Faith Ain’t for the Faint of Heart

Faith has immeasurable depths.

When we risk, trust, surrender, allow, take action, find courage, let go, propel forward, when we go for it blindly without a clue as to where we are to land, when we jump our mightiest jump and finally break loose and fall – we call them “a leap of Faith.”

To take leaps is an exciting adventure, isn’t it? We try something we haven’t tried before. We get a taste of the new. We permit ourselves to be lost. We dare. We use our legs and our arms and flail about in the air around us and reach for the ground, if there is any, below us. Our hearts are thumping, our spirits are free, the world is ours, our eagerness and our desire to move and be alive all manifest. We live as if we “have faith” in something bigger.

These adventures are foundlings for Faith. The cheap thrills, if you like. We have our physical body, the ego, playing in the wilderness of the world, ennobled into experimentation, instructed to relish superficial joys to keep itself productively distracted, to keep engaged, to attain and exhibit perpetual growth and expansion, to find fulfillment and validation from a safety net that tells us everything will be okay no matter what. That is, as long as we stay within certain parameters and imaginary borders. “Proof of faith” is probably what we would call the successes we find here. Maybe if Faith were a broken mirror, these “leaps and bounds” that keep our interests enthused would be its simple scattered reflections.

Faith is also mostly found in struggle, in obstacles, in all the conflicts of being a human being. “You must have faith,” we say to each other. As if handing over a key to some room wherein the light enters, as if it’s something we can make like a cup of tea for comfort, as if it’s something that can be stored, lost, found, left behind, picked up again and have again.

Why has Faith become so conditional and circumstance-based? What must absolute Faith look like?

Faith has no voice

I see a Faith that is still, that maintains no movement, that calls no action. It is quiet, it doesn’t assert itself, it doesn’t speak for itself or anyone, it doesn’t support rallies, it doesn’t converse with problems, it doesn’t know how to offer any advice, it doesn’t even have a voice. It is magnanimous, like a forest that is cleared of trees with its animals lost and dying, and yet it stays where it is, creating sprigs and springs here and there, not even waiting for anyone to notice, just ever creating anew. The difference of Faith from Hope is Hope will always continue to call out to the world in a sweet song, while Faith – the ever so shy sibling – simply sits back and listens. And from listening to the song of its sister Hope, of the world, of the people and the trees and the wind, it strengthens in stillness, never failing in its gift of greatness and invisibility.

How deep have you gone? How high? How low? How much of the spaces – the light and the darkness – of your Faith have you explored, have you touched with your hands, felt with your heart; how much of it have you allowed to touch you?

Why does something so absolute such as Faith become accompanied by so much doubt? I believe, but. I know, but. I see, but. I love, but. I thrive, but. I am strong, but. I am at peace, but. I understand, but.

What does your Faith mean to you?

Faith, for me, is not about prayers. It is not about beliefs or will or a determined knowing of God. If there is sureness and confidence and anything resembling pride in it, if it is a sturdy belief in something read, or taught, or listened to and passed on, then it is no longer Faith. Because you have clung to a proof of something else or the testaments of someone else; maybe to science, maybe to mystical texts, history and books, maybe to your immediate senses, and the worst of it – to fear and the desperate need to just believe in something.

But Faith is absolute empty space. And living in Faith is choosing to sit in that space, bringing nothing with you to clutter the space with.

Like Jesus Said

Many people who are afraid need something to cling to. We use words, songs, people, pets, society, religion, education, distractions all to help us proclaim our Faith that things are okay, or will be okay. But too often, especially at this time, I sense that the more people feel the need to talk of Faith, the more they are actually coming from a place of fear, and returning there.

There is fear of sickness, fear of an invisible killer, fear of death, fear of isolation, fear of boredom, fear of lack, fear of doing wrong, fear of idleness, fear of silence, fear of hunger, fear of abandonment, fear of anxiety, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of rules, fear of control, fear of a disagreement, fear of the future, fear of the present and the past, fear of losing Faith, fear of fear…

But didn’t Jesus – an enlightened lover of all the simple things in life that is – say to “Fear not?”

When I caught Pope Francis on television addressing an empty St. Peter’s Square, having already lost so many of his countrymen, his people, his disciples, repeating Jesus’ sentiment, almost pleading – fear not… fear not… fear not – I couldn’t stop crying all over my bowl of spaghetti for lunch.

But his stunning image – doing what he is meant to do despite, standing strong in the emptiness of a place that he would much more favor full, singing hope from a pulpit of grief, fearing not with the most fragrant essence of fear itself, pungent and pure, spreading thick in the air very he breathes – is what Faith exactly is.

However, again, to believe in what the Pope says is not Faith. To believe in what Jesus said is not Faith. To believe in God listening is not Faith. Faith is the reverse. It is a requirement of not even having to have to believe in anything. It just is. It is the unlearning of believing. An ever so slowly and unsure traverse from becoming to unbecoming and back again.

Faith is not the answer

Faith is not fullness, but emptiness. It is not in the solid ground that awaits when we leap, but in the space in between. It is not in the hope that we wish to always cling to, but in the despair that drugs us into a constant search for hope in the many places it likes to flutter about. Faith is never in the knowing for sure, but always in the unconscious bewilderment and wonder for all that ever is and may or may not be.

Faith is not the answer. Faith is the absence of asking.

Why should we fear death? Why should we fear our weaknesses? Why do we fear for the world or other people? Why should we ever be afraid to be alone with ourselves? Or to change? Everything – and I mean every single thing – happening within and without us in this journey is the greatest mystery and honor of living. Why should we cling to things, to ideas, to a future, to one way of living and knowing things?

To stay faithful is to stay constant, and the only constant thing is to change.

What does it take to have Faith sit quietly and still in your heart, despite all movement and conditions around you? Maybe if you ask, you will hear answers everywhere – the birds singing, the breeze blowing, the dogs sleeping nearby, the music being played, your lover speaking, the children still laughing…

And yet, none of these still would be the testament to your Faith.

Faith doesn’t associate with anything or anyone; it is free and brilliant, painful if looked at directly. It has locked itself down much deeper than you’d ever go, somewhere in a pandemic space. It subtracts from and multiplies with everything. It is unknown and unfathomable. It is quiet and listening, creating and being, secretly smiling to itself when Hope starts to sing.

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