Monday, 31 December 2012

You've gotta have faith...

It's been that time of the year when I find myself reflecting on Christmas and what it all means. I wrote something some time ago sort of connected with this and I like to read it once a year to see if anything's changed. Enjoy...

You've gotta have faith...Or so the popular lines of a song would have us believe. But do you have to have faith? And what is faith? As I grow older I find myself reflecting on faith and what it means to other people. The dictionary defines faith as a strong or unshakeable belief in something esp. without proof. 

I don’t have faith. My parents and the Loved One’s mother have faith. It's a wonderful faith that compels them to worship every Sunday, not permitting them to linger over breakfast or to dig in their heels. Faith that moves them to say I’ll pray for you when one or other family member is in strife. Meanwhile, I chew my cuticles and wonder what I can do to help, envious of what appears to be perfect and humble knowledge that prayer is the answer.
I try to lead the kind of life people with faith define as being Christian. I help elderly people in supermarkets, I bundle up my family’s worn-out clothing and put it in the brotherhood bin, but neither of these gives me any sense of faith. Nor is it out of any sense of faith that I encourage our children to give thanks for the food on our table. Quite simply, I was brought up in Africa. I don’t pray if my family is in turmoil. I might have a few quiet tears. I might mutter Oh help! Or, Somebody, please help me. There is never a response to this of course, but putting the words out there seems to calm me. 

I admire people with faith, people who are sustained by a strength and well-being gained from somewhere in the face of negativity and wrong-doing, people who have forgiveness in their hearts. I wish I had that. Various people – complete strangers arriving uninvited on my doorstep – will tell me that I will find faith if I pray to the Lord and go to church. I don’t tell them that as a child and teenager I was forced to church with my siblings, with the result that I now very seldom enter a church and if I do it’s not for religious reasons. I don’t believe I am likely to find what they understand by faith, and, if by some miracle – I don’t use the word loosely  - I do, I am certain it won’t be in the places they suggest I look for it.

On Saturday, close to sunset, I walked our blue-heeler on the nearby golf course. A storm had recently passed through and the sky remained heavy with bruised and threatening clouds. The vast expanse of shorn wet grass was a dark luminous green in the queer half-light. Pale ethereal trunks of solitary gum trees loomed from the sidelines. Ahead of me in the distance occasional jagged remnants of lightning flared. What I experienced then – tightness in my chest, tears behind my eyes – cannot by the dictionary’s definition be faith. Some might say I was simply moved by a sudden and overwhelming love of nature; others will prefer to analyse differently. They may both be right. What’s important is that it seems to be enough to sustain me.

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