Sunday, January 27, 2013

You gotta have faith, Faith, FAITH!

Okay, I'm going to try really hard not to step on any toes here, but I'm on a journey and in order for me to get help on my journey I have to speak from my truth. 

(That was my version of a disclaimer :)

So, it has recently come to my attention that I have a problem with the word faith. More specifically, I have many negative associations with the word. 

What a weird thing to say, right? Only, I don't think it's that weird now that I’ve put my finger on it. I get so squirrelly in my chair when people get all religious in sing songy weepy voices, or quote a scripture that seems to signal the end of a conversation I thought was just getting started. I'm not trying to be rude, I actually have to grip the chair to keep myself from sliding out of it in an attempt to disappear, or you know, BE ANYWHERE ELSE, when someone cuts off a conversation with the words "you've just got to have faith."

Now would be the time for you to close this blog post if I've just made you uncomfortable. 

Here is my truth: I do not want to replace the word "fear" with the word "faith" just because being afraid makes me uncomfortable. When some people speak of faith they conjure an image in my mind of someone crouched in a ball with their hands over their ears squeezing their eyes shut and repeating the things they have been promised at a later time if they will just maintain this version of the fetal position. I find myself thinking at them with all my might:



God gave you arms and legs and life! To fill your mind with opportunity and wonder! To give you knowledge of good AND evil so you could return to him a more complete version on yourself, one that you participated in shaping. The church I attend on Sundays was STARTED with a question in a grove, and now I feel that there are two groups of people, those who still ask questions, and those who seem to react as though wondering or questioning is blasphemous. 

To be clear, I do not believe faith is a bad word, I think I just need some new reference material for what that word means to me. The one definition I've always liked is: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (New Testament, Hebrews, Chapter 11)

I like the words "substance" and "evidence" in that quote since I often feel like I'm flailing around for a railing or something. That is the faith I am seeking, and obviously that substance and evidence has to come from my own understanding or participation. This is not something you can really give or take, even though there may be times you can snuggle under the warm blanket of someone else's faith, the substance and evidence you carry will eventually have to be your own if it is really going to keep you warm. 

So what hoped for things do I have evidence of? Well: there is a force greater than myself that cares about what happens on my earth journey. I don't know why, I can't justify why someone would be born to a short mean life in a war torn nation while across the planet I would have a night where I am guided to the forest where we would eventually buy our home, and KNOW, before I had any proof to give anyone including my most beloved, that this spot is where I would raise my children.  Why would someone give me that knowledge? Why, when there is such neglect in the world, would I have been given visions of my bright future when I was a homeless 17 year old? No, not visions; knowledge. Sometimes I have been given knowledge about things that will happen in my life, exactly who will be there, and other pretty specific information about the moment and I never tell anyone because it almost seems too freaky, but when these moment come to fruition, I always wish I had so we could scrape our jaws off the floor together. That is a tangible thing I can not personally deny, and it erases for me why "pure science" would be the only thing at work on this planet. 

But I've never seen a ghost, I've never had important biblical persons appear in a dream and wake with the need to write it all down, I've never had an incredibly moving experience receiving a blessing except the nervousness of feeling like if I don't cry everyone will know I didn't feel anything when they look at my dry cheeks and that means something is totally wrong with me, right? Like a soulless shell wandering the planet who someday will commit a ghastly crime and the news will show the haunted faces of characters in my past saying "There was always something wrong with that girl..."

People talk about the birth of their children being the moment the universe opened its arms and golden truth flowed through them like a crashing storm. I may have been overwhelmed by the blinding newness of my tiny beautiful humans, but I had more questions then EVER after they were born.

But substance? Yes. They gave me substance over time. They are the reason I was born. They are here to show me who I really am. They are the substance of all the things I have hoped for my whole life. 

But I need some faith. I don't know how long I can stand the way my boat gets tossed around the hills and valleys of everyday life. The way I can have ultimate confidence in myself one moment, and crippling doubt in the next. Sometimes I read my own damn blog and wish I knew that girl! I bet she would have tons of good ideas to help my family! 

I hate extremes. Even growing up "not Mormon" in Utah, I was never anti-Mormon. I had as much interest in hearing "the things Mormon leaders don't want you to know," as I did in hearing a 16 year old boy who wanted to date me bear his testimony. I just mind my own business, so I found myself totally thrown off balance last week while playing a game of Bubble Witch and listening to the TLC show "Sister Wives" and finding out that not only was Joseph Smith a polygamist (which I knew) but he was married to 33 women, many who were still married to other living men who were not told, and in fact did it ALL in secret. One of my beloved heroine's of Mormon history, Joseph's wife, Emma Smith, was never told about the marriages, denied it vehemently publicly and privately only to find out shortly before Josephs death that it was true and in fact, he was married to many of my other Mormon heroines that were among Emma's best and dearest confidants, the same women who together founded the original Relief Society that still functions in our church to this day. 

I have to say, I hate the thought of her being humiliated and deceived this way. My heart really broke as the reality of what that must have been like for her sunk in, and knowing that she continued to be a woman of tremendous dedication and faith until her death made me pause like nothing has in a long time. The amount of children she buried alone would make most people fall completely apart, and she was a rock, the original kick ass Mormon woman, and I felt so crappy for the bad turn she was delivered. 

Lucky for me, I happen to be the sister of one of the worlds leading brains for all things Mormon women's history. I mean, she was only quoted in the New York Times last week, and when she's not directing her ward’s primary choir, she is the co-editor of Exponent II, a poetic and insightful Mormon Women's publication filled with art and an array of female voices at various stages of spiritual growth, and more than I’d like to admit to my big sister (especially publically), it is often what inspires me to get my sarcastic butt to church.

So while I'm already in the midst of this "new meaning for faith" kick I've been on for a few months, suddenly I'm sitting with my sister and her Johns Hopkins Professor husband who did much of the research and is quoted in Rough Stone Rolling (the thick biography of Joseph Smith as told through authentic historical documents). We sat on the porch in my “foretold” forest backyard, and my mind is being blown by the calm and almost bemused delivery about facts dating back to the conception of the church I take my kids to. I wasn't having a bible basher yell in my face outside of the Manti Pageant, or in a pot smoking haven in some Park City basement apartment partaking in Mormon trashing, I was outside! Being educated by worlds experts on my religion while our kids made swords out of sticks and pretended to slay each other while shrieking and laughing, then laying exhausted sprawled on their backs in the thick carpet of clovers to find designs in the leaves overhead. 

I don't know. I don't really know what to say about any of this, except to say my faith journey is taking me down roads I did not anticipate. I have always been fond of Joseph Smith, and I have been more fond of my religion lately than I ever have been before, but sometimes you have to take time to reorganize things as new information filters in or one day it might all come crashing down. For NOW, I am going to leave myself with a challenge and if you made it this far, I would love you to join me: 7 days of faith. I am going to post one comment per day on this entry of something I have faith in. This is not just a Mormon thing, my favorite spiritual music is sung by the SLC Calvary Baptist Choir and my favorite preacher shows up to a nearby elementary school every Sunday to lead his Rock Harbor congregation. I promise not to ever tell a fib, be sarcastic, or claim I have faith in anything I still only hope is true, and I promise to honor anything you guys might share if you don't mind letting me snuggle up under your faith blanket for a minute :)


Alissa Rae King said...

My Day 1 (and favorite recent epiphany): I have faith that something about teaching my Sunday School class feeds me in a way that is bigger than my physical body. Spiritual teenagers are a remarkable squirrley thing, and I love having their blunt honesty as part of my journey, and almost every time after an hour of being a little goofy we always seem to uncover 5 minutes of substance I didn't even know I was looking for.

Erin said...

I stopped going to church because I felt like if I didn't have faith in all of it, I couldn't have faith in any on it. And I had NEVER not gone to church. Like, my whole life I had always gone to church. But not going to church has taught me a lot about what I really do believe. So my day 1 is that I have complete faith in a God who intimately cares about my well-being. There was no reason for me to choose BYU instead of the U of U. I was signed up for classes and ready to move to SLC until I just knew that I shouldn't. I knew I was going to marry Nic, but we had to wait until we both did a little more growing up. I didn't shrivel up and freeze to death in the middle of winter in Mongolia for goodness sake.! I know that I have help making important decisions in my life.

I'm excited to think about this specifically for the next week.

Alissa Rae King said...

I BELIEVE that the human experience is important even if this is all it is. If there is no afterlife, if there is no redemption for an abused murdered child, would I trade the ugliness mankind is capable of, if it meant erasing the beauty also created by mankind? I couldn't. I have belief that this experience is worth it, that the most beautiful things often rise from the darkest ashes. This BELIEF aids my FAITH that there is a creator who is not blind to the tragedy's of this experience, but who sees a bigger picture than I can even fathom, even created it this way on purpose! Though he does not hurt us himself, he can't always stop what we do to each other and understands (like a mother about her young children) that this is all an essential part of the earth experience. This is something that still sits on the hope/faith line because while I BELIEVE in the human experience with it's highs and lows, I still can only HOPE with all my heart that I will see my loved ones again. Not just my children and husband which is one of the things that claws at my lungs, but loved ones who never got to finish their journey here, or those who died sick, or not themselves, that they could be well one more time. That someday, they can teach ME from the despair that was the end of their earth life. I'm sorry, I wish I could roll over and let the relief wash over me that this will happen, but the best I can do right now is hope for it with all my heart and BELIEVE, that either way, it is still worth it. Maybe I can gather some faith to grab onto because I believe it's so brilliant it can't just be a science accident. Right?

Alissa Rae King said...

Hey! Oh! Hey! So I was in the shower washing off the depressing smell of laying in bed all day watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory and Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang with my two sick kids, when BAM! Faith Epiphany! You see, I was feeling kind of bad my "day two" faith post was kind of sad and like something a 15 year old girl would write in her diary so I wanted to think of something funny for tomorrow, and now I CAN'T WAIT!

Here it is: I have Faith in Wi Fi!!

(if Jon King sets it up)

I can't see it, I don't understand it, but I know it's there and I know it saves me 15 times a day! I know, I'm a dope, but I really, really got something out of this because that is what Heaven is like for me, this elusive thing that other people seem to understand so much better than I do, yet not even they can grab around in the air and give me a handful of it, you just have to have Faith. When you do, that is when it proves you right as you pull up that funny you tube video, or look up and swerve quickly missing a major accident and you know, you KNOW, you had no reason to swerve the way you did, but it saved you.

Humph. I'm glad I showered.

Alissa Rae King said...

Hey, I promised seven days of faith, I don't think I promised them all in a row ;) eventually I will have seven days here, even if it takes me seven years, but I wanted to say to anybody who might be checking this, or to my future self when you come back here to remember how this went: these conversations? About faith and science and earth and heaven? When had with the right people, they ARE the answer. Being allowed to wonder in a safe place, leaning on a friend, or spouse, or sister, or just a feeling you can't explain that comes from a merciful God or an old dead cat who haunts you with love feelings. When I wonder about this stuff silently in the middle of the night for too many nights in a row it eats me up, but when I find an opportunity to be a little vulnerable and am greeted with such camaraderie, it feeds me and I know I'm not alone no matter what.

And then I chill out until next time.

Oh, and I have faith there will be a next time. I tend to need lessons on the same things a lot of times :)