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What Do You Think of When You Hear The Word “Faith?”

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Evidently, faith is a loaded word. At least in my world it is and amongst the people I tend to bump up against. But I may be a bit different than you because I love to surround myself with all kinds of people from a variety and diversity of cultures and beliefs. Still, you’d think living in the good ole U.S. of A. in, what is assumed to be, a homogenized culture that most of us would think, feel, believe pretty much the same way about faith. 

But really we don’t. Not on the surface at least. You have to dig down deeper to find out where people are really sitting with their idea of faith.  Some would rather not think about it and others have a whole set of baggage that they’ve been carting around with them since childhood containing other people’s viewpoints and ideas of what faith is based on their religion or brand of spirituality. In some cases, faith was honed into a fine long weapon that could be used to beat upon your head and around your shoulders—who would want that in their lives?

It’s hard to imagine how those five little letters that make up the word could have pummeled me into the dark corners of despair or whisked me up to heights of unbelievable joy, but it did. Being a naturally hard headed person, I had to wrestle with this one all over the place in my life before I surrendered into the idea of exploring what it meant in various faith traditions and trying some on to see what fit me best. One of my good friends told me that I had the most variant cosmology of beliefs of anyone she had ever known, which I take as a compliment because it works for me.

A client shared his own faith struggle during a session recently. He was pretty much beating himself up black and blue when he realized that he wasn’t enlisting the help of a higher power of his understanding and instead exhausting himself all over the place trying to make things happen with his business both in his control and out of his hands. Turns out, he had grown up in a pretty restrictive religion and as he got older explored other paths that fit better with who he was becoming so that when the proverbial cow pucky hit the fan, he didn’t know where the phone was to dial home for help. I’m grateful that I had the experience in my own life of having gone to a boarding school for three years that celebrated the same faith that he grew up in because I could empathize with his confusion. 

In this client’s case it’s really about him learning how to embrace all of the pieces of his belief so that he can assemble them into a cornucopia of help that he can use in the present. In his situation, there were some very good parts to the religion he grew up in so it’s important for him to acknowledge those good parts. He may have felt like he was in a faith crisis, but actually from where I was sitting it was a blessing. He was remembering to look at the situation and accept what was, ask for help from that unknowable higher power that he is learning about now and let go of what is not in his power. He actually has a very strong faith and felt frustrated that he had not acknowledged the Divine’s help more. 

What a beautiful thing?! How many of us think to acknowledge those little blessings and blossoms of magic that happen along the way in our lives? I figure that if I can have faith that the light is going to turn on every time I hit the switch that I can fathom that there just might be something bigger than myself in this beautiful mystery we call life.

What does faith mean to you?

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