Thursday, June 4, 2009
Talking About Faith 3
A friend commented that he was interested in my own experience of faith and wondered whether I am writing to express my own experience in these last two posts. I'd have to say that even though I grew up in a family practicing Catholicism, was baptised as a baby, received Communion, went to a Catholic grade school and all that, I feel a deep affinity with people who live from a less formally religious, more intuitive sense of faith. It is hard to explain, but there is something about the rawness and authenticity of such expressions of faith that resonates with me.
A friend once told me about his experiences in Vietnam, for instance. He said that while he grew up Catholic, he never took God seriously until he found himself crying out in desperation at a particularly dark point, "Are you there?" "Please, help me." He shared this with me as if to suggest that in foxholes, people who previously have never given God a second thought suddenly pray as if their lives depend on it. This may be true, but I would never judge a person for reaching out beyond themselves in a moment of absolute crisis. In fact, the word "precarious" means something along the lines of being brought to such a limit/edge that they begin to pray. It is natural that when we are functioning fine under our own steam, that we might neglect to take God into account. But when we are brought to our knees and our poor egos have nowhere else to turn, that we lose our illusion of self-sufficiency and discover our contingency on something/someone greater.
I know, all this is pretty heavy and you might be looking for pictures of cute koalas and kangaroos, but for some reason I feel compelled to be sharing these things these days. I know many people who are living at their limits these days, and feeling the vulnerability of their own fragile lives, or of the fragile lives of loved ones. And I want them to know that it is just fine to be turning to God in these times, if even for the first time in their lives. And that there is a sustaining power in patience and holding steady, in reaching out for help, in letting the tears flow with trust and confidence that LIFE flows on.
On a hopefully uplifting note, a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Mary Oliver, Thirst