This week, several things have been rolling around in my mind. I’m not sure if they are connected or not, but my gut says that they are. I’ve been thinking about faith lately. My views of what faith is has changed over the past years, what it can be and how it is lived. The other thing I’ve been forced to think about triggered by some recent events is those early moments when cancer came knocking on the door of my home.
I found a quote this week on one of the sites I look at weekly;
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Saint Augustine
I was drawn to it because I know that life is a ton of hard work. I was drawn to it because I do believe in a higher power. I was drawn to it because of my past life as a minister. I was drawn to it because I want to be a person who serves the greater good. I want to be present to those around me through good times and challenging times…and that can be a lot of work.
If you do a bit of research on this quote from St. Augustine, you’ll find info on Christian hypocrisy. The quote can imply complete submission, reliance on God, but in the same breath demands that I do all the work as if God isn’t really there. St. Ignatius of Loyola reversed the quote;
“Pray as if everything depended upon you; and act as if everything depended upon God.” St. Ignatius of Loyola
Both look like statements of unshakable faith. I used to think I had unshakable faith. Then my husband was diagnosed with a cancer that would kill him and did kill him…quickly, violently, without any empathy. I begged God to be with him, heal him, save us…I was left alone, abandoned…
I’m a big girl and I realize an answer to a prayer won’t always look the way I hope it will. I am big girl and I realize that I need to work hard to live a faithful life. As a big girl my idea of how I live that faithful life is constantly evolving. I used to look for community to support my faith. It was a wonderful part of my faith journey. I felt supported by those around me. My husband died…all my relationships changed. The faith community that supported me didn’t know what to do with me anymore. My faith changed. I had a new understanding of lack of control. I had a new understanding of suffering. I had a new understanding of “praying as though everything depended on God.”
So this week, my wounded faith found another reason to “work as though everything depended on me.” A friend’s wife was diagnosed with a very grim looking cancer. Where is my loving God in this? Another family drenched with the pain and heartache cancer causes. As my heart ached for them, I was ripped back to those early moments when cancer entered my home, my heart, and tore my life apart. I haven’t thought about those early moments in a while. The moment Dave called me from the hospital and put the doctor on the phone to tell me the news, the moment when I went to pick him up at the hospital and bring him home, moment that it sunk in that my life would never be what it was the day before that, the moment we told our 6 year old son that daddy was sick and he was going to do everything he could to beat the sickness. All those moments filled with feeling like I was thrust into an unbearable limbo.
Faith and grief are strange bedfellows. Some people come out on the side that there is a plan…I really hate that saying, so I guess I’m not one of those people. I came out on the side that God’s plan for me may have heartbreak, but it’s not God’s plan that I suffer…that’s just life.
I believe in a loving God that wants me to feel loved, secure, and to love this God, through loving others. I believe in a God that wants me to serve through serving others. Do I believe I deserve special treatment because I do these things? Nope. Am I spared heartache because I am loving and kind? Nope. No perfect answer. No perfect plan…just the present moment.
The only thing I really can know for sure is that my faith, like anything else, is evolving in me. How I practice, pray, and live that faith is as evolving as I am. So, now as a wounded soul, I may not have as clear a picture of faith as I had, but living with ambiguity isn’t such a bad thing…I’ve lived with worse.
Where I put my faith and how I practice my faith changes daily. Some days it’s easy to believe in the good, the kingdom, the beautiful, and be in awe of God. Some days, not so much…
What I am sure of is every day it is my choice to fill my heart with gratitude, forgiveness, kindness and love no matter what the world hands me. Each day I am able to practice these things is another day in a faithful life…I hope. Each day I fall short is another chance to forgive myself and treat myself with the same love I would anyone else. Does it look like the faith I thought was strong and durable? Not really. It does look like something I can do. It looks like a faith in process. It looks like me. Today, that will do.