Lately I’ve been troubled by my loss of faith. It’s not that I don’t have any, I just don’t know what it is I have faith in. Is it God, nature, the cosmos, chaos, people, love? Recently I saw a bumper sticker What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about? I contemplated that. I mean, who knows. I’ve put my left foot in, my left foot out, shook it all about. Still no closer to the truth. Or am I?
So when I recently said a half-assed prayer and sent it hurling out to an unknown source somewhere in the Universe…I didn’t really expect a response. The “prayer” went something like this:
Uh….to whom it may concern….If you’re out there, I mean, if you exist…I guess it would be nice to be able to believe in something again like I once did, before life became so full of contradiction and pain and betrayal, and before I learned that the law of karma is about as accurate as an umpire at a Detroit Tigers game. I’d like to believe again…in something.
(Could I be any more vague?)
So of course what happens next is all hell breaks loose in my life, the good the bad the ugly, all at once. And I’m sitting here scratching my head going….wait…is this what I asked for? Let me clarify:
Uh, sorry to bother you again, I mean, if there even is a “you”. No offense. Well, anyway…When I asked for my faith to be strengthened, I was thinking more along the lines of… a dove of peace landing on my shoulder, or a burning bush (and believe me, be VERY specific if you ask for a burning bush – that’s all I’m saying), or maybe a golden angel could descend upon me and whisper in my ear. But what I got was a crazy lawsuit, violent neighbors with pitbulls, an exploding septic system, and a gorgeous healthy baby. Maybe I’m a little slow. Trying to make sense of all this…Testing…one, two, three…is this thing on? And if it is, could you send me a CLEAR sign?
But no dove. No golden tablets with all the instructions hammered out. Zip. Nada. Nothin’.
Man. Praying feels like when you’re calling AOL tech help, and your call is being transferred to India, and you’re on hold forever, and then you finally get an answer but it’s one you can’t understand at all, and the accent is so thick and the connection is terrible. I’m so jealous of people who seem to have that direct hotline.
But in the midst of all this lamenting and self-pity, my horrible week was capped by an incredible weekend where I was surrounded by my dearest friends, from old to new, every one of them making me believe in goodness again. I felt my spirit lifted as I witnessed my best friend Erin holding my newborn grandson, as I shared stories of the past with Dennis and Dani, as I laughed, hugged, cried, and drank wine with Amy, Maxee, Linda and met new wonderful friends… and tonight will be spent with my adopted family- the Doyles and Eisenbergs. My cup runneth over, my spirit renewed. As I sat here basking in the warm fuzzies, the epiphany hit. You know, all those bible stories -they are poetry and metaphor. Angels don’t descend from the sky, bushes don’t talk. The answers come to you in the form of friends, strangers, a little French bulldog, and even enemies. The message is there if you’re paying attention.
So okay, I’m paying attention, and I think I finally get it. Faith is not something you’re born with. It doesn’t float down and fall on your shoulder like an angel's feather. Faith is hard freekin’ work. It is a muscle that has to be pumped like crazy before it’s useful at all. And the only thing I can figure is I’ve gotten faithfully flabby, and my creator is putting me through boot camp. But thank God I’m not going it alone.
As I was writing this, my daughter in law came in and placed the baby in my arms. He stared up at me, looking deep into my eyes, focused, unblinking. His gaze was so deep it was almost unsettling. And then, out of the blue, at only twelve days old, he smiled at me.
He smiled at me!
Now that’s what I call a clear sign.