Own It: What Is "Owning" Your Faith?
Ownership is a powerful thing. It makes people feel things—things like love, pride, responsibility, and even jealousy. Ownership colors a person's view of the object of their possession and its value. What you feel for something you own is completely different than how you feel about something that isn't yours. That's why people tend to care about their own stuff. Ownership feeds devotion and it often dictates action. For example, people tend to take better care of stuff that they own than stuff that they rent. And they love the stuff they own more than the stuff they borrow. How many times have you lent something to someone who didn't take care of it the way you do? When you borrow something, your attention to it is temporary. Ownership conveys permanence. The stuff you own matters to you.
But ownership doesn't just apply to things, it also applies to lives. Have you ever met an animal person who loved their pet so much that they treated it like a child? There are some powerful emotions that come from having a living thing that belongs to you. When people fight for their country, when they fight for their loved ones, it's because they are their loved ones. Aren't the other countries and families just as valuable? Yes, but they are not theirs and so they fight for what is theirs. Children, even those who are abused by their parents, are born with an innate ability to love their parents, simply because they are theirs, regardless of how horribly they treat them. Though that can dissipate with time (and abuse,) it's there to begin with. And the same is true for parents, they feel a deep sense of ownership for their kids, not the kind of ownership of slave and master, as some kids might believe, but a kind of ownership that instills an enormous degree of love and pride that only your own kids can illicit, no matter how much they may or may not deserve it.
Yes, when something is yours it becomes immediately more important to you than something that is not yours. But not all ownership has to do with the legal right to control or do whatever you want with what you own. No, ownership can also apply to a state of heart, a way of living whereby you make what you say and what you do agree. As in when you own your actions, rather than faking your way through life, living a double life, pretending to be something that you aren't in order to please those you love. This double-mindedness becomes evident in matters of faith where it can be easy to hide your true feelings and thoughts, and to put on a good face when all the while you are a confused mess on the inside. And in your uncertainty, an inability to own your faith can result in choices that hurt not only yourself but also your relationships. In this condition, you own neither your beliefs nor your actions, but instead you end up in a no-man's-land that breeds animosity for the very things in your life that you say you love.
In the life of faith, then, there are conditions of the heart that mimic faith, but are far from a true faith that not only saves, but encourages, repairs, heals, and changes you from the inside out. These conditions that do not involve owning your faith are founded in the attempt to fake it, borrow it, rent it, or pick and choose it, and ultimately their end is the ultimate act of disowning it.
When you are faking it you can fool just about everyone. And that's really the goal in faking it; it's to fool those who love you, especially those who want only what's best for you and is certain that being a good Christian is what's best for you. When you fake it you do all, or at least most, of the right things; you probably even say almost all of the right things. And everyone looks at you and smiles at the person you are pretending to be, and deep inside you feel rejected. You feel rejected because they love who they want you to be, not who you really are. When you are faking something for the approval of others, even the approval you get is painful because it's based on a lie, and the real you never truly finds acceptance.
For centuries people the world over have faked their faith, many without even being aware of the fact. They have faked it so well that they even deceived themselves, believing that their actions of faith somehow made up for their disbelief, doubt, and fear. They have walked through life unchanged, numb to the things of the Spirit, and trying desperately to make up for it through determination to be good and obedient. They try to do all the right things, say all the right things, and be just who they believe they should be. Yet all the while they are unable to trust their
lives and the lives of those they love to the God who saves.
Hayley Faked It:
"For all of my life I called myself a Christian, even long before I truly was one. I believed in God, I trusted that Jesus was who He said He was. But I lived with fear and doubt. Believing that God was powerful and holy came easy to me, but believing that I was good enough for Him to love, didn't. So while I said I was a Christian, I believed I was a Christian going to hell, and so I figured since I was going to hell I might as well have fun on the way. And so I gave into my desires, I did stupid stuff—I went too far and I confirmed to myself that my faith was indeed fake. When I saw how badly I was faking it, the guilt consumed me. In turn, guilt just fed my fear and doubt, and the cycle started all over again. Fake faith is tortured and pointless faith."
When you fake it, you pretend to be, feel, or think something that isn't true, and this dissonance hurts. In the end, faking it results in either fatigue and rejection, or a lifelong faking that gives you a faith grounded in deception. How ironic, since faith is belief in the truth, while deception is pretend belief in something considered a lie. Deception never breeds truth. So if you, like Hayley, have felt that you've been faking it, in any part of your life—but especially in your relationship to God—then read on as we talk about what it means to own your faith or to be honest about disowning it, rather than just faking it.
When your faith isn't your own, but one that you inherited or borrowed from another, the emotional and spiritual strain that it can put on you and the ones you got your faith from can be enormous. Borrowed faith is a cheap imitation of ownership. And that's why it brings so much emotional strain on your life. When your faith truly belongs to someone else, when you took it out of obligation or even devotion to your loved one, it makes the person you got it from the god of your life. In them you look for the law that you must follow to be accepted by them; in them you look for your salvation.
If you haven't discovered it yet, your faith in man will ultimately disappoint because the creation cannot handle the worship due the Creator. You see this in the resentment that develops as you fail to be all that your loved one wanted you to be, or do all they believe you should do. When you get your power to be “good” from your desire to please man, you will ultimately fail, because you do not have the power to be perfect, and they do not have the power to give you perfection. That is why your faith lacks passion and power, because that power and passion comes from the Creator and not the creation. When your faith is borrowed, it does not truly belong to you and, because of that, your love and devotion will never ring true. Your words and even actions will never align with your feelings because you have taken what was never yours to begin with and tried to build your life on it. This is a shaky foundation and not the same as owning your faith.
Even if you've borrowed your faith, claiming your salvation comes from the roots of your family tree and believing being “born Christian” is your get-out-of-jail-free card, you are deceiving yourself. The Bible, which defines the Christian faith, says that faith isn't about heredity, but relationship. We know this because of words like these found in the book of Romans: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:9–10 esv). It's all about you and not your family, or the fact that you were baptized as a baby. When you own your faith, it starts with your confession and not the confession of those who love you.
My Boring Christian Life:
"A lot of kids raised in Christian homes complain about the fact that they don't have an amazing testimony like the people who were raised without faith and through some incredibly horrible situations found Jesus and now have amazing testimonies. Some bemoan their peaceful and uneventful lives and wish they could share an Oprah-worthy testimony about what God has done in their life. But alas, life has been pretty picture-perfect and God hasn't really had to show Himself much, so no big stories exist. When that's the case, it can be easy to feel like your faith isn't so compelling and that you don't have much to offer in the way of a story that would draw others into faith. And so you live a spiritually quiet life, not stepping out and proclaiming the amazing power of faith—not risking to question others' beliefs or to offer them a lifeline in yours because after all, you reason, you don't have an amazing story to share. If that sounds like you, then you may have less to worry about than you may think. You see, you don't have to give up the hope of a compelling testimony because what compels the nonbeliever isn't your testimony about yourself, but about Him. If you say you still have no testimony about Him, then your faith may be weakened by the fact that you haven't made it your own yet. But making it your own isn't as hard as going back in time and having a different life story, so there is hope."
Now, if you say that you are content with a borrowed faith, don't shut the book and walk away just yet—there is something here for you, just give it a chance. You've opened these pages for a reason. Allow God to show you what it is, just this once; allow Him to take you somewhere you never thought you wanted to go and see if He doesn't come through for you. Borrowed faith is simply faith in the wrong thing. And that's why it isn't the kind of faith that changes your life. It isn't the kind of faith that overcomes adversity or changes the world, but when you own it, when you stop mooching and start possessing, the world inside you and around you changes dramatically.
Excerpt taken from OWN IT. OWN IT is one of two companion books from the upcoming Christian film GRACE UNPLUGGED which releases in theaters Oct. 4, 2013. The companion books are currently available at all major retail outlets.