A Gift (Question Mark)

In 4LTR WORD: GIFT, Buffington Pop by Laura Buffington

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Laura Buffington

Laura Buffington

I believe in questions. I always have. I have faith in their ability to connect us and challenge us. I trust in questions to move us further along. I have less faith in answers.

A few weeks ago, I was out with friends and we were sitting around asking questions. We do this fairly regularly, over good drinks, with a couple rules: Everyone gets to answer and no one is the expert. We hardly ever walk away with definitive answers to the questions but, hopefully, we all walk away feeling heard, which feels like some kind of answer in itself.

I put this question on the table: “Is faith (in anything: God, other people, goodness, aliens) a gift or a choice?”

Almost everyone around the table declared faith a choice, something we decide for ourselves and work on ourselves. Almost everyone. A guy I’ll call “Jason” (because that’s his real name) insisted that faith is a Gift and sometimes chooses us first. He answered this way because he has always believed in God and can’t seem to shake this faith even on the days he wants to. He believes despite growing up in a home that was hostile to faith, or at least to the church’s expression of faith. He believes in God even as he spends his days working for a non-profit that comes along people in pain.

He wasn’t basing his answer in any doctrinal stance or scriptural proof. He couldn’t pick John Calvin out of a theologian line-up. He was just answering from his own place. The rest of us were answering from our own place too. We felt like we had some say in the matter. Whether accurate or an illusion, we thought we picked whether we believed in things, or the Thing. I’ve put time into studying the theological arguments, but this is a question I often leave to the authority of my own heart, knowing full well that it’s a gamble.

So I’m asking more questions:

What if faith is an ornately wrapped present, but when you tear off all the paper and bows, it’s an unassembled Ikea bookshelf? It’s freely given but with assembly required. Gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, injury-likely assembly?

What if faith is the stainless steel bread maker you told everybody you wanted, but as soon as it’s in your home, it lies dormant for years until you discover it in the basement and give it away?

What if faith is a poorly-crafted afghan of clashing colors that you love anyway because your kind, tender grandma really wanted you to have it?

What if faith is the terribly practical kitchenware set that you resent opening on Christmas morning and can’t admit to loving when you use it for years to come?

What if faith is the whimsical dollhouse your parents give you when you are 25 that serves no purpose greater than a moment of joy to keep you young? (My parents really did this. Best present ever.)

What if faith isn’t quite the gift at all but the exchange? The back and forth of giving and receiving? The kind of Gift-giving and getting where all the calculations and values are tossed out the window and extravagance rules the day?

What if … the choice is the finest wrapped gift of them all?

Photo (Flickr CC) by Liz Lawley

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Laura Buffington

Laura Buffington

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Laura Buffington is the Spiritual Formation Pastor at SouthBrook Christian Church near Dayton, Ohio and an adjunct professor at Cincinnati Christian University. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio but spent some good years in Tennessee at Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary. In 2013, Christian Standard named Laura one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Leaders.” While "Christian" shows up a lot in her life story and résumé, she wrestles a lot with faith and loves good conversations with people who see the world differently.