The Tug Of War of Faith

For now we see in a mirror dimly—One day, we shall see face to face.

Now I know only in part; But the day is promised when I shall understand all.

As I have been known all along by God

1 Corinthians 13:12

Almost thirteen years ago today, I was standing in the waiting room of the pediatric day hospital at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. With a very sick baby nussled against my breast, I looked out and saw my father, a monument of strength, my mother, a deep well of compassion and unconditional love, my devoted husband, and faithful in laws. In that moment, I realized so sharply (and painfully) that they could not take this burden from me. My father could not fly in and save the day. My mother’s love could not protect me. And my better half was as bereaved as I. I was on my own.

It was the final loss of my innocence and the harbinger of a true and authentic faith.

For only so long can we be cosseted in the faith of our parents and a childlike understanding of God, religon, and the world. One day we awaken to the reality that tragic things happen to good people, the world is overtly unfair and cruel, and so many of life’s questions remain unanswered.

I observe the “religious” folk. You know the ones. They appear to have all the answers. They are the first to say, “God only gives us what we can handle” in a tragedy and are quick to red-line scriptures for black and white pat answers to life’s quandaries. But this “buttoned-up” faith leaves me feeling empty and numb. If only it could be so cut and dry: Follow a set of rules, practice the correct rituals, and blindly believe. But that kind of faith loses all credibility when a ten-week old baby is diagnosed with cancer on Christmas, one watches a friend die a painful death, a woman, so admired and beloved in our community, feels the only answer is to take her own life, and thousands flee daily from their Syrian homes, leaving behind everything, only to find themselves or those they love dead, or often worse, nameless in refugee camps, with  dignity and hope lost.

The internal tug of war of faith is not for the weak of constitution. It tests the resilience of our hearts on a daily basis. How many times do we storm the heavens, “Where is God?,” or “Why, why, why should I continue to believe in hope, redemption, and love to prevail when the evidence shouts otherwise?” And in our darkest moments, secretly, we fear there’s nothing more….We are indeed alone in this.

I call these the “shadow days” where life doesn’t make sense, one prays into a void, and the pain of being human is acute.

A great deal of faith is having the courage to sit in the hurt, the dismay, the anger, and the grief. Instead of running, or turning elsewhere (usually to something that leaves us feeling worse) to escape—-We trust.

Faith is a stubborn determination to keep speaking into the Infinite silence with no promise of a response. It means not being afraid or threatened by our internal doubts, but welcoming them. Doubts force us to dig deeper for the truth.

Some days, holding onto the rope of faith is easy. One spends time in nature, holds a two-year old’s tiny hand, and a friend makes you buckle over in laughter. Or maybe you release a prayer and like a boomerang the whole universe responds in an embrace. The reward of a steely, tenacious faith are these little glimmers of hope, revelations that catch our breath and make us believe there has to be more here than meets the eye. Maybe there is a Divine plan and all will be well.

So, we keep holding onto the rope.

Faith looks different for each person. It wanes from hot, to tepid, to ice-cold and back again. On the days where the dots line up, our faith grounds us, so we have the courage to fly.

It’s not our job to give faith, or push faith on another person. It’s hard enough trying to maintain our own. Our only obligation is to meet each unique soul with the dignity, the kindness, and the love that we crave for ourselves, trusting the Divine to take care of the rest.

And finally, faith is fragile, tender, and reveals our most intimate vulnerabilities, hurts, and hopes. It must be handled with loving care, patience and mercy.

The whole idea that one speaks to an invisible Presence, believes in that which cannot be seen or proven, lives in eternal hope regardless of the darkness and heart break, and trusts in the compass of one’s heart to guide his or her steps—-is lunacy.

Or, it’s the most beautiful and transcendent experience we are afforded here on earth.

Live in Hope,

Farrell

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