Walking in Faith

by Kathleen Hartman Blackburn, March 2012

*Article orignally printed in Ms. CincinnatiFebruary-March 2012 Issue

Each one of us probably has some idea of what the word faith means. We may describe ourselves as people of faith or see faith as a particular quality that helps us in trying circumstances. It may be familiar to us in expressions such as: faith that moves mountains; an act of faith; just have faith; blind faith; leap of faith; oh ye of little faith; and keep the faith, to name a few. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that faith is “taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase.” At times, we hear of the controversy surrounding faith, as when it is used as a political weapon in our current presidential campaign or in the display of faithby Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos football team. We bring our own assumptions about the meaning of faith to our understanding, but most likely we assume that it means a religion or a system of religious beliefs; an un-questioning belief in God that doesn’t require evidence or proof; an allegiance to some person or thing; or a complete trust and confidence.

I want to offer another way of viewing faith. A conversation I had with my daughter about the title of this column sparked my interest in exploring a broader meaning of this word. I remembered a book on faith I had received as a gift some years ago. In rereading some excerpts from Faith, Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg, a popular meditation teacher, I discovered her perspective on faith resonated with my own and provided me with an expanded view I sought. Salzberg says in the book, “The tendency to equate faith with doctrine, and then argue terminology and concepts, distracts us from what faith is actually about. Faith is not a commodity we either have or don’t have—it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.” 

What does it mean to trust our own deepest experience and thereby live from this quality of faith? It means loving and respecting ourselves and seeing ourselves connected to others, not separate from them.  It means moving into the unknown, giving ourselves permission to meet each moment and situation as it arises, not needing to have everything figured out ahead of time.  It means being open to the possibility that we can bring about the life we want, making choices that keep us moving forward even though we don’t know how things will turn out.  It means trusting that there is a purpose to our lives, that the relationships and situations present at any given time, even if painful, can reveal deep truths about ourselves and provide opportunities for us to grow into our best selves.  Living from this place of faith, which doesn’t negate a faith in God or the Divine, allows us to experience life more fully, because we can embrace our true nature, receiving all that life has to offer us.  This faith allows us to love our lives, bringing this love and compassion to others.  How might our lives be different if we opened ourselves to this kind of faith?

Kathleen Hartman Blackburn provides clinical counseling and spiritual direction in her private practice at Conscious Living Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. She facilitates retreats and days of prayer with The Center Within, a spiritual ministry group, and brings compassionate presence to assist clients in the discovery of their deepest truths. www.goconscious.com.

 

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