Tuesday, November 17, 2009

House of Faith

Dr. Gregory House (Fox TV’s House) displayed unaccustomed bedside kindness as he sat alone with elderly patient. The brilliant doctor had come in person to deliver a fateful message: “Your condition is not only terminal, you have only hours to live.” The gentleman listened, stunned. He had hoped for better news, one of House’s patented last-minute, life-saving diagnoses. The light in his eyes dimmed, as he refocused on another kind of future. Finding his voice, he grappled for a compass, “What happens, Doctor, you know . . . after?” House looked into the dying man’s eyes and proclaimed with certitude, “Nothing.”

Like House’s patient, I too wonder what happens, “you know . . . after.” Like House, I am certain I know the answer, but my certitude is a humble one, not based on first-hand, or scientific knowledge. But neither is House’s certitude based on knowledge. He has no more evidence (defined as “something offering proof”) to support his “nothing” than I do to support my “something.” In the absence of hard evidence, both House and I are left with one and the same option: Faith. Conviction without proof. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews (11:1) states it better than anyone, before or since: “Faith is . . . being certain of what we cannot see.”

All human beings, be they brilliant doctors or street people, share a common lot when faced with the “after” question. We are all believers, staking our claims, sight unseen. Only our conclusions differ. We are like the aerialist who makes a dramatic leap from the safety of the secured platform, believing . . . hoping, but not knowing that the partner’s timing will be perfect and that a pair of strong hands will snatch the tumbling, free-falling believer and swing both of them home to the safety of the opposite platform.

In similar fashion, we lept into birthed existence from our mothers’ wombs. Entering an alien world, we have spent our years trying to make sense of this way of being we call Life. We strive for meaning individually and at the peril of making mistakes and unhealthy decisions.

I take comfort in sharing faith with Dr. House and all who agree with him. We are one in our imperfect understanding. Neither of us knows what comes next, or whether there even is an “after.” I am no Pollyanna. Daily reports of murder, rape, greed, and the horrors of war offer ample room for doubt. “Nothing” presents itself as a welcome option by comparison. 

Yet, I take my chips and place them with confidence on the ‘Yes’ side of “anything after?” freeing myself to imagine and hope for a benevolent God who loves all human beings and waits to welcome them, no matter how they bet.