My adoptive mother had 10 siblings, including a sister that even mom referred to as the ‘black sheep’. Ironically her name was Faith and my memory of her is that of a thin, lily-white laughing woman in short shorts and high heels, high ball in one hand and lit cigarette in the other. She was an endless fountain of high-pitched hyperbole, to say nothing of her nocturnal activities. She spent the last years of her life pushing around an oxygen tank and to this day I can’t hear the word ‘faith’ without thinking of her.
I’ve had some lessons in faith these past several years. At the time of my sister’s car accident and then again when my mom went head-on with a tree, I was flung into a veritable panic. Whatever happened to each of them from that time forward was in my hands. I recall distinctly in each case pacing around the house for days, wringing my hands, unloading my anxiety on anyone who would listen, feeling completely overwhelmed at the raft of decisions facing me, not sleeping or eating much.
The amazing lesson from those years is that serendipity happened. People exhibited good will, obstacles were overcome and issues gradually resolved. Bodies healed to the extent they are going to and acceptance began to take root. After the due diligence you have to let go. Life provides the whetting stones against which we sharpen our awareness of the paradox that one’s will, as the poet David Whyte says, can only take you so far and cannot be the primary driving force in a life well lived. A few pushes must occur: get out of bed, get into the shower, repair the broken doggie door. But surrender, the huge act of faith, allows flow to come back in and dance us through life.
When a new obstacle presents itself there is always anxiety. I don’t know if my early childhood experiences predestines me for more of it than the average person. But I do know that the abject panic has lessened. The boulders are now more appropriately rocks – not pebbles yet but certainly deployable. As Gandhi said, “Faith is not something to grasp; it is a state to grow into.” I’m feeling ya Mohandas.