Between Two Worlds Day 5 (Sundays are a Sabbath Day)
But I am left with the question, “What can I have faith in?”
That was the final post from Patty who admitted that she “didn’t believe in God exactly.” She had heard a clear voice that led her to pick up her life and belongings and move from Denver to the small village of Yachats on the Oregon coast. But despite the clarity of that voice and the rightness of her decision the warnings of a potential tsunami and earthquake unnerved her. “What could she have faith in if the world was going to fall apart anyway,” seemed to be her question.
I found myself pondering her question.
Over the years I have had dozens of church-going Christians confide in me that they can’t imagine how people who don’t have God deal with life. I find myself placed in a sort of awkward corner when I hear those comments. I know that they are expecting me to confirm their perception. And I do–but not because I don’t believe that those who “don’t have God in their lives” can’t find a way to cope. I confirm their view because, despite their statements about other people, I think they are really saying, “I don’t know what I would do without God in my life.” Their comments are more self-revealing than really about other people.
I say this because over the years in working with people I have discovered a pattern. It’s not the object of our belief that seems to make the difference. When I was a counselor for hospice families I found that those who said they believed in God faced their deaths in pretty much the same way as those who didn’t believe in God. A certain percentage were able to find a graceful movement through the final stages of life and death. And a certain percentage (despite their Christian belief) fought their deaths with fear and trembling.
But there was a thread that seemed to tie those who lived their final weeks with grace together–it was an ability to trust. Sometimes this trust was in the arms of a loving God who they expected to meet upon their death. But not always. I had many patients who had no theistic belief but held this deep innate sense that their life was part of some greater purpose. I had other patients who simply felt that the life they had been given was a gift sort of like a box of chocolates–when it was gone it was gone!
I like what Mary wrote in her comment yesterday, ‘Very simply I can say that within this Mystery, within this Trust, within this Grace, I am “OK”‘. I like her capital “T” in Trust. My experience is that it is not so much the object of our trust as it is our ability to trust that allows us to begin to feel OK and to walk with confidence and grace despite the uncertainties of the future.
This has been a life-long struggle for me since I am not naturally the most trusting person. But these days I find that I am relying on the lessons and the rhythms of the seasons to teach me. I find myself quoting Ecclesiastes 3 more often, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” As I have aged I am appreciating the beauty of an old tree whose limbs are starting to crack, whose leaves are a little sparser every year, and whose bark is rough and leathery. I used to look at age as something to avoid. Now I look at it with soft eyes as if I am looking into the window of heaven. I remember my daughter saying during the dying of her grandmother that “it was the saddest and most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” Having sat at the bedside of many people as they have died I know what my daughter is talking about. There is a beauty even in times of great loss, grief and even pain.
Patty asks the question, “What can I have faith in?” I wished I had an answer, but all I really have is my experience. I can only say that I feel that someone invited me to this sacred journey. I know some days will bring grief, other days joy. But I am learning to be grateful for the days I am given and always grateful to the Mysterious One who offered the invitation. I don’t know just who is behind that curtain, but I trust in Her and am willing to bet my life that Her intentions are good and lovely.