Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Flickering Faith

I am honored today to offer you a post from Lindsey at A Design so Vast.

Lindsey is not only one of my favorite bloggers, she is also one of my favorite writers. I found Lindsey's blog last summer and was immediately drawn in by her honesty, her insight, and her beautiful writing. With bravery and clarity, Lindsey asks questions of herself that inspire me to reflect on my relationship with my self and my spirit and make me feel a sense of gratitude that I am not alone in living a life of wondering. As I said to Lindsey in my first e-mail to her, the sense of not-aloneness I gain from her writing has been powerful and empowering to me.

After we commenced our virtual relationship, Lindsey and I learned of a powerful "real world" connection that only enhances the tremendous respect and affection I feel for her and her words.

Last Tuesday I guest posted at A Design so Vast and shared some of my own reflections on faith and safety. Many of my thoughts were inspired by Lindsey's remarkable post, "Safe." I am profoundly grateful to Lindsey for sharing with us more of her ideas on the question of faith.

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… embracing a view of the world that welcomes people who dare and refuses to punish those who are willing to be confused and disoriented in pursuit of something tender, something honest, something true.
I love that passage, and in fact Jen Lemen’s whole post about faith.

I think about this a lot, aching with how much I want to trust, how much I want to have faith. In my deepest heart I do believe there is some order, some design so vast, I really do. But how abstract that seems, in the moments when all seems dark and confusing.

I wonder if my affection for patterns is part of this deep longing for faith: by seeing reassuring, repetitive order in the world I can trust that it is also there beneath the surface. That underneath what may look like chaos there is some scaffolding that makes sense. This likely underlies my affinity for symmetry, for the way the New York skyscrapers look reaching into the sky. Also, my teeth-clicking counting off of things by 8s: cars in a parking lot, bottles of nail polish at the manicurist, window panes across a waiting room. All of these things can be categorized and understood, and I am comforted by what that implies about the greater world.

But at the same time, my favorite images are those of the sky and of clouds. And these have, almost by definition, no symmetry. There, the design is truly so vast as to be not at all obvious to the naked eye. Somehow, the beauty of the sky is in its very randomness and it is this utter lack of pattern that summons my weak faith. Looking at the blue sky streaked irregularly with clouds, I feel as though I can believe.

I suppose it is obvious, then, that it is when the pattern is inscrutable that we must call on faith. When things look messy and confusing, our only option is to trust. In fact, if I could let go of my desperate desire to wrestle the world into an understandable and predictable set of equations and probabilities, I would likely be a lot happier. Of course the reason I cannot let go easily is precisely because my faith is so weak. It is in that space, that free fall between order and disorder that faith catches us. And I’ve never liked the feeling of falling.

Of course, the disorder in the wide world is nothing compared to the disarray inside us. There is no counting off in groups of 8 my feelings, no way to categorize and subdue the instincts and fears that roar in my head. It is here that I need faith most of all: belief that the determined pursuit of emotional truth will take me where I need to go, conviction that getting lost is the only way to be found, trust that I am still safe even when hopelessly lost and buffeted by reactions so powerful they scare me. The sad realization that sometimes even my very best effort is far from good enough lurks around the corners of my consciousness, but I see no option but to continue to try to both understand and manage my reactions.

So I will hope that my flickering faith will strengthen and not go out. I will renew my efforts to let go and believe. I will try to not be afraid of my feelings, to parse the difference between where I can manage my reactions better and where I must just experience them in order to understand. I will welcome the swell of comfort and well-being that sometimes crashes over me like a wave, whether it’s looking at a glorious sky, speaking in unison with other people in church or yoga class, or running my hand through my sleeping son’s hair. I will be grateful for the faith that I do have.

16 comments:

  1. The abiding search for patterns in self and world, the quest for order buried within life's cluttered chaos... These are things to which each and every one of us can relate. But, Lindsey, you also do an enviable job of painting these universal themes in the context of a personal portrait. Inspiring, thoughtful, piece. Thank you for bringing us Lindsey's humble and wise words today, Kristen.

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  2. "I see no option but to continue to try to both understand and manage my reactions."

    Lindsey, once again you put my thoughts too into such beautiful words. Each day we have to keep trying to find those little things that give us faith. Blogging about those things seems to help me. It forces me to look for those things every day and see just how many there are.

    Thanks for helping me be grateful too.

    Thanks Kristen as well!

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  3. That deserves an amen. I am grateful for the faith that I have at this moment, the peaceful knowledge that I am not walking alone, and imperfect as I am on this day, I am doing my best, and that is all that God needs from me - my honest best. Thank you for your reflection.

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  4. I'm just starting to explore and find my blogging self, getting braver about what I write, what parts of myself I will share with others and understanding what I want my blog to be. I feel very inspired by your thoughts.

    Recently I blogged about the "the swell of comfort and well-being that sometimes crashes over me like a wave." I was not near as eloquent in describing it, but I recognize it, reach for it and hope to find a way to achieve it more often.

    Thanks for such a lovely, thought-provoking post. I'm eager to visit your blog and thank Kristen for sharing her joy for your writing with us.

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  5. You count things off by 8's? Interesting! I know that's a totally random thing to pluck out of this terrific post, but for some reason, that's what my little brain latched onto this morning.

    Maybe your fascination with the sky isn't so odd; maybe you know, deep down, that you could fly if you really set your mind to it. Or not. Maybe if you just jumped.

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  6. Gorgeous post. I've so enjoyed Kristen and your thoughts on faith!

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  7. "It is here that I need faith most of all: belief that the determined pursuit of emotional truth will take me where I need to go, conviction that getting lost is the only way to be found, trust that I am still safe even when hopelessly lost and buffeted by reactions so powerful they scare me."

    Thanks for this. This sentiment is pretty much my guiding light right now. Sometimes the light is strong and I can see. Other times, I wonder if it is even on. When fear takes over I can't see and fear can be pretty powerful/

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  8. Ah, faith. Combined so closely with optimism, yes? Faith in order, faith in happiness, faith in peace. A search for something greater than the little bits of life that can drag us down so deep. Powerful as always, Lindsey.

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  9. Lindsey, what a beautiful and revealing post. You articulate many thoughts and emotions I have. I especially like this: "to parse the difference between where I can manage my reactions better and where I must just experience them in order to understand." With my depression, I work to control my emotional reactions of anger and doubt. But sometimes there is value in letting things run their course.
    Kristen, thank you for introducing us to another excellent blogger!

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  10. Clouds will often spark my own faith as well. Something about the sky, its openness, its grandeur that inspires and provokes meaningful introspection.

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  11. This writing contains too many gorgeous passages to cite. What a breathtaking piece of self you've given us, Lindsey.

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  12. I already know and love Lindsey and her profound ability to put words to the beauty, both light and dark, of life. Now, I know of another blogger, Kristen, whose work I look forward to following. Thank you both for sharing your most intimate selves with us, your most fortunate readership.

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  13. Maybe 8 is part of the quest for unity, given that 7 has been an archetype of earthly completion (7th day, seven chakras, seventh heaven) perhaps eight is that great leap into the void—and the wish to bring back a thread the ephemeral spirit into our lived, incarnate existence... something you do here, and in all your posts in your blog, Lindsey.

    I think the divine is to be found in the simultaneous holding of opposites: faith burning strong and also blown out, taken together it flickers... like the frames of our great collective dreams (from movies to laptops screens pulsing in the myriad kitchens and bedrrooms of our disparate and yet interconnected lives).

    Perhaps the great unity, the great faith, is to be found in the vast interrelationship that we all already share; the big change afoot is the dawning back into consciousness of this, the taste of paradise from which we once emerged, paying the price of oneness with nature in return for our grandiose fantasy of dominion over the vast design.

    The relationship between Kristen and Lindsey, sharing ideas, space and inviting others into this relationship is itself a faith-restoring, faith-nourishing essence.

    Namaste

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  14. Lindsey: I wonder if the design so vast, the pattern you seek, is in the beautiful, beating rhythm of your very questions; those musings and wonderings you pose with constancy, consistency, courage, and vulnerable truth. Faith, if real and worth anything, is vast enough to encompass our every doubt and somehow, miraculously even, provide some semblance of structure and substance. At least for me, that's what I have the privilege of experiencing in all that you ask, all that you ponder, all that you hope. In fact, my faith is enhanced and strengthened consistently (another pattern) through your questions very questions.

    And in Scripture - potentially in other sacred texts, as well - seven is THE number. So for you, what I love is that you reflect on that number...plus one - over and over again. Your faith takes what you see, what you know, and even what you question, and then adds more - consistently.

    The flickering is a not an ember, but a blazing flame.

    Thanks, Kristen, for letting Lindsey burn bright here. Beautiful.

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  15. Such a beautiful post, Lindsey. And I believe you've got it right there, in the sentence, "It is in that space, that free fall between order and disorder that faith catches us." To me that's the dwelling space of all faith, the space you have to inhabit comfortably in order to have faith, the space where you have to be comfortable with less than complete answers. I love that.

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  16. The idea that "underneath what may look like chaos there is some scaffolding that makes sense."

    Your thoughts here strike a chord with me, the faltering faith, the fear of falling, and the learning in the fall, that there is ground somewhere below.

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