The having (or not) of faith

By Caitlin Kelly

The Paris Unity March, Jan. 11, 2015. Faith in action -- that collective community response still matters
The Paris Unity March, Jan. 11, 2015. Faith in action — that collective community response still matters

I married a PK, a preacher’s kid.

Jose’s father was a Baptist minister in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His parish numbered about 30 — with a church large enough to hold 200. He faced many empty pews, yet kept on going.

His mother was a kindergarten teacher.

She was, he says, the epitome of faith.

Money was often tight and Jose, the sensitive, often worried baby of the family, sometimes wondered if everything would be OK.

“Have faith,” his mother told him.

We tend to talk about faith in narrow religious terms, as faith in a deity or a set of guidelines.

I’m interested, here, in the faith we place in ourselves, in one another and in the world around us.

Without it, without even a shred of it, we’re paralyzed. Too scared to move.

I started selling my creative work to strangers when I was 12. I sat on a Toronto street corner and sold bead necklaces. At 15, I sold my home-made stationery and at 18, my photos — and was gratefully stunned when one of the city’s top fashion photographers bought one.

Maybe that flickering flame of faith in myself, in my nascent skills, in my ability to connect with others who found value in my work danced a little higher then.

Yes, this machine will work. If we feared it wouldn't, then what?
Yes, this machine will work. If we feared it wouldn’t, then what?

Without faith in ourselves we’re lost.

Without faith in our parents — to guide, teach, protect us — we feel un-moored and unsafe.

Without faith in our intelligence and stamina, we can’t accept that learning can be exhausting and difficult.

Without faith in our elected and appointed officials, we can’t function — imagine the rage and distrust so many African-Americans are feeling in the face of the five unarmed black men recently shot in the United States by police.

It takes tremendous faith to forge ahead in the face of despair, illness, fear and anxiety.

To wake up with pennies in your pocket and to find the faith that, somehow, things are going to get better.

To face a diagnosis that terrifies you, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

To inhabit a home that once welcomed  your husband or wife, now fled to the arms of someone else, wondering if anyone, anywhere, will ever love you again.

I think faith is forged in the fire of fear.

Phoenix-like, we have to rise from the smoking embers of what-we-thought-would-happen, while we figure out what happens next instead.

Without some solid skills we know we can trust, without friends and family who know and believe in the best of us, without some notion it will all be OK, we’re toast.

Having survived some horrendous episodes in my own past — a mentally-ill parent, family alcoholism, divorce, job loss, criminal attack — I know I’ll make it through. Somehow.

Faith + I’ll-get-through-this-somehow = resilience.

The past few weeks, for a variety of reasons, have demanded I stolidly move forward, in spite of sometimes paralyzing doubt in a few outcomes. Without the faith I’ll survive them, emotionally and physically, I’d consider staying in bed in the fetal position.


Instead, I went out this weekend to play softball with my co-ed pickup team, a posse of people, some 50 years apart in age, that I’ve known, loved and shared post-game, beneath-the-trees lunches with for a decade.

I stepped up to the plate, picked up the bat, wondered, in my first game of the season what would happen next — and hit a single.

Do you have faith in yourself?

In others?

21 thoughts on “The having (or not) of faith

  1. i love the sound of the pickup game. we play an occasional kickball game with all ages and i love every minute of it. as far as the game goes, i have faith i will survive. in life, i’ve had many challenges in line with some of the ones you listed and what got me through was grit and an feel that somehow it would all turn out and be okay, without any sense of logic entering the equation. looking back, i suppose that is a definition of faith.

    i was raised a catholic but decided to leave the church when i was 7. since then, i’ve found my way through life, good and bad, without any connection to any traditional doctrine or faith. my religion is kindness and i have faith in that.

  2. Steve

    My faith is in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Philipians4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”. I really don’t know how people who don’t have a relationship with God make it through the perils and pitfalls of life and in reality I suppose most of them don’t. God Bless you Caitlin in whatever struggle you are currently going through right now. Ask Him and He will show himself to you. Proverbs 3:5,6

  3. Fatima

    I worked six-and-a-half years in a Christian bookstore in Winnipeg. I have seen people give generously with little, pray when things get tough, and I have seen the downside of too much smugness not enough compassion. I do notice those with a religion, and those not sharing one, share the same resilience. They keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s one thing to pray, or quote scripture, it’s another to unfurl from the fetal position to keep going.

    Do I have faith in myself? It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes I think I am an awful writer, and other times I do alright. As for a structured faith….I haven’t gone in a while. I want to unlearn what I know, and work on that resilience equation you mentioned. It’s a tricky question, and it produces comments that seem to talk in circles.

    1. Thanks for this…

      I really didn’t want to focus on religious faith because for some people it’s divisive.

      Resilience is earned through trial. The trials can feel unbearable.

      1. Fatima

        I understand. When people quote scripture, I cringe. Sometimes I want to tell St. Paul to shut his own mouth. As a Roman Catholic, or Catholic Christian to tell people ‘hey we’re that too’, I see a near-glorification of suffering. That’s not resilience.

        Your explanation of ‘faith’ has been the clearest I have seen in ages.

      2. The challenge of quoting Scripture — and the gentleman who did so here is a longtime reader/commenter and friend of the blog, so I’m grateful for his presence — is that for some people, it’s not a good fit. In this case, I know it is well-meant.

        Those are kind words indeed. Thanks for that!

  4. Despite all the horrors I see in the world, I still find ways to have faith in the people around me and in most of humanity. Which is good, because if I didn’t I’d probably withdraw from the world and refuse to have anything to do with it ever again.

      1. Just got to have things to keep you from being cynical. A friend, a lover, a TV show. Just something. I’ve got my family and friends, things to look forward to, stories to channel my cynicism through and create hope, and Doctor Who, which sometimes I think is a show about hope disguised as science fiction.

  5. Oh, yes, I have endless faith in humanity and in the universe. The challenges I face are simply lessons or gifts that I may not appreciate until I can view them from the lens of experience and distance, but they add to the quality of my life and my character. Of that, I have no doubt–or faith. When I encounter seemingly vile circumstances or unthinkable acts of cruelty, I am comforted that, if nothing else, these things remind me to be grateful for what I have and to practice forgiveness and mercy–two qualities sorely absent in many human interactions. This is not to say that I condone cruelty; I just try to become more fully aware of the complexities of the dynamics underlying it. If I am moved to intervene, I will, but with kindness, not hatred.

  6. This reminds me of the (terribly written but interesting nonetheless) book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown… your ideas about faith line up really nicely with her theories that life is all about vulnerability — having the faith to trust that something good can come of you opening yourself up.

  7. What a great sentence: Faith is forged in the fire of fear. (Both the meaning and the alliteration!)

    I applaud you for taking on such difficult topics and saying something new and valuable about them. You are so good at combining personal questions or situations with larger human and social concerns and shedding light on both. Thank you!

  8. Pingback: [BLOG] Some pop culture links | A Bit More Detail

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