Faith is precisely nothing. It is nothing you can prove to be right, or use to get anywhere else. If you want something to believe in (which is where we all must start!), you had best be a totem and taboo Christian, with clear ground, identity, and boundaries. But that is not yet faith! That is merely securing the foundations for your personal diving board.
Faith is the leap into the water, now with the lived experience that there is One who can and will catch you—and lead you where you need to go! Religion, in some sense, is a necessary first half of life phenomenon. Faith is much more possible in the second half of life, not necessarily chronologically but always spiritually. As the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wisely said, “Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.” Jonah knew what God was doing, and how God does it, and how right God is—only after emerging from the belly of the whale. He has no message whatsoever to give until he has first endured the journey, the darkness, the spitting up on the right shore—all in spite of his best efforts to avoid these very things. Jonah indeed is our Judeo-Christian symbol of transformation. Jesus had found the Jonah story inspiring, no doubt, because it described almost perfectly what was happening to him!
—from the book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent
by Richard Rohr, OFM