What is Faith?

Last week I wrote about self-doubt due to not getting a promotion at work and how, in owning my story, I have started to overcome it.  I’ve made some discoveries about myself while sorting the real story from the one my mind wanted to create (because it needed to have the answers be they true or not).  But what happens when you don’t get that promotion – do you have faith or do you have fear?

If you do a quick Google search of “faith” you’ll discover articles on God and/or religion.  And for many of us faith is tied into “belief in God.”  When I think about faith, I think about my mawmaw (my dad’s mom).  She was a devout Catholic and a woman of great faith.  I remember at our family get togethers she would always say how blessed she was and give thanks to God for her family being together.

But in owning my story I find that I really never had faith myself – I had what I was taught about other people’s faith.

After my dad retired from the Army and moved us back to his hometown, my family (mom, sister, brother, aunt, and mawmaw) sang at our church’s 5 o’clock Sunday mass.  I asked my parents several times if I could sing as well but they told me I was too young until, finally, around 4th grade, I was able to sing as well.  It was my mawmaw who played the piano until my aunt took over and then when my aunt switched religions, we talked my dad into playing.

It wasn’t until we stopped singing when I was a freshman in college that I realized my faith was tied to the music and so I stopped attending mass when I was 18.  A couple years later I started going regularly again but when I was 27 I moved away from home and my church going was an on again/off again occurrence until I finally stopped going when I was 28.  (Except when I go home of course).

Faith has been associated with religion for me but now I’m questioning if faith is something more.  I’ve decided to disassociate faith and religion – the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  But if faith isn’t about religion, then what is it?

I asked my Facebook friends what word they associated with faith and my cousin’s response was “trust.”  Trust is something that takes time to develop and you have to have something to trust/put your trust into.  As someone who is new to vulnerability and trying to “feel” my way back up from the disappointment at work, if faith is trust, do I have trust that something greater will come out of it based off of past experiences?  And what am I putting my trust into?

Then I thought of faith as more along the lines of belief but belief is fluid, changing based off of what we know to be true at the time.  People believed the world was flat until they discovered it wasn’t.  I have beliefs today that I didn’t have last year and beliefs I had five years ago I no longer believe.  Faith isn’t something that changes when new facts emerge or if there are no facts to support it.

Dr. Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection says, “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”  I agree.

I believe that to have faith means you have belief coupled with trust in something greater than yourself, to say, “I believe that something better will come out of this.  I don’t know what it is but I trust in a greater power that will guide me.”

With this in mind:

  • I’ve been at the intersection between faith and uncertainty before and I’m constantly surprised when, in hindsight, things turned out greater than the story I was telling myself while in the thick of it.  I believe I need to explore “faith” to deepen my own faith when uncertainty rises.
  • I believe I’m already a different person than I was before all this self-doubt happened and trust I will continue to grow.
  • I believe that we manifest the things we want in our lives through our thoughts and actions and I have trust, with the help of a greater power, that my I will achieve my goals/dreams.

I used to look at people like my mawmaw and wonder how they had so much faith.  But now I’m beginning to see that they understand what it means to have faith.  They understand that, even in the midst of uncertainty, there is something greater than our understanding helping us and they are able to close their eyes and fall backwards knowing it will be there to catch them.

What does faith mean to you?

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