Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What Is Faith?

I find myself thinking about faith a lot lately. I believe this is partly due to some of the books I've been reading: "If God Is Love," "Grace (Eventually)," "Eat, Pray, Love," and even a couple novels in which faith is one of the themes. Perhaps my thoughts are influenced by the blossoming trees and flowers that have so suddenly decorated my life. I literally have watched the trees and lilac bushes in my backyard (where I sit as I type this) go from bare to blooming within three days. Amazing.

What does faith mean to you?

I once thought of faith solely in terms of God and religion and spirituality. That sphere only begins to encompass what faith means to me as I live out my fifth decade of life. At 42, my thoughts on faith, my idea of what it is and what it is not, are far different than what they were at 22, even 32. The concept once seemed so abstract, and as I studied existentialism in college, it almost seemed obsolete.

But then life happened--and continues to happen--and faith moves closer to the center of my world (right there with all these kids of mine) with each event, big or small.

I suppose I think about faith more these days, too, because Mother's Day is around the corner and I don't have a mom to call or send presents to. That makes me sad. I suppose it always will. But I came to the place--quite unexpectedly and utterly without direction or determination--where I can just say, without emotion or even a sense of wanting things to be different--that she is where she is supposed to be. It is that simple if I allow it to be.

And that, at 42, is what faith means to me: It is allowing whatever is, to remain what it is, without needing to dissect or deconstruct. That sort of non-analysis is not easy for me; I am a student of philosophy. Analyzing and digging in to the core is what I do. And that's the craziest part of all: In order to realize (or recognize) that faith is really quite simple, I chose a path that was complex and elaborate, full of unexpected twists and turns. I did this passively at times. Other times, my brain moved furiously in my quest for understanding. But it really isn't about understanding; it's about acceptance.

For me, faith is really nothing more than the belief that what is at any given moment is exactly what is supposed to be, whether I like it or not. That isn't to say I shouldn't try to right a wrong, seek improvement, or work for change. I absolutely should and will continue to do those things. But it really isn't up to me. My faith assures me that my kids chose the right parents. That marrying Dean wasn't a mistake, and neither was divorcing him. That Mom was slated to leave this world abruptly and without warning, as was my son. That the inadequacy I feel so often as a parent these days will one day be replaced with satisfaction. Faith has me believing that everything--and I mean everything--in my life is there because it serves a purpose. And it's up to me to determine what that purpose is.

I don't think faith is stagnant, but rather, it is always evolving, flexing its various muscles according to the circumstances at hand. Some days, I'm pretty strong in my faith. Others, well...on those days, the best I can hope for is to catch a rerun of "Northern Exposure" and apply whatever random message it may impart to the situation at hand. It's not rocket science. But it doesn't need to be.

Faith, I think, is an art. And like any other artistic endeavor, the more you practice, the easier it comes.

1 comment:

Judith K. Witherow said...

I live with the belief that if I'm brought to it--I will be brought through it. When your life has been a series of battles giving up or becoming bitter could become a way of life. The trick is to keep all events, good or bad, in perspective.