When my daughter was very little, and eating baby food, she did this thing whenever we fed her. As soon as she was settled into her high chair, before she even saw the food, she'd open her mouth, and then she'd just wait, in complete faith that eventually food would appear. After each bite, she'd open her little mouth wide again, and then wait until food magically appeared in front of her again.
My son, on the other hand, was much more realistic. He'd wait until the food was right in front of his face before he opened his mouth. He wanted evidence that the food was there, before he opened up.
How often, I wonder, do we approach life like my son approached food, not opening up until we have all the evidence in front of us?
I'm told that faith is about stepping out before you have all the evidence in front of you, and trusting that it will appear. I heard a sermon once in church where the pastor talked about the Israelites, and how the Jordan River didn't allow them across until they stepped foot into it. They basically had to just trust that they weren't going to drown. That's some serious faith. And this is the kind of faith we are told we are supposed to have.
I gotta be honest with you, I don't have that kind of faith. I'm not prepared to potentially risk my life on a body of water miraculously parting or calming for me. I'm pretty sure I would have just dropped to the ground and prayed that I could play dead convincingly.
But I also have the word "faith" tattooed on my lower abdomen. I put it there so that when I bowed my head in despair, I would be reminded to have faith. Have faith in what, exactly?
I certainly have faith in God, despite my reluctance to put my life to the test to prove it. I have faith in myself. I have faith in people, and in their ability to show up in amazing and miraculous ways. And I have faith in life.
My husband and I got married very young. He was 21 years old, I was 22. When we look at our wedding pictures now, we are shocked that our parents didn't try to talk us out of getting married. We look like babies, I swear. Infants. And I can honestly say that in many ways, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
And it's not like we hadn't been warned. We had heard the stories of people who got married too young, and later divorced. They grew apart, they changed in profound ways, discovered they no longer had anything in common, and proceeded to live separate lives. We knew that getting married that young, straight out of college, was not advisable. We knew that there would be challenges ahead. I mean, we both ended up with divorced parents. We were by no means naive to the struggles that marriages faced. We had witnessed firsthand many of the dysfunctional ways partners can relate to each other.
Despite all this, we had something special that's kept us together all these years. Faith. We have faith in each other. Well, that and my stubborn bullheadedness, but there's still some debate as to whether or not that's a positive trait. We basically refuse to consider the option of us not working out. And by that, I mean happy to be in partnership with each other. Miserable but together is not "working out".
When we stood at the alter together, we had absolutely zero evidence to support our belief that we would make it work. In fact, we had a whole pile of evidence to the contrary (fun fact, on the day I got married, I knew that my mother was about to tell my father that she was leaving him). But we held hands and stepped into the waters, trusting that when we did, the waters would part and keep us safe.
And so far, they have. But every morning when we get up, we have to step into those waters again. Because faith isn't something you only need on day one. It's a risk you have to take every single day.
The reality is, we have no guarantees. Despite our commitment to each other, we don't honestly know what life has in store for us. My marriage is not bulletproof. Nothing in life is. And while this can be a scary thing to contemplate, it is exactly the reason why we need faith.
Faith only exists when the outcome isn't certain. If we had every reason to think everything would be fine, then we would never need faith. Faith is not the language of guarantees. Faith doesn't promise a particular result. Faith asks us to trust it to bring us to the result that is best for us, even if it's not what we expected or ever wanted.
The Israelites didn't step into the water because they knew God would settle it. They stepped into the water because they had faith God would take care of them somehow. The method God chose was not up to them. I don't have faith in my marriage because I trust that it will always be there for me. I trust in my marriage because I have faith in the strength of love, including in its ability to hold me safe if my marriage were to fall apart. I can take that step into the unknown because I have faith that life will catch me. And that's the only certainty we ever really get.
This essay was written thanks to a monthly theme from Illuminate, a writing community from The Kindred Voice.
Read more stories on faith from other Illuminate members:
Faith by Amy Rich
Something to Believe In by Sarah Hartley
Making Sense Of Faith by Adeola Sheehy
Pesticides and Jesus by Liz Russell
losing my religion. by Eunice Brownlee
Indian Lilac Brings Me Home: Reflections On Relationships by Laci Hoyt
Twinkling Lights of Faith by Mia Sutton
Hi there, I'm Amy. I'm so glad you're here. I'm a writer, photographer, mom, wife, and highly sensitive introvert, just trying my best to show up fully for myself, my family, and my life. It all gets a little crazy sometimes, and it helps to have a place to connect honestly about what's really going on. This is my place.