As I’ve written and edited my book over the past months, I’ve thought a great deal about the ideas of theology, faith, and belief. How do they overlap? In what ways are they different? As I’ve considered the weight and connotations of each of these words in my own life, I find that though they have similar meanings, they are quite different, at least, for me.
For example, the word theology by definition (and in my own life) has a connotation of education and study. Theology also has a connotation of certainty. I’m recognizing that it has a physical weight and size attached to it in my life—not literally, but as I feel the word in my head. It has a weight to it. It is dense and heavy, and feels like a solid medal around my neck – perhaps like a metal medallion. The weight of it holds me down.
Not only does the word theology have this weight for me, but every theology I have holds that same weight and image. It is as if each theology is another medal around my neck. The more of them I collect, the more weight I feel. Wearing a couple of them feels good. I feel solid, grounded, and they are never far from my thoughts because of their weight. But wearing many of them feels like a large burden. I feel sluggish and tired. I feel overwhelmed.
In the past, I didn’t understand the weight I felt. I didn’t connect the weight to my theology. But when I started lifting the theologies off for brief moments to examine them and compare them to scripture, I literally felt the weight being lifted off of me. The more I took off to examine, the lighter I felt.
On the other hand, the word belief has a much different physical weight and size to me. It is very light weight. In fact, when I picture it in my head, I find that it is lighter than air. It appears in my head as a helium filled balloon. The weight of it actually lifts me up. Not much, but holding the string of it in my hand takes a little weight off. The more beliefs I gather, the more lift I feel.
Now, not everyone will have these same feelings or pictures surrounding these two words. It will likely depend on your life experiences. I think there is a value to both theology and belief. We need to both stay grounded and be lifted.
As for the word faith, for me, it has a feeling of being within. It is not an external medal or balloon, but it is more like the feeling of taking a deep breath. It is a lifting, and expanding, with a hint of joy and peace.
I find that I need all three—theology, faith, and belief. Each plays a role. When properly balanced, I feel balanced.
What about you? Do any of these words bring up a feeling or image for you? Do you have other words that have different weights in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts!