There is a nocturnal bird in my garden who stands motionless during the daylight hours, waiting for the dimness of dusk before moving about. He is like a monk patiently listening for the ringing of the bell that calls him to meditations. For what can make him stand alone, undaunted by the scorching sun, patiently knowing that darkness will always arrive? Only under the umbrella of night will he be free. Free to feed, to move, to nest, to play, to live, to be under the starry moonlit sky.
Calamities are often described as "the darkest hour" -- the absence of light -- but I have come to realize that it is quite the opposite. Tragedies occur in the over-presence of light. So overwhelming and powerful, they shatter both reason and emotion. They blind us to the truth that lies within ourselves and to the veritable essence of life. Reality seems too terrible, and we become afraid; we become paralyzed; we hurt. We are in turmoil.
Yet, it is in the ensuing dimming of the light that we begin to heal. We cry out, are forced to seek meaning and a greater sense of self and of the power from a divine Presence. It is from this point of darkness that we find gratitude and hope and love and courage and reclaim the verities of our being. It is in the solitude of absence of light that we find a deeper faith and re-emerge into a softer, gentler day.
We become centered and serene, able to act, to serve, to rejoice, to give thanks, to rest in being and doing. We are able to move forward, propelled by a "still small voice." It is this voice that tenders the promise of harmony within us. It proffers the hope and means for outer renewal and regeneration.
Throughout its generations, my family has met small and large-scale calamities of all descriptions -- natural, outwardly imposed, self-caused -- that affected both personal and community lives. Some of these disasters are readily understandable, some mysterious, others totally incomprehensible to our human sense of rightness. With each encounter with untold destiny, my family survived intact. We leaned upon our inner resources, finding the strength of character and the courage to act from that quiet space within ourselves and to bless life. Our rope of faith guides us forward.
But what is this faith? It is not religion, though it is an element found in most organized religions and spiritual paths. Faith is the stepping-stone to equilibrium. Balance leads to realization of self and right action. In the words of Buddha:
"Faith is the forerunner of all positive deeds;
Hence should be cultivated first.
It safeguards all virtuous qualities
And enhances them as well."
The Bible counsels, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." These unseen things are what make life worth living. Faith is the foundation of hope, of love, of all good.
Ultimately, faith gives shape to our lives. Through it we find our reason for being, our passion for doing, our joy in living. We discover our humility, simplicity and devotion and find expression on a higher dimension through service. The challenge is to remain steadfast. We become obedient to faith because it sustains us, for without it, we would be caught in a snare of depression and anxiety, not knowing why, how, or which way to turn in any circumstance.
Faith allows for the possibility of miracles to manifest in our daily lives -- in new friendships, meaningful work, a new house, a good partnership, in the rhythms of drums, in the glorious structures of nature and man, in the imagery of art, in melodies of the hummingbird, in the in the budding of a single rose.
Lack of faith blindfolds us in fear, a fear that ultimately leads to failure in thought and actions towards others and ourselves. What separates those with faith from those who lack it, is the choices they make when a crisis hits them out of the blue. Crisis hits like an earthquake and then there are long nights of aftershocks. I've asked myself, as most of us have, "Did I ignore the signs? Was I blind?" None of us can understand the reason for a tidal wave, a bomb, or the terminal illness of a child. But the reasons are unimportant. What is important is the present moment.
Crises often leave their prey in shock and gut-wrenching anguish for a time, but those who have faith take action, positive action despite emotional upheaval. For my forbears and for me, moving beyond the trauma begins with silence, with listening to that "still small voice," in inaudible communion with the divine. That is not to say that we have not cried out against seeming injustice, or that we did not weep. They did; I did. But there is an indescribable feeling -- a nudging thought -- that says listen...be still...listen ....understand... They have survived. I will survive.
We make no pleas or bargains, nor do we outline an outcome through our self-driven motives. In the silence of prayerful acknowledgment of and gratitude to our universal creator and reliance on divine wisdom we are guided to our next plateau. The unknowable future stuns, frightens, then emerges -- sometimes abruptly, and often without concern for the fragile nature of the psyche of humankind, but it does emerge. And yes, life will go on, does go on. And yes, I will be changed; I am changed. There is no going back to a condition outgrown. Faith allows one to accept this, to have the courage to face the future, to stand still under the rays of that blinding light, to survive throughout the night, to awake in another dawn.
Pain lingers for a time; then through each conscious contact with Spirit, it begins to ebb. We waver, we hesitate, we fall, we stand in place, we crawl forward, and though we find it difficult, eventually we accept. We acknowledge there is a force beyond ourselves that cares immensely and eternally tends its beloved. For we have not cried for our losses, but for the fact that we had lost ourselves, that we believed we were separated, however briefly, from divine Love, from the omnipresent and omniscient power that created us for our season.
I have come to this conclusion not through wisdom or experience -- those have only solidified my view --- but through my family, through its generations of faith.
Author Jenna Holst has traveled extensively, and has lived in Southern Africa and Europe. Her work has appeared in numerous international and national publications, and you can learn more about her at www.jenna.holst.com. This excerpt is from Jenna's current manuscript, Generations of Faith.