Faith: What It Is and How to Get Some
A tribe of weary nomadic peoples traverses the dusty plane between heaven and earth and press on past dusk in hopes that nature will, yet again, provide dinner. A woman nine moons pregnant sits with her hands resting on her gigantic belly and prays that her body will not fail her when it matters most. A man awakens with tremors and shakes wondering how he will make it past noon without a drink. A farmer carefully plants seeds, one after another, and lovingly covers them with soil.
I used to think faith was trusting that things would ‘work out’. I thought faith meant knowing deep down that some higher power had my back. Faith meant trusting that my life would eventually work out in the way I thought it should. This brand of faithfulness was all about my plan and my wants. It hadn’t dawned on me yet that there is more to my life than I can see or understand sometimes.
Faith is intimately tied to our sense of the divine. To have faith we must have faith in something. We call ‘it’ God, Goddess, Source, Creator, Allah, Spirit, Life Force, or as brilliant astrologer Rob Brezny does, “the divine-wow”. The word ‘faith’ comes from the Latin root ‘fidere’, which means ‘to trust’ and it is often defined as: a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Interestingly, I know people who have faith without even fully knowing what they have faith in. For many, including myself, our sense of the sacred evolves with our life experience and our development.
Along with the me-centric 'faith' I described above, I also used to live my spirituality in a self-centered and 'personal' way (for lack of a better way to call it). By that, I mean that everything felt somehow intimately related to ‘me’. If something happened it’s because I had attracted it. If an animal crossed my path it’s because it was an omen for me. You get the idea. While I still experience spirit intimately like this, I also feel that it’s only part of the picture. The other part, quite paradoxically, is that I experience the divine as kind of an impersonal force too. I’m learning that life experiences are not always as much about me (or you) as we tend to make them out to be!
Imagine a massive tsunami overtaking a shore with trees, men, women, children, goats, dogs, and every manner of life conceivable wiped out in a matter of minutes. Imagine a white-tailed deer pursued and killed by a hungry pack of wolves. There is something hauntingly impersonal about being in this great wheel of life. We each have this in common: we are but a small pixel in a bigger picture that is so gargantuan that our human eyes are not necessarily able to see it.
There are no guaranteed outcomes. If there were faith would not be required.
The ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita teaches that what we truly are cannot be damaged. Our essence is untouchable. In the same vein Stephen Levine writes, “We are spirit clothed in body. Though the body wears through, can become threadbare, and is easily torn, the spirit is deathless and indestructible. The ever-transferable life force is as formless as light.”
When I get in touch with the essence of what I am, beyond all the comings and goings of this world, I feel that I am deeply intact regardless of what happens in this earth-story. I am unshakeable and whole beyond-words. My faith is rooted in what transcends and encompasses the moving pictures and identity that I inhabit in this world. I trust in that.
Jeff Foster says that we don't have to work to accept what happens in life because, if it’s happening, life already accepts it simply because it is.
I think that it's through the ups and downs of living that we eventually let go of our over-investment in what does not endure. Through our trials and tribulations we are each given the opportunity to get in touch with what transcends the trappings and illusions of this world. We discover what we ourselves can have faith in.
We can hear about trust in a higher power or read about faith, but ultimately it’s just stale knowledge. For it to become our wisdom we have to live into our own answers regardless of what we’ve been taught or told.
Sometimes life has to strip you bare of nearly everything before you actually have an experience of what you can fall back on or really trust in.
Can I tell you what to have faith in? No, I can’t. Can I tell you how to get some faith? Not really. But what I can share with you is how I got in touch with my own in hopes that it will stir your heart and the infinite wisdom that you carry within. I also don’t think that faith is something you ‘get’ and then you're done with it!
At any given moment we find ourselves experiencing various degrees of faith.
Faith for me has evolved from trusting that everything would ‘work out’ to trusting that whatever happens, on some level, its deeply okay and that all is well regardless of what it looks or feels like to my human self. Once you get in touch with that, you can’t help but let go of the steering wheel a bit and say: "Okay grace, spirit, whatever, take my life, I know it’s already yours anyway.”
:: REFLECT ::
In your journal, and/or in the comments below, reflect on the following:
What is your understanding of and experience of faith?
What do you have faith in? In what do you trust?
Do certain experiences affect your levels of faith?
Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau