What do you do when someone is not who you thought they were?
How can you ever trust another person again, or trust yourself?
Years ago, I had a spiritual job I loved, something I felt called to do. It inspired and enlivened me, gave me a sense of passion and purpose I had never had before.
But then the man who gave me the job, who was also my friend, betrayed me by letting me go, without warning. It made me question my faith and my spiritual community. In a moment, all the work I loved was gone. I was confused, lost, scared. I thought I’d be tainted in some way, that no one would ever hire me again, that I’d never again be able to bring passion to a job or be able to do spiritual work.
My marriage also collapsed when I began to see things more clearly, and the months following left me feeling betrayed, bewildered, and scared about what was going to happen to me, where I was heading, where I would end up.
I had put faith in people, trusted them, and they had let me down.
The thing I like about Christianity, and why I’ve been going to Quaker meeting for years, is that the human story of Jesus feels, at times, visceral to me. After I lost that job I loved, I sat at my Quaker meeting on Easter Sunday, and stories from the Bible began to come like a movie screen in my mind. I had not read the Bible, only skimmed it occasionally. But I knew enough of the stories that I could meditate on Jesus, on the Quaker idea that the Holy Spirit guides us from within.
What I saw on that day was Jesus’s pain. He too was betrayed, I remembered. He made the horrible journey through Golgotha until he was nailed to a cross and left to suffer and die. And what horrific torment that was. Mine paled in comparison.
But what I saw too was that he rose after that betrayal and pain, into a brilliant beam of light that could help others. He inspired other people, uplifted them, made them believe that there is more than who we are on this earth. We are not just flesh, but we are spirits, capable of great love and compassion. Capable of wisdom and humility and awe.
When I saw this story played out before my inner eye, I felt comforted. There was hope, there was renewal. There was rising again. I knew I could do that, too.
I know that there are a lot of people who do not believe in God, or who are wounded by organized religion, or who’d prefer to focus on the material and concrete rather than the spiritual realm. But I’ve had too many experiences that are unexplainable in my life, and I take great solace that One—One more powerful than any human could ever be, wiser and more infinite—is watching over me, guiding me along my path. I am like the toddler, walking along, falling all the time. But when I look upward, God, like a parent, picks me up and sets me right again, with so much love. The biggest choice I have to make is whether to believe, to ask, and to let that love in.
People can’t always measure up to what I want them to be. I, too, frequently let myself down by making mistakes. I’m not perfect, even though I wish I were. And of course I have questions about why bad things happen in the world, why—if God is in control—horrible things occur everyday. Why are people poor and starving? Why do wonderful, good-hearted people die young? Why is there so much suffering, even when people turn their hearts to God? Why doesn’t God save everybody? Why do there have to be so many rules? Why, if there is a God, doesn’t He/She come down right now and cause a big stir so everybody sees and knows it?
I don’t know the answers. My mind is small, my power limited. What I do know is that when I suffer, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to alleviate the pain. I don’t want to persist in a place of confusion or torment or misery. And so I let my heart break open wide and I bow down and submit before a Creator that is more masterful than I am, more complicated, more infinite and wise. I can’t figure it out. I never will. So I offer it up.
And what I’ve found in this practice is peace, and beauty, and a sense of purity that comes through my emptiness, through my letting go. What I’ve found is faith, the trust that regardless of how many times I fall down while carrying my own cross through life, I will eventually be uplifted. And when I come through my pain onto the other side, I can only hope to help others by using what I’ve learned.
We are each houses built, brick by brick, of our experiences. We never know who we touch on our path toward grace, how one comment or gesture or smile can change someone, can be what’s needed to bring them to greater fullness. And so despite the fact that people will fail us, that people will be weak, at times, or make terrible mistakes, there is something greater to put faith in. God—for lack of a better word—will hold you, guide you, give you clearer vision and a fuller heart.
All you have to do is ask, with sincerity. It’s that easy.
Categories: spirituality and faith