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Keeping the Faith


Friday, February 22, 2008

Recently, a Vintage Dude taking his leave from me, did so with a cheery: “Keep the faith, brother!” It was like a Sixties flashback.

Back in the day, I would answer this blessing with a big ol’ goofy grin and my hand held jauntily high in a peace sign. These days, I am more likely to look at my acquaintance with a big ol’ cynical grin: “What could you possibly mean by that, ‘dude’?”

When one has worn out more than one pair of soles trodding this earthly plane, one just might find it harder and harder to keep one’s faith. And with the idealism of youth a fading memory, cynicism has fertile ground to take root. This is a shame because undoubtedly, faithfulness can be an asset in today’s uncertain world, in the modern challenges of marriage, in maintaining a belief in one’s self after so many bruising disappointments.

So how does one keep the faith?

Those who follow a religion can perhaps do it blindly. After all, faith is a cornerstone of all of the major religions, requiring a belief in much that is unseen. However, many might feel they need to look elsewhere for something more practical in the way of guidance on how to remain faithful in today’s dicey world.

Strangely enough, the most practical advice I have ever heard on how to keep the faith comes from the very religious Father Gabriel Ferrer of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills.

While he agrees that those with religion might “have a better chance at maintaining faith in the face of difficulties,” he also tells me that anyone can access the “essence of faithfulness” by a simple commitment to showing up for our lives. Whatever the difficult situation or challenging relationship issue, we can begin to access our faith by not running away from or hiding from the reality confronting us.

Showing up is the first of a four step process that Ferrer proposes as a path to keeping the faith in any worldly situation that is uncertain and where a faith in the process and ourselves is vital.

The second step is pay attention. This means, according to Ferrer, “Getting out of your own head and not allowing the fear that confusing or worrying times can bring to cause your own thoughts to whirl around and paralyze you.” Like the Buddhist practice of Mindfullness, one is required to stay in the moment, not in one’s head.

Tell the truth is the third step. In order to do this one, we have to be committed to reality, not the sometimes more comforting delusions supported by our denial systems. To get to the truth, claims Ferrer, you may have to refuse “staying solitary in your pain, you may have to reach out to others, sometimes in spite of what you feel like doing. Also, when you sense something, don’t be afraid to bring it out in the open where it can be affirmed and challenged.”

The final step: Don’t get attached to the results. This one is often the hardest for us mortals. We will be so focused on the desired outcome of our efforts that we don’t pay sufficient attention to the process. And, of course, being attached to the results breeds a faith-leeching disappointment when they aren’t realized. “Refuse to be defined by the outcome of such endeavors as job searches, and certainly other folk’s behavior,” advises Ferrer. “We should realize that, as my mother was fond of saying, ‘this too shall pass.’”

There you have it: Show up, tell the truth, pay attention, and don’t get attached to the results. No matter whether you are talking marriage, a new job, or opening a new and uncharted journey in life, this strikes me as a simple but profound recipe for a keeping a grounded faith.

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