Like many of us who are attempting to follow our heart’s lead, I have had to deal with the consequences of letting go of the known and familiar.
My story consists of a move far away from home, a divorce, an illness, single motherhood, a career change, and finding myself alone now at mid-life.
These circumstances have resulted in chronic uncertainty, the lack of any firm ground to stand on, and nerve-wracking, stomach-churning fear.
There is a popular acronym going around social media that provides a reasonable explanation of the core illusion of fear. That is, False Evidence Appearing Real.
Perhaps. But at times, fear is based on true evidence that seems quite real. Not having a steady paycheck can result in a real threat to well being in the form of lack of housing and food. Chronic illness results in down time and disability. Let’s face it, sometimes as we stand on the precipice of the unknown, looking over the edge can be pretty damn frightening. Something akin to free falling as you’re sewing your parachute—fun stuff.
An image that I have conjured to define my experience over the past several years is that of a Parkour jumper. The definition of Parkour, according to the World Freerunning Parkour Federation is: “The act of moving from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ using the obstacles in your path to increase your efficiency.” Their associated motto, “Know Obstacles, Know Freedom” could become my mantra.
I’ve been in this emotional space for the past several years, moving from one circumstance to another, taking obstacles in stride, and jumping off again before the ground I’ve landed on crumbles beneath me.
This state of uncertainty is rooted in an unplanned life circumstance. Several years ago, I was afflicted with a strange genetic disorder known as a periodic fever syndrome. The nature of this condition is, as the term indicates, periodic, random, unpredictable. I never know when symptoms will strike, or how severe they might be. I may spend a week feeling uncomfortable and lacking energy, or I may spend three weeks on my back, unable to do anything but swallow down painkillers.
It often feels that just as I am gaining momentum in some ambition or another, this condition comes out of left field and sticks its foot out. I stumble, fall on my face, pick myself up, brush off, and begin again.
I have used many F-words to describe my experience as I have struggled with the dis-ease and vulnerability that accompanies this uncertainty. Frightened and fucked are first that come to mind.
As of late however, I have been meditating on a powerful new F-word: faith.
“Faith doesn’t make sense. Its the only thing stronger than fear.” ~ Author unknown.
Faith is the polar opposite of fear. Some might argue that the opposite of fear is courage; “Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” That is a wonderful definition of courage, and I applaud all those who can muster it, but courage is not a true antidote to fear. It is more of a coping mechanism. We feel fear and we act. Faith makes fear irrelevant.
Here’s the magical thing about faith—it’s hiding in plain sight. Faith isn’t something we have per se—rather, faith finds us. Like the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, faith shows up when you’re in a big mess, your knees are knocking and you have no idea how those red sequined shoes got on your feet! Faith comes quietly; it’s not loud and attention seeking.
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary” ~ Thomas Aquinas
Sometimes we may mistake hope for faith. When you have a friend putting in a good word for you at the company, when you’ve planted some seeds and are waiting for them to take root, that’s hopefulness. These are wonderful cards to have in your hand, but hopefulness doesn’t touch the depths of faith.
What I have realized, through personal experience, is that I could never have come to know faith until I had absolutely nothing else to stand on. Faith arrives, when all other strategizing, planning, wishful thinking and scheming falls aside. It appears when you finally surrender, when you’re down on your knees. In those sacred moments, the grace of faith may descend upon us. And if we receive it, it will sustain us.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “a leap of faith”—indeed this describes it well. In order to grab faith, we have to jump, in spite of the lack of evidence of anything promising. This led me to the discovery of a new acronym to accompany faith. L.E.A.P—Lack of Evidence Appearing Promising. In light of this lack of evidence, when things look bleak and there are no signs of progress or a way out, it is then that we have to jump into the arms of faith, which will carry us.
“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen. There will be something solid to stand on or you will learn how to fly.” ~ Patrick Overton
To take this leap of faith is to let our doubts and fears fall away. To truly give up our struggles, kneel and say, “Thy will be done.”
There is no other way to truly know faith.
Author: Roseann Pascale
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Daniela Brown/Flickr