The Gospel readings this past week have been leading up to the Transfiguration of Christ, with the underlying thread among all the readings “who do you say I am?” Throughout their ministry, the apostles did not always understand what was unfolding before their eyes, and yet, they believed and followed. That is the thing about faith: it is not based on what you see, but what you feel, understand, believe and find strength in. The last one is particularly difficult, since it belongs to a limited number of events, places and people that are strong enough to carry your burdens as you unload them, and capable of emitting the much needed soul balm.
I have much to be grateful for, in spite of all the stumbling blocks, challenges, frustrations and losses in my life. My faith has wavered along the way, as I challenged and questioned the path I was led down, or the situations I ended up in. But a lack of understanding is not necessarily a reason to turn your back on something or someone. On the contrary, it is the precise moment that we are most vulnerable to seek answers to that which makes us weak and afraid.
An important component of the faith journey is getting lost. If I did not get horribly lost and broken, how else would I learn to appreciate the light and not fear the darkness? Think about that for a moment. It is only when you find your path again that you appreciate what you learned about yourself while being lost. When I lost my way up in the mountains in Spain during the Camino, I knew it was my own fault for not reading the map and the signs properly. Yet, it was a journey of faith and commitment, so I stopped, took a rest, retraced part of my steps, and then continued. It wasn’t long before I found someone to follow, and then ended back on track – perhaps horribly behind schedule, but the main point being that I was whole, safe, and sound.
Losing people who are soul anchors inevitably catalyses a few thoughts about the brevity of life, the importance of appreciating what I have instead of constantly wailing about what I don’t, and places faith at the centre of my being. It is not just about religious or spiritual faith, but more about faith in myself, knowing that I have the strength and ability to get through the tunnel. This gift of unbreakable faith is a fragile one that needs to be nurtured over the years, but sometimes we don’t have the luxury to time to think about what we need or even to prepare for a worst-case-scenario, and just have to wing it. Through it all, I am constantly reminded that my faith – in God, in my strength, in those I love, in the inherent goodness and and generosity of those who sustain me – is like the bamboo: it bends and bows in the eye of the storm, but never breaks.