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Learning trust on faith’s hidden precipices

  • November 2, 2023

One of my favourite things about public speaking is the conversations that happen at the end of the event. After ideas, emotions and (hopefully) the Spirit whirl around a large room with many hearts, something is distilled between two previous strangers. There is such immense trust in these brief encounters. A story to share. Words of gratitude. Another perspective.

My speaking has evolved into a teaching that leans deep on story telling. God seems to have made me this way. I have no memory of being a girl who could keep a beautiful story to myself. Stories are for sharing. Also, people remember stories in a way they do not remember statements, theses or arguments. Teaching through story allows the lessons they hold to be held in a different part of the heart and mind. Mostly, story allows for a multiplicity of meaning, a diversity of interpretation, an evolution of learning not easily accessible in other methods of teaching.

I share my stories of suffering and hope with measured vulnerability. Doing so gives others permission to do the same. So often, after I speak, I hear confessions of a sort:

“I probably should not say this, but…”

“I am likely wrong, but I am wondering if…”

“I used to believe this thing, and now…”

“I am not sure if I can keep believing if…”

There is this this precipice that lies along the hidden things of faith: the doubts and the longings, the wanderings and the fault lines. While the faith of childhood and adolescence often seek comfort in answers, adult faith propels us deep into questions. And too many of our churches find this troubling, if not outright dangerous. The responses to our questions make us clear that the questioning is not welcome.

If our faith is like water, it will always flow back to the Source. Some spiritual seasons are like vast calm lakes and others like winding streams. And the seasons of hidden things are the edges of waterfalls, where the rocks will jut out, the rapids are intense and the sound is like thunder. It might feel scary, but the water need only flow over the edge to the bottom, crashing around, stirring up the mud and shedding the driftwood until it finds its way through to the next part of the river bed.

One of my favourite religious texts is the wedding at Cana. Mary goes to Jesus to tell Him that the wedding host family is facing severe embarrassment because they have run out of wine. Jesus tells His mother that His time has not come, but she is not taking His no for an answer. She turns to those He has been teaching and tells them, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Like Jesus at Cana, many of us struggle to feel confident to step out or speak up. This has been made worse by a Church that is often more comfortable telling us what to do than receiving what God has already revealed to us. We have been (de)formed to doubt God speaking in and to us in these hidden places. Right in the heart of your wondering and wandering, your doubt and your longing, God is speaking. And the Creator of All that Is created you and trusts you.

When the rushing water settles and the bubbles settle at the bottom of the falls, there is a deeper clarity in the water and our faith. God is not afraid of our experiences, our questions, our growth. The edges of our faith propel us to the places where Mary can also challenge us to do whatever God tells us to.

So dare to whisper out loud the things that are bubbling up out of the dark. Write across the pages of a journal the things you have been afraid to say out loud. Find a friend without judgment who will let you express the things you are coming to believe. Let the Spirit in you speak without fear.

If no one ever told you. If you need to be reminded. If someone told you otherwise. I just want to say that it has been my overwhelming experience that God trusts you to live your wild and beautiful life.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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