Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Remains

“All I have seen teaches me
to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What nobody says about faith is that even in the most idyllic, peaceful of circumstances—when you somehow find a way to stand firm in your belief that you are where you need to be at any given time experiencing what you need to experience—having absolute faith in a process for which there is no guarantee can be a tumultuous proposition at best. 
Something good happens.  Let’s say you land your dream job with a little elbow grease but, in all honesty, not much effort on your part.  Perhaps they sought you out (the job literally fell in your lap) and you’re certain that it’s divinely inspired.  Your income and notoriety is on the rise, shining star that you are, and you are certain you are where you need to be.  Your faith is unstoppable! 
Then something bad happens.  Let’s say you find yourself on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis.  Though aggressive, there are some good treatment options and so you roll up your sleeves and embark on the journey of a lifetime to beat that cancer and say YES to life!  But not before you go through a vigorous round of "Why me?" and "What did I ever do to deserve this?", spinning out in your mind with those counterproductive questions for which there are no immediate answers but which are, nevertheless, inevitable given the circumstances of your Life. 
Some people want to know that nothing happens by chance—not without their prior consent anyway (in this or another life)—a belief that puts us in the driver's seat and makes us responsbile for what happens to us because somehow in someway we had a hand in creating that experience, karmic or otherwise.  New age philosophies champion this concept, fending off skeptics who quesiton "Why in the world would I ever choose that?" with a quiet, confident reply:  you chose to have that experience before you were born, while still in spirit form, to further your soul's growth.    
Others say, “Well, it was God’s will...” when something bad happens, or "God was really looking out for me!" when forturne favors us, which, on some level, allows us to resign responsibility. But what does that really mean?  That it was God's will for you, his lovely and perfect creation, to get cancer? Or that God was looking out for you when you narrowly avoided that car crash, but not so much looking out for that child in Cambodia who was sold into slavery by her parents or that person you know battling cancer?  Why not?  Why would God so randomly distribute good will, selecting who gets to be happy or sad, healthy or sick, advantaged or disadvantaged and so on?  Weren't we all created equally and loved unconditionally?  How are those decisions made?  That one person is faced with a fight to live and another gets chosen for their dream job?   It hardly seems fair.
Either way, it seems to me that Life doesn’t much care how “in control” we think ourselves to be.  We’re all tested in one way or another, and if we are faithful to whatever process or situation we're going through we will discover our strength, deepen our faith, and learn something about how well we cope with the obstacles and struggles that come our way.  If we want to be rid of the latter we need only accept that it’s not only impossible but completely unnecessary to hold on so tight in an effort to control that which we have so little control over.  For the only thing that most of us have any real control over in this life is how we think, what we do on a day-to-day basis, and how we respond to the story unfolding around us.  
Perhaps that's why they say that struggle is sometimes necessary but always optional.
Consider, for instance, the quiet, detached faith it takes to grow something—anything—like a walnut tree, a process that can take 40 to 60 years to fully develop from planting to harvest. Depending on when you plant that seed you may or may not live to see it become all that it was meant to be. Mostly, I think, folks don't spin around with thoughts about whether that tree will grow or harbor feelings of persecution if it doesn't.  You plant that tree with every faith in its life and growth, maybe to benefit your children or grandchildren; perhaps for a lucrative harvest.  And if it doesn't work out?  Maybe you plant another tree.
In the end, whether you’re there to witness its final glory or simply rest in the knowledge that you had a hand in creating its beauty, the shade and loveliness that drapes the next generation is evidence of your fearless faith in the process of Life. That might just be the key.