“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?
Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to people and relations appearances can be deceiving, words can be used to trick and to hide as much to expose, feelings can’t always be trusted, and that the “truth” in any given situation usually depends on who you ask. In short, there is seldom an absolute truth to any interaction between human beings, and even the truth that can be reliably nailed down in some way is likely to be interpreted differently by each participant and each viewer.
For many years, this made me hesitant to trust my own perceptions of situations I found myself in. I distrusted my feelings, questioned my motives, doubted my observations. Most of all, I ignored my intuition. At the slightest hint of contradiction to my own opinions, I accepted the “truth” of those around me above my own knowing.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gone through several periods of so much change in my self-identity that I feel like I don’t even recognize myself anymore. It’s as if there’s a stranger staring back at me in the mirror, and that’s a really disconcerting feeling.
Just recently I have been going through another one of these growth spurts, but this time around has been very different from what I’ve experienced before. Rather than feeling tossed about by the winds of constant change, this has felt more like an unfurling of new shoots of life coming forth from the core of who I am. Instead of being disconcerting and disorienting, this feels more like an ongoing celebration!
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (NRSV)
The word faith tends to be used in a number of different ways as is evident from the number of definitions for this word that appear in the dictionary. I tend to think of it in religious terms because that is most often where I hear it used, but it’s more than just religious belief. Even the verse quoted above does not limit faith to only religious topics.
“The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity.” – Abe Tannenbaum
I don’t like ambiguity. In fact, that’s quite an understatement. I really can’t stand ambiguity. I’m slowly learning to live with it a bit better just because it’s an inevitable part of life, but I still don’t like it one bit.
I don’t like surprises. I like to know plans ahead of time, and I want those plans as detailed as possible. I like to know what to expect—from people, from situations, from things, from the weather (yeah, I get disappointed a lot on that one). I want to know exactly what I am getting myself into before I commit to anything.
When I was younger, I loved knowing secrets. It made me feel special; I was “in the know.” I must be important, if I knew something that other people didn’t know, right?
The older I get and the more secrets I’ve had to live with, the less fond of them I become. Oh, I still notice that little thrill of self-importance that comes with first hearing some secret, but I’ve discovered over the years that secrets are a heavy burden to carry around. At minimum, they place me in situations where I’m always watching what I say to make sure I don’t give anything away. But they also all to often create the need to lie to (or at least mislead) people in order to preserve the secret. Secrets, particularly other people’s secrets, don’t work well with a life of integrity.
Then there’s the whole pressure that comes from having shared one of my secrets with someone else. Will they tell anyone else? Was I wrong to trust them with my secret? Am I still safe? What will I do if they tell? It’s stressful!
As I continue to struggle with this decision that I’m trying to make, I have become aware that my need for clarity in the situation and clear direction about the right path to take is less about my own internal need for certainty and more about needing to able to clearly defend my choice to others.
I’ve been giving myself such a hard time for needing so much certainty before I decide, but I suspect that’s not the real issue at all. The real issue is letting go of what other people may think of my decision.
“There’s a reason that you can learn from everything: you have basic wisdom, basic intelligence, and basic goodness. Therefore, if the environment is supportive and encourages you to be brave and to open your heart and mind, you’ll find yourself opening to the wisdom and compassion that’s inherently there. It’s like tapping into your source, tapping into what you already have. It’s the willingness to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind, to allow situations in your life to become your teacher.” ~Pema Chodron
“Go jump off a cliff. Don’t go near the cliff and contemplate jumping off. Don’t read a book about jumping off. Don’t study the art and science of jumping off. Don’t join a support group for jumping off. Don’t write poems about jumping off. Don’t kiss the ass of someone else who jumped off. Just jump.” ~Jed McKenna
I took jump off an enormous cliff about six months ago now when I quit my full-time job. I’ve been remarkably blessed with the way that has turned out. I jumped, and a net appeared in the form of the part-time position I currently have, which is better than anything I could have dreamed up for my present situation. It’s taught me a lot about trusting the universe.
Now I find myself ready to jump off a cliff again, and I feel like I’m back to square one. When I jumped off a few months ago, I was jumping away from something into the unknown. Now I’m jumping toward something (the beginnings of self-employment), and even though it is still in many ways jumping into the unknown, it feels completely different.