Ah what a wonderful life it is....
and when it's not so wonderful...we have faith to see us through to the other side. Even the dark places are there for a reason. In themselves, they are gifts as they help us to become better people.
It's amazing, isn't it, how all those dark places we've been through lead us to richer, more complete lives as we grow. We couldn't be where we are now, were it not for the difficulties we've been through...we've become wiser, grown stronger, toughened up, learned to appreciate the blessings we do have...we are survivors! :-)))
I wanted to take some time to share my thoughts on faith with you because it's such an important part of my life, and I believe its important for everyone. I hope that you will find your way to seek truth, my friend, as I believe a life without that seeking, that reaching, is missing what can be an extraordinary gift, perhaps the greatest component of life itself.
I guess the first thing I can tell you is that I know nothing :-) How's that for a hard sell!
Seriously tho...I do know I believe. I believe that God is love, that God is goodness. I believe those are living, tangible entities. I believe in both good and evil and I have seen both face to face.
I believe that the essence of love is giving. In its highest, purest form, it asks nothing for self...it pours forth to others, pours forth to the world, and in that pouring forth it is continually replenished, ever deepening, ever expanding. I believe that this our way to God. I believe there are many ways to give. To help others, to love a partner, to love children, to develop our talents, to build, to create, to reach our potential, to love and care for our environment, to aspire, to seek, to learn, and above all, to share.
My faith is a very simple one laid on the foundation I just spoke of. I am a Christian for a number of reasons. First, it is what I know. Just as the devout Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist finds depth, meaning and home in his/her faith, I find depth, meaning and home in mine. I appreciate the teachings of Christ...the beauty, the wisdom, the love. I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools. My mother though, was a real source of and solidifier of my faith in many ways. Our family life as I was growing up was quite a paradox. We had a Norman Rockwell existence in my early years...my father was devoted, we had a nice home, etc. I knew love, I knew goodness.
For whatever reason tho, our lives imploded as alcoholism took hold of my father and my parents unintentionally set to destroying one another. In the midst of all this, I learned, as my mother taught me, to pray. Pray for strength, pray for survival, pray for our hearts to stop breaking, pray for a better tomorrow. She taught me to trust that my prayers would be answered...perhaps not in my way, but in God's.
Through the years, life became a litany of prayer, it was always an undercurrent.
Was I some kind of pious, above it all holy roller? Absolutely not. I'm as human as they come, did my share of wallowing, made lots of mistakes, let my frailties run my life, etc. But in the midst of those mistakes and the prices I paid, I knew that there was somewhere I could turn that would never fail me. I knew there were standards to aspire to, I knew that no matter how wrong I might be, how many mistakes I made, I was loved unconditionally. I had a home, a haven from the world, a safe place to go that was there always, giving me peace and strength.
I had gone from church to church (Catholic), trying to find my niche, but hadn't found "home" in the church community. Then one day when I was between churches, I found myself in a really dark and broken place. I'd driven by a local church a number of times but it wasn't Catholic so I didn't go. Anyway, I called them that day and asked what they were all about and they told me that everyone was welcome. They were Christian at the foundation but open to all.
To make a long story short, I went the next Sunday and found home. What an amazing place...a community where people reach out to one another, know one another's names, help one another (need a roof put on your house? Get the materials and a bunch of guys will show up on Sat to help). It's an extended family in many ways and our Pastor is a dynamic speaker who provokes thought and helps us as we all seek to nurture our spirit and connect with God. The music there is amazing, we have a full band - the guitarist is a 22 year old Christian rocker...the drummer is in his 40's ex drummer of a rock band who had quite a party life in his past. Whoever thought we'd be jammin' in church? LOL, it sure works for me.
Another example of what I've found there:
My J and I joined the Christmas choir. J's got a fantastic bass voice, and tho he's a very "cool", not very spiritually committed 15 year old, he really got into it. J's been awfully hurt by his dad's neglect (it's been a year now since he saw him) and a guy friend of mine cued in the guys in the choir, so they all took him under their wing...you know...guy stuff - punching him on the arm, horsing around with him, etc. These guys went out of their way to bond with my boy because they knew he was hurting. Tho the Christmas choir is over now til next year, one of them even called and left a message on the machine for J the other day thanking him for joining the choir, and how he thought that was really awesome. J was so pleased!
So you see....that's the giving I spoke of above. These guys made a positive difference in my kid's life...and it will continue as we see them week after week. Who knows what this has done for my J...his father's neglect and cruelty could have destroyed him, but others have set about to heal him, to make a difference for a 15 year old kid.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that for me, Faith is a way of life. It's a safe place inside my heart...a place where I find hope and total acceptance. I find strength, peace and comfort there. It's also a community in which I live...a place where we try to be better people. We try to reach out to one another, we realize that we're all just humans with all our frailties, trying to find our way.
Sometimes we fall way short of the mark. We are after all, human and imperfect beings. But my faith tells me that we are loved in spite of those frailties, that we are forgiven, we are redeemed. The price of our sins has already been paid. So we humbly reach onward, we reach upward, we seek, we aspire.
Again...I can tell you I know nothing...just what I feel in my heart, what I intuitively sense to be true. It sure works for me, and I would wish this connection for everyone. I do not believe in passing the judgment of who is "right" or who is "wrong" in faith. I think there is downfall in that. I believe that any person who lives a loving, virtuous life is spiritually in alignment with God, in whatever way they perceive God to exist.
If you're interested in finding the faith that already is inherent within you, I think the first place to start is simply to begin seeking truth. I've recommended 2 books over and over...By Dr. Wayne Dyer: Wisdom of the Ages, and There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. They're wonderful thought provokers and a good place to begin to find understanding.
Hope I haven't been too long winded! :-) Just wanted to share the basics of something that has truly been a gift to me.
JoAnna Phillips, 12/26/2002