As in many other aspects of my life, it is my daughter who has given me the courage to see myself as I really am. Each day she grows a little more, learns a little more, and moves further into the world. When children enter this world, absolutely nothing falls into the known category. The world bustles with information. Its textures, colors, sounds and smells cut sharply into the newborn’s psyche. But rather than curl up in terror, they step boldly into the world, eyes wide with wonder. All information is considered potentially relevant. They watch and play and explore a little further and then wait patiently for order to arise from chaos. They are masters of uncertainty, and therefore masters of trust. My daughter’s journey reminds me that I too once knew what trust was. I too once sat at the knee of God. Until I didn’t. At some point, I moved far enough out into the world to see that there amidst the noise and beauty, was also pain, hurt and despair. As I grew my view of the world expanded, and what I saw jarred with my expectations for good. There was so much hurt, such tender fragility, and even downright evil. Faced with these dawning perceptions, the feeling that shuddered through my small body ran along the lines of What the fuck? What idiot designed this mess?
But before the pain of this disconnect could even register, my forming personality ran and hid behind complicated defense mechanisms. I learned that some degree of protection lay in objectivity, in not wanting, or feeling, too much. To achieve this I let my identity blur, and let the muscles that held up who I was and why grow flaccid and weak from disuse. I stood up from the meadow of children and walked away from faith. I forgot how to fight. I forgot how to breathe in chaos. I dislodged something deep inside and forbade myself from grieving.
Now, as I find the courage to pick out the important and let go the rest, rhythms slow and my life widens. In the space that is opening I am beginning to understand that there is no way to live well without revisiting my lack of belief, without moving my heart into the unknown and learning all I can about faith. I need to find my edges and move towards them. A little older, a little braver, made a little more pliant by disappointment and failure, I am ready to make the painful confession than I have very little idea what I’m doing. I am becoming a child once again, not only to address hidden pain, but also to reclaim new ways to meet each day. With innocence, with joy, and with faith in the design.
There is a difference between sin and prayer. There is a difference between faith and panic. But there they lie side by side because they are the pairs of choices that wait at the fork. They are the two sides of the dialectic: the choice between light and dark, between joy and fear. One moves forward, the other holds us in stagnation. Both lay about our every moment. A thousand tiny choices spanning the distance between the life you have and the life you dream of. It is infinitely far; it is as close as a breath. To live in the light we have to choose it now… and again, and again. We are balancing along a razor-edge and that is how it was always meant to be. Because life wasn’t made to be comfortable. Hope will never be ours to claim and despair will always only be a fumble away. It is never okay to leave your courage at home.