I mentioned in a previous post that I have strong feelings about the word faith. It’s something of a mantra for me with personal historical significance, yet I know that many find that my allegiance to the word is contrary to my atheistic beliefs. I disagree. Passionately.
As with many words, there is more than one formal definition of the word faith. Per Merriam-Webster, faith is defined as:
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person
b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
Even in the comments to the dictionary entry, there are several strings of comments berating “faith” as contrary to science and a sign of a weak mind. I think faith is a sign of strength, even if we all might differ on what we have faith in.
More than ten years ago, I discovered faith. I was just a couple of years out of college and experiencing my first real taste of failure. My career that was supposed to be glamorous was turning out to be a nightmare. In retrospect the circumstances that took me to the edge of complete and utter despair that particular night don’t seem significant, but I had taken some kicks that day when I had already been down for awhile.
I called the friend that I trusted with my lowest moments. I’m going to call her M. for the sake of my story. M. was younger than I was by several years, had been home schooled her entire life, was the daughter of a preacher and had been sheltered in every possible way. For reasons that I still don’t understand, she and I understood each other and she had a significant impact on my life. And that particularly night, she was the only thing holding me together.
I sobbed on the phone for a while, and when I’d finally calmed down enough to talk, M. told me that I needed to have faith. I scoffed. (I’m pretty sure I literally said “psssh” into the phone.) She knew that I was not a religious or a spiritual person, but she repeated it.
M. told me that I needed to have faith, and while she found comfort in having faith in God, it didn’t have to be that for me. She begged me to have faith in myself. Faith that while everything right now felt like it was wrong, it would become right again. Faith that I continued to have a purpose in life, even if the career I thought I’d love turned out to be a terrible fit. Faith that I could handle whatever was going to come next for me.
I’d like to say that her words changed my life immediately and that everything was sunshine and rainbows after that. It wasn’t. In fact, following that conversation, I went through the roughest year of my life. And a few years after that, M. and I grew apart and lost touch. But every time I think that nothing can possibly be right again, I still hear M’s voice in my head reminding me to never give up my faith.
I continue to cling to that word. Faith. I have faith that my life has a purpose and that everything that happens is an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on this world. I have faith that regardless of how small, those positive impacts are important.
In simplest terms, to me faith is believing that everything will be okay.
This post was inspired by the awesome new bracelet that I just bought from farmgirlpaints (pictured above), and by the fact that while I’d really love to address the fiscal cliff, or the debt ceiling, or Monsanto, or welfare reform – my brain has been fried by work lately and I really don’t have the energy right now.