1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something. “This restores one’s faith in humanity.”
synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction
2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
synonyms: religion, church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine
While preparing for this week’s post, I came across the above definition for faith, a word that comes with quite a bit baggage these days. The first thing I noted was the ominous overtone in the second definition: “spiritual apprehension”. I found myself wondering why anyone would want to base their spiritual practices, the very soul-nourishing beliefs that keep them going, on another four-letter “f” word, fear.
I have many kinds of faith. I have faith that the sun will rise each morning, even on those days when I can’t see it. I have faith that spring follows winter. At some point, I will see a return of the sun, and buds on the trees. But a tiny spark inside simply trusts that these things will arrive in due time. I just have to be patient enough. However, some kinds of faith are even more elusive.
I remember as a child when my mom spoke to me about faith, she often said “our faith,” meaning Catholicism. While I did receive quite an education about faith from that paradigm, I’m grateful that I learned to look deeper and find something more. Nearly all religious and spiritual traditions teach of striving for something greater than ourselves. Indeed, the very desire to seek such a thing seems inherent to our very nature.
I guess it’s just that independent streak in me, the part that never really wanted to allow someone else to tell me what my beliefs are. I may have mentioned this before but my mother also told me to go out and explore my faith; to find out what’s out there and what brings meaning to my life. And I did.
This topic feels timely right now. When I feel adrift in my life, it’s faith that I return to. It’s not something that I can see or point to. It’s not a magic spell or even a particular spiritual practice. Rather, it’s just a knowing that has taken deep root in my soul. A feeling that all will be well if I just surrender and trust. It’s hardest to hold onto that feeling when events seem to conspire against you. When things are “going my way,” the drama of life just seems to flow unhindered. However, life is also messy, and the hard times can feel like stones in the river, changing its course. In those moments we are called to listen deeply within; the stones may seem to be obstacles to our free-flowing movement, but they also encourage the water to sing. Like a love song to us from the Deepest Mysteries.
For me, the stones have always involved affairs of the heart: the parting of ways with my first love; the utter rejection, with no explanation, of someone who was my world; twice nearly losing my partner Mike; the death of the leader of my spiritual community. Each time, I had to take a long, hard look at the contents of my heart. Yes, pain, worry and fear had all but overrun the garden there. However, some small portion of my happy inner child—that spark—remained, clearing the landscape when it seemed that everything and everyone else had vanished. I had no concrete evidence that all would come out ok in the end, but through faith, I learned to love again. And what it means to let go.