Saturday, January 9, 2016

For Mami, On The Occasion of Her 70th+1 Birthday

Because no one has taught me more about this than you.

How do you know you have faith? In anything? You can say you do. You can say you don't. But the truth is you have no way of proving it to yourself or anyone else, unless it's tested. And even then, having faith isn't something you can show to anyone anyway. You either have it or you don't and it either helps you or it doesn't. You only know it for sure yourself. More, your faith only serves others in your outward demonstration of its tenets, not in the truth of it. That belongs to you and your Creator.

So insisting someone have faith is rather wasted toil. You'll never know if you succeeded, and the object of your effort will never be able to satisfy you in truth, because only he will know if he is alive in faith.

I've come to terms with this idea as I have had my faith tested a few times over the past six months. All is well and, in part, that is what has me centered on this concept.

I have always considered myself a person strong in faith, but willing to and engaged in doubt. I don't trouble myself at all that I have questions or find some faith practices flimsy in their connection to the God I hold close. I happen to like bacon, I think my Muslim friends are moral and deserving of afterlife (if such exists), and many of my gay friends are more honorable in their marriages than their hetero counterparts. I deny them nothing. If I'm right, so be it and if I'm wrong, so be that too. If I were believing only to avoid damnation for my doubt, what truth would there be in that?

So I've come to terms, too, with the idea that my faith may not be wearing the garments some might right with approval. I'm not looking for approval. The truth, whether mine or theirs, will be whatever it is without account of our faulty measures.

Still, I surprised myself in each of these last few tests by the power of my connection, my absolute willingness and submission into the hands of the unknown. I found myself bemused, really, over the weakness of my doubts in the face of this overriding strength. Not what I would have forecast were it left to me to say.

I am glad for it, relieved and glad. I am not washed of doubt, but I have faith and that is enough. And although my faith may not cure every instance of injury or injustice, I lead with it nonetheless. I am compelled by it, in fact, even when I am certain of my futility.

In this way I am reminded of a question I asked a young girl once who told me she thought it was unimportant to vote. Her voice did not matter, she told me. I asked her, "If you were at a crowded intersection in New York, bustling with people, lights, and noise and you saw a young mother across the street, pushing a stroller into traffic, and you knew if she kept going her baby would get hit, and you knew it was impossible for her to see or hear you amidst the chaos of the intersection, would you scream and wave your hands from across the way, or would you stand mute and let her get hit?" "I'd scream, of course," she said. "Yes," I told her. "Go vote."

That is faith. In spite of it all, against all reason, and sure that you may not be able to make good, you are good, and you do believe that you can do good. You can and you can and you do believe, even in doubt. Your faith is what makes you strong and sure and keeps you even in your darkest moments. It is comprised of you, gifted to you, entirely for you. And it is there, even when you (and others) have no idea you have it. That is faith.

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