle,” a biopic about English ski jumper Eddie Edwards’ journey to compete in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Eddie dreams as a child of being an Olympian, but because of a bad knee and poor eyesight fails again and again at every sport: pole vaulting, long jumps, hurdles. His father belittles his dream, always reminding Eddie that he is not an athlete and will never succeed. Eddie remains determined. He finally adopts skiing as his sport, and when cut from the British downhill team, he attempts ski-jumping. Eddie’s father demands, “Name me one British ski jumper.” Eddie answers, “Me.”

His farsightedness requires him to wear glasses while jumping, which often fog up mid-jump. “Sometimes I take off, and I can’t see where I’m going,” he says.

Eddie winds up finishing last in every event of the 1988 Olympics, but the deeper meaning of Eddie’s story is a tribute to the human spirit and his faith in himself.

Poet Christian Wiman said, “Faith is not a state of mind but an action in the world, a movement toward the world.” It’s believing in something beyond what is seen and being willing to launch one’s life even if one can’t see where one is going. It could be a religious faith, or a faith in what can be, or a faith in oneself.

Here are a few things I have learned about the life of faith, while knowing there is much more to learn.

Faith is not certainty. It embraces mystery. In his song “Grave Angels,” singer/songwriter Joe Henry captured this idea: “I take this to be holy — if futile, uncertain and dire … The cloud darkens to harrow. It crosses your heart like hand, but it’s cool like the shadow of all that we’ve seen by the light that we can’t understand.” Some express faith in dogmatic, irrefutable terms, but real faith requires an engaging the Light that is in many ways unknowable.

Faith is messy. It often disappoints. It can be a crooked, harrowing road. Anyone who tritely says, “Well, you just have to have faith,” would be better off remaining silent in the face of unanswered questions and loss. Julian of Norwich said: “[Jesus] did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ ”

Faith holds on and trusts when life unravels.

Finally, faith is active. Some think that faith is a noun, a static thing, something that holds steady in times of crisis. But in reality, faith is dynamic, always growing and developing. Faith is not certainty and other-worldliness, but a fight, a pursuit of something unseen requiring blood and sweat and tears.

“The most important thing,” said the founder of the Olympic games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, “is not winning, but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.”

Such is the life of faith that soars.