Over the past few months, I have explored the different ways guest contributors and I experience faith. In one post, I talked about the ability to “wait for it.” A friend recently shared how her efforts to grow in patience have led her to see patience as the practice of empathy. Since patience is not a strength of mine, her comment got my attention. I was reminded of how my impatience often comes from a belief I know better or best in most situations and an accompanying unwillingness to wait for or respect someone else’s approach. I now see that a corrective act of faith is to believe everyone is entitled to a personal point of view. In this more open response to alternative approaches, I know I don’t have to accept unacceptable situations. Rather I believe that I can make a choice in a way that is empathic and respectful without attacking what is different.
Last week, Richard Rohr wrote of his belief that all forms of life are connected. He points to his spiritual father, St. Francis, for whom this belief guided his relations with the entire natural world – animals, plants and human beings. These reflections on faith have strengthened my belief that we are all connected and that we each deserve compassion.
I hope you have found some value in the many different expressions of faith posted here over the last several months. In writing my own posts and working with guest contributors, I have increased my faith in faith and decreased my need to worry about the exact nature of my faith.
Here are some other views that have strengthened my conviction that faith is universal, that it is manifested in an endless variety of ways:
Farinazi Firouzi explained the path that led her to the Baha’i faith tradition. Community building as a central tenet leads to a love for each person in the world. She explains: “I participated in my first study circle 25 years ago. Back then the Baha’i Community was just at the beginning of a cultural shift on multiple levels. I remember guidance from the international governing body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, calling for a change from an inward-looking orientation to an outward-looking one in line with the Teachings. As community building (called “core”) activities became widespread, Baha’is around the world were gently guided to see everyone in their neighborhoods and villages as collaborators walking with them on their individual paths of service.”
Brian Fraser, a minister and nonprofit consultant from British Columbia, explored jazz as a path to faith formation. “I found in the work of Stephen Nachmanovitch and Donald Schön the idea that the most common form of jazz in human experience is ordinary conversation. You have a structure within which the conversation takes place – vocabulary and grammar – but every time you use the structure you improvise with different words, tones, and interactions…We contribute to the well-being of creation one conversation after another. Within my practice of the Christian tradition, as a contributor to that community’s service to the flourishing of this world, I seek to compose conversations with God, with others, and with myself that cultivate justice with kindness and humility (Micah 6:8). That’s a challenging and gratifying path. And jazz is a provocative mentor for that way of being together caring for the creation. Faith is communal before it is personal. In a culture so addicted to individualism, materialism and consumerism, forming an alternative way of being together is literally a matter of life and death. That way can be inspired and instructed by jazz.”
Eileen Doud from Maryland shared how a childhood experience in her mother’s place of worship has ended up anchoring her life with a deep unshakeable faith in a personal God she calls Jesus. “Grace. God’s free, unfettered gift. No questions asked. Just given. So if grace is free – what is faith? The apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters to the Galatians that ‘the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.’ In other words, Paul put his entire confidence and trust in Christ.
And that, in a nutshell, is what I attempt, each and every day, to do. You see, for me faith is an active verb, one where I have the chance to walk through my day-to-day events knowing that a sovereign, omniscient, faithful, loving God has my back. Not just once. All the time.”
An anonymous writer reminded us of the vulnerability required to explore faith and the immense benefits from the acts of courage required. She received a response to her feelings of confusion and anxiety in a letter from her Higher Power/God:
“My Beloved Child,
Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your deepest thoughts and emotions with me. I hope that by verbalizing and naming them that they gave you a sense of liberation. Being true to your own feelings and honoring them will allow you to discover your deepest self. I dwell there. I am always with you. You will feel me dwelling within you – our incredible communion – when you allow yourself to discover, name and express what lies within your heart.”
May our individual and shared explorations of faith lift our spirits, brighten our lives and benefit those we meet on the trip. Next week, I will begin an exploration of how faith inspires and guides our individual and collective work for good.