There have been times in which my own writing has taken me to places of surprise, insight, and even tears. Some alchemy occurs, my brain works for instead of against, me, and I have the unexpected ability to express something that changes and transforms me. When that happens, it is the Sacred – with a capital S.
But it happens so rarely! Which causes my faith to wane. In myself, my capacity, my ability, to be sure; even more, in the Sacred – with a capital S.
It seems to me that the Sacred – with a capital S – would want to be experienced, want to show up, want to amaze and awe and impact. And so, when days and weeks and months and seasons slip by without noticeable Presence – with a capital P – it never occurs to me to wonder about those upper case realities. I figure it must be me.
I do not have enough faith. I am at fault. I am to blame. Yep. That’s it. So I get to work. I write more. I critique myself more. I think more – and nothing surfacy, thank you very much – only thoughts that are deep, profound, and significant. I sweat drops of blood – or at least try.
Still, to no avail. And the accompanying belief (which is really a lie) is this: Yet again, I am not enough, do not want it enough, do not believe enough. Because, really: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I remember countless nights as a teenager, lying in bed, eyes red-rimmed from tears, thinking about that verse. A mustard seed?!? That’s nothing! I would close my eyes and picture that tiny seed – the one that rattled within the charm hanging from the silver bracelet my grandmother gave me (alongside the State of Washington, the Empire State Building, a grand piano, and countless other then-meaningful symbols). I’d pour all my faith into it – every positive thought, learned belief, and endless hope – in order to move the mountain du jour: clear skin, a boyfriend, a date to the dance, being pretty, being noticed, mattering.
Truth-be-told, these nights hardly ceased with my teens. There have been more nights as an adult in which I’ve done the same – just new mountains to move: a man, infertility’s end, a miracle in my marriage, a relationship’s healing, money, and yes, my writing. Nothing moves. Nothing changes. Nada. And I am left with the defeating awareness that my faith remains (or does it?) smaller than that seed; apparently almost nonexistent.
I grew up hearing and learning that “faith without works was dead.“ As though, in order for faith to be real or worthy or even remotely worthwhile, to keep it present and even functional, my actions (only the good, worthy, and important ones, of course) were required.
Imagine faith as a body and works as exercise and food choices. To let one’s body fall apart; to not take the necessary steps, do the necessary work, be responsible? Well, all kinds of internal and external shame shows up around that. Likewise, to let one’s faith merely ‘be’ without working at it, working, period? Yes, shameful.
These days, all of this sounds and feels wrong to me (both the eating/exercise and the working at faith).
I believe that faith is something lovely and light and whimsical and intuitive and transparent and un-capturable and liminal. What is John O’Donohue’s word? Penumbral. (I’ll have to look that up). Faith just is, period. I don’t have to work at it, or work to prove that I am worthy of it, or work on it to make it grow and even exist, in the first place. Faith is like hope and joy and peace and love. It is a state, a reality, a truth, a gift. Yes, that’s it.
As I write this, I feel the surprise, the insight, and yes, the tears. Alchemy and change. The Sacred – with a capital S. Which has nothing to do with me, my less-than-a-mustard-seed faith, my effort, my striving. Nada. Thank God! This is mountainous. And I am the one who is moved.
Guess I’ll keep believing…and holding on to hope…and pondering mustard seeds…and yes, writing.
Penumbral: A fringe region of half-shadow resulting from partial obstruction of light by an opaque object; the lighter and outer region of a sunspot; the point or area in which light and shade blend.