I need to write about the concept of faith right now, there are so many things related to having faith and where it brings you that I think I need to put some things into perspective. Maybe for a little background, it would help to understand where I had come from first. Many who have known me for years have known me to have an incredibly strong sense of faith. As a teenager I was known as ‘chivalrous’ and just. Fair and faithful. Ethical and moral. I usually demonstrated a keen faith in God that would guide me through all of the rough spots in life. I was that rock, Cephas if you will. Even in college, when I was a class away of getting my degree in chemistry I gave it up so I could pursue a degree in religious studies. That too was guided by faith. Over many years I’ve demonstrated that I have faith, not just declared it. I never did anything to broadcast it, no huge phylacteries, I just lived it and that became my reputation.
I’m going to digress for a minute and share a story of faith I read about in Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence. It is the story of a Portuguese Jesuit named Rodriguez who travels to Japan in the 1600’s to do mission work and find his mentor (who apparently renounced his Christian faith). Japan at this time had closed its borders to outside religious influence (historically a smart move) after seeing what the results in other countries turned out to be. I could write more on the effects of colonialism but that would be a different topic. So in the story it tells that if a Christian is found in Japan, they will be persecuted and forced to step on a fumie. A Fumie is a wooden carving representing Jesus, by stepping on it, it is perceived to be a sign of disrespect for your lord and a renunciation of faith. Some were tortured to do this, sometimes others were tortured so an individual would step on the fumie. This was a test of faith, could you endure the torture for your lord and faith? Could you become a martyr? All of this happened yet God remained silent. How could this be? Such a powerful God letting people get cut, tossed into scalding hot springs, beat? Why wouldn’t God intervene, especially after so many good things were done in his name? The way the story unfolds is magnificent, and the lessons learned by Rodriguez in the end are told in such a Zen way that it really illustrates in a parabolic fashion, the meaning of faith and forgiveness.
Now I don’t want to give the story away and tell what happens to Rodriguez. All I can say is he had to face the thing he feared most. It wasn’t until then that he fully understood the power of forgiveness that he had preached about for so many years. It was like his faith finally had a more powerful, direct meaning to him that he never understood before. Rodriguez had to go through that transformation. For me, I think back to being a young, dogmatic teenager and wondering why everyone didn’t believe as I did because it would save the world. Fortunately I’ve let go of that naive rigidity and opened my belief system a bit more. When I dropped my chemistry degree and switched to a religious studies degree I put the emphasis on comparative religion. I was only able to do this by letting go of my dogma, accepting that there are many ways to view the world and faith. A fellow student of mine put it as there are many facets on a jewel and the different faith paths are like facets on the same jewel. He may have been right about that, I’m not sure.
The only way I was able to let go of my former ways was to accept that nagging part of me that felt that my old ways just didn’t make sense. There was a part of me that felt that it didn’t make sense that God was the way that I taught. I had faith in that feeling and it allowed me to move forward in learning new ways of understanding. I was able to study theology and the history of it. I studied different denominations and what they believed. I also studied the historical Jesus, and what scholars thought happened historically. I also studied Zen and Taoism. I studied Hebrew and Islamic philosophies, tribal beliefs, and many more ways of life that were foreign to white suburbia. In letting go, I also gained. If I dropped a pound, I gained a hundred. I was able to do this by faith. My faith had not only been a source of strength but also a source of guidance. It may have changed throughout the years but was ever present. I’ve always become a better person because of it and it has never done me wrong.
Right now I am at a point of significant change. My awareness of spiritual matters is rapidly expanding and challenging once again the core of my being. I have experienced things that challenged my perception of self and the world around me. I think my previous faith transformation prepared me for this, but I am struggling. I don’t know what most of what I’m experiencing means. I’m going through so many changes right now, nothing seems to be an anchor of reference anymore. I can’t see a lighthouse to guide me to shore. I’m in between jobs, churches, and I’ve got a little one on the way. Certainly a stormy period. I am in a period of massive transition and all I really have right now is my faith. Faith that I’m moving forward. Faith that things will pan out.
Without a job or clear spiritual direction I actually feel like I’m lacking life purpose. I can’t succeed at work, and I can’t succeed in spiritual matters. I can’t make a difference right now because I don’t have a ‘place’. I know that the world is around me and that I have impact and influence every moment of my existence, but I am lacking clarity. I can’t see my influence, I can’t see what I should be doing. I feel like I have a lot of energy but nowhere to go with it. I have faith that this will get better, but I have no idea how. At this moment I am hanging on, but my faith is still there. Faith that I’m being guided to a higher purpose. Faith that my transformation will be meaningful and purposeful. I guess this is my motivation to keep walking, keep moving forward.
I am looking forward to looking back on all of this though.