Although I am sure most people relate “Faith” with their religious beliefs, I was not raised within any religion other than for a few months in grade school when I attended a Lutheran church with a neighbor. All I remember from that experience is playing a Shepherd in the Christmas pageant so, that’s how I learned about the birth of Jesus. I don’t recall being there for Easter so His death and resurrection remained an unknown to me. I would say mystery but it is, in fact, a mystery even to those who know and believe the story. So for me, faith has more generally applied to a trust or belief in anything.
I was not a confident child. Unguided, I struggled as most kids do through adolescence and high school. Being not overly confident, I never dared aspire to much. Not until entering adulthood did I began gaining faith in my own abilities. Now, retired and looking back, I wonder how my life would have been different had I aspired to more, or at least different, things. I think, maybe, like Marlon Brando’s character in On the Waterfront that “I could’a been a contender!”
As I have grown older, and hopefully wiser or at least more experienced, what I have had faith in has changed; losing some and gaining in others. For instance I am losing faith that our politicians or the political system are up to their task. I don’t trust that our educational system is preparing our children for the burdens of real life, instead teaching them that feelings are as important as facts and their failures are the fault of others. And the news media! I have lost both faith and any hope that they will fairly and accurately report the news. Entertainment and opinion have replaced the Who, What, Where, When and Why reporting of Huntley and Brinkley or a Walter Cronkite whose days are long gone.
But, as I grow older, and become more aware of my mortality, I am beginning to think more about religious faith. I have always believed there is a God and therefore, probably, an afterlife. My wife is Catholic and I have tried to join her church through its adult program. Three times in fact, but I quit each time when the priest teaching the course injected politics or other issues unrelated to religious teachings.
Occasionally, though things have happened reinforcing my burgeoning beliefs or suspicions. I’m sure most of us have had Guardian Angel moments; those close calls where disaster was avoided by unknown forces or something of a religious nature. The strongest proof for me happened after my mother died. I stepped out of the hospital room to call our daughter who lived a hundred miles away. As soon as she answered the phone she said, “Grandma died, didn’t she?”
I told her “yes” and she asked, “About 5 minutes ago?” When I asked her how she knew, she said “That’s when I felt her give me a hug.” Now, a hug from my mom was uniquely recognizable because for the last year of her life she was so thin she was literally just skin and bones.
I am now inclined to believe there is something there; including an afterlife which must be earned in this life. Recognizing that I have grown older, I am starting to feel an urge to prepare for as many outcomes as possible. So, I might just try that church thing again. And, sooner rather than later might be a good idea!
I, too, am old enough to remember the era of good news reporting and mourn its lose. I appreciate that you equate faith with our social and political institutions, which, indeed, are sorely lacking these days. Also that you are thinking more about religious faith as you grow older. Thank you for sharing that perspective with us.
Thank you. It is good knowing that we are not alone, at least in our feelings.
I enjoyed how you ended the essay with “suspended disbelief”- you had direct experience that kept your heart and mind open…to who knows?
thank you! Well written.
Thank you. You are right – who knows? So better to be “prepared”.