A couple of months ago I had the humbling experience of graduating from the historic American Baptist College. I was excited not simply because I was adding more credentials to my resume, but also because it was the culmination of a wonderful season of learning and sharpening future theological minds that I believe will benefit Black America for a very long time.
On that sunny day our small group of graduates participated in a traditional ceremony. A processional took place, our guest speaker shared words of warning and inspiration, our class representative followed with more words of encouragement for his fellow graduates, and before I knew it I was walking across the stage accepting my degree (with a Cum Laude distinction if I might add) from the president of the college. After the pomp and circumstance, pictures and hugs and a celebratory meal I took to the task of finding a frame to display my new degree on my wall.
This may seem an insignificant thing to some but for me it was anything but that. I have imagined my office wall covered with framed documents chronicling my various accomplishments. I’m aware that my imaginations border on constructing a boastful shrine to my narcissistic, egotistical, self-absorbed intellectualism. But before you write me off as some pompous jerk trying to show off, maybe I can give you some Bible to back me up.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
This verse is often given as the scriptural definition of “faith”. It is not only informative in that faith is the actual process of the head and heart believing in the immaterial, but it is also inspirational because it reminds us that the immaterial is not impossible. But the verse leaves something for us to figure out in finding substance and evidence for those things which have not yet come into our existence. How do you find substance for the invisible? Where do you collect evidence for the immaterial?
When I rearranged my apartment, one of the most important spaces to me was a corner of my living room which is all the office I have right now (pictured at right). On the walls are 5 frames containing different documents: two degrees from Liberty University, my most recent degree from American Baptist College, a diploma for completing two years of Layperson’s Bible School at a former church and my preaching license. According to my own imaginations, this wall is only the beginning. In my head I see at least two more degrees, a Masters and a Doctorate, that I want to add to the collection as well as anything else significant I might have a piece of paper issued to me for accomplishing. But these dreams and imaginations hardly seemed to be more than delusions of grandeur with no substance to make them pursuits of faith.
I took it upon myself to give substance to those imaginations and things that are unseen. I have written fictional newspaper and magazine articles about my future self, including accomplishments and goals I would like to have achieved. I have two biographies on my computer: one that I use actively as well as one that I want written of me in about 10 years. The goal is to continue to editing the current bio to match the future bio. I’ve done the same thing with my resume. Every once in a while I go back a read the documents of the future and it reminds me of my direction, it guides my prayers and gives substance and evidence to my faith. As I shopped for a frame to display my latest degree, I purchased more substance. I bought two extra empty frames, one for my future Masters degree and one for my future Doctorate degree. When I glance at them in my closet, they are “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Those frames do “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).
I don’t know what your goals or imaginations may be, but I encourage you to find some way to give them substance. Find something you can call evidence for those things that you have not yet realized. Use it to work with your faith, to keep you motivated and focused until those things which are not seen become a reality.