For many of us, this is a time for courage. And not just the courage that leads us to take action while afraid. Yes, that courage is needed. And we also need a few fistfuls of the courage of vulnerability. We need many bucketsful of the courage to engage in direct dialog, using effective communication. We need a semi-truckload of the courage to make mistakes. And we need a Grand Canyon full of the courage to own those errors, apologize, and make amends where needed.
More than all these types of courage, though, I think we need the courage of our convictions. We need to courageously hold onto the tenets of our faith, our spiritual frameworks, our belief in love as the higher power, in sanity and logic. Are you a devout Catholic, devoted Muslim, or Orthodox Jew? Or an atheist whose guidestar is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”? Or are you somewhere along the vast continuum between those two extremes?
Regardless of your type, style, or “amount” of faith, integrity to your beliefs requires Faith, the Childhood Treasure. Let me say that again. No matter what your religious or faith background, or lack of it, integrity to your beliefs requires Faith. The Childhood Treasure of Faith offers us the courage of integrity...if we have done the work to mine, cut, and polish this magnificent gemstone.
If you follow my work, you may already know that, as a Childhood Treasure, Faith does include belief in God, but is a wider belief; which I define as “belief in the impossible.” Faith is belief in something beyond what you can see, understand, or prove. Faith reaches for a purpose to our time on earth, beyond working, earning, and buying more stuff. At its essence, Faith might be said to simply BE pure, unadulterated belief – whatever that is for you: belief in yourself, or science, or True Love.
Faith is the Treasure mined by three-year-old children, who are full of wonder and awe at the many "magical" aspects of the world...you know, like a beetle with green wings. It's easy to have the courage of your faith convictions when you're three, because almost everything that happens to you is a miracle and you never doubt a single one of them.
But what if, when you were three, you didn’t receive the support you needed to mine your Treasure of Faith? That’s a pretty safe assumption because most of us didn’t get that support. Just because you were raised rigorously in your family’s religion doesn’t mean you mined the Treasure of Faith. A religion can be learned as a set of practices, and yet embody little or no real belief, or faith.
Let me show you how mining your Faith can strengthen the courage of your convictions right now, no matter what those convictions may be. By way of example, one of the tenets of my spiritual community is: “we believe in the individualization of the Spirit in us, and that all people are individualizations of the One Spirit.” Our shorthand for this in my community is, “Everywhere I look, I see the face of God.” That aspect of my belief system is easy to maintain in my spiritual community. I look into like-minded, familiar faces, and I easily see that they, like me, are God’s manifestations in human form.
But what about when I see a so-called skinhead spewing racist hate at a Black man? Is this neo-Nazi the face of God? What about when I look into the eyes of a man who declares that women can be treated without regard for their sovereignty as humans, without respect for their dignity? Is he the face of God? I see a woman, face twisted with scorn, telling another woman in a headscarf to “go home, towel-head, because we don’t want you here,” as the attacked woman sits peacefully across the aisle on the bus, minding her own business. Is this scornful woman the face of God?
The answer, sometimes so challenging for me to acknowledge, is Yes. Yes, they are each the face of God, too. When I feel my belief in this tenet of individualized divinity waver in these circumstances, I need to polish up the Treasure of Faith to hold me steady. Remember, the key feature of this Treasure is that it is a belief in the impossible. So, when I find it impossible to see someone as the face of God, Faith is just the thing for that.
To exercise my Faith muscles, I ask myself: what else do I accept on Faith that appears to be impossible? What do you?
When I drive my car, I accept on Faith that, mostly, everybody else will do what they’re required to by law and in accordance with traffic control mechanisms. This imagined reality is surely not possible. In fact, I have direct evidence that it is not possible, as I have been involved in accidents where somebody violated a rule of the road or disregarded traffic controls.
When I drive under a highway overpass, I accept on Faith that it is soundly built and this precise moment is NOT when it is going to suddenly collapse. Yet, highways do collapse and have done so, even in the absence of an earthquake, crushing cars and drivers.
When I board an airplane, I accept on Faith that it is well maintained, piloted competently and soberly, and not ferrying a terrorist or bomb. Yet, planes malfunction, pilots are sometimes impaired, and terrorists have turned planes into weapons.
Essentially, I believe in the impossible every time I boot up my car, drive under an overpass, or board a plane...and these are just three examples among thousands. How do I know that I accept these things on Faith? Because I don’t worry about them. I don’t think about being in an accident every time I drive, or that every overpass is about to fall, or that my flights are on decrepit planes, piloted by drunks, and hold bombs in the checked luggage. I rarely—really never, except for the sake of this exercise—think of such things.
This is the easy way to see Faith in your life, so I invite you to exercise your Faith muscles with me. Make a list of the things you “take for granted.” Certainly, you can be sure the baby will not grow a mustache. But go beyond that level of obvious. What aspects of life’s daily macro or micro-events do you expect—really, accept without thought—will go without a hitch? The availability of heat for your home, food on your table, a personal car to take you where you want to go whenever you wish to go there, that the traffic lights are working correctly, or that the parking structure will not fall on your car while you work? Ask yourself this: Of what am I so sure that I never (or rarely) even think of it? And do those things sometimes fail to function correctly? Yes. But you have Faith anyway!
If you believe in all these impossible things every day, then why not believe that a man who makes woman-hating remarks is the face of God? If my small, ego-bound, human mind cannot, right now, achieve this understanding through logic, then I can certainly take it on Faith. I can act as if it is true that this person is a manifestation of the Divine...and then take a second look at it with my logical little ego.
I start from the assumption that it is simply true that such individuals are the face of God. I don’t know how it is true—in fact, I sometimes don’t know how it could possibly be true—but I accept it as true. If I need to explain it to myself, I give my ego the job of figuring out why I am uncomfortable with this person’s behavior vis a vis my tenet of individualized spirit. That should keep her busy for a while (and it does).
Meanwhile, I’m going to keep reminding myself how many thousands upon thousands of impossible things I believe in every day. It’s like a daily polishing of the Childhood Treasure of Faith...and a daily refresh of my faith.