“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I was a child attending catechism classes on Monday afternoons, I had trouble conceptualizing God as someone who would send a little baby to hell if it hadn’t been baptized before it died. Friends of my parents lost a baby at childbirth and one of the kids in my class kept insisting the baby went straight to hell. Mom told me to ignore the remark and that God had room for all babies in heaven. I had a lot more faith in my mom than God at that point, yet somehow I believed that God had passed that message on to Mom to give to me.
I’ve always been blessed with faith. I never labeled my faith as “religion,” although I have always had profound respect for religions of the world. Ethical principles are at the heart of every religion, so with that in mind, I have always believed in “a higher power.” One of my college boyfriends told me he was an agnostic who believed in The Big Bang theory of creation. This was way before my favorite TV show of the same name. I asked him, “What do you think created The Big Bang?” We didn’t date much after that.
I left the Catholic Church shortly after my parents divorced, but still believed in God. Over the years, I joined friends at different churches (including a return to my Catholic roots from time to time), and in a wide variety of spiritual pursuits until I finally settled on a simple faith that allows me to honor God and respect all religions. This faith has served as a strong foundation to guide me through difficult times, from the death of my first husband to confrontations with tyrant bosses to supporting friends who are seriously ill to caring for my elderly parents in their final years.
In her book, Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff says, “No one can dictate your spiritual identity for you. If you were turned off or made cynical by early religious upbringing, start fresh. Try not to get mixed up by other people’s opinions.” She offers helpful guidelines for discovering your own sense of spirit and says that hundreds of scientific studies have shown that spirituality catalyzes energy.
Another one of my modern day heroes is the author and life coach, Iyanla Vanzant. I have mentioned Iyanla in previous posts. I met Iyanla at a conference in Washington, D.C. a few years ago, and I always enjoy hearing her speak at special events and in interviews. In Faith in the Valley: Lessons for Women on the Journey to Peace, Iyanla reminds us that we are never really alone because God is always by our side. More importantly, YOU are always by your side. No matter how dire and bleak the situation might seem for you when you are experiencing one of life’s valleys, such as the valley you walk as a family caregiver, you just need a little faith in yourself to get through it, and maybe some guidance to find that faith in yourself.
Rick Warren, pastor of the wonderful Saddleback Church just up the street from my home and author of The Purpose Driven Life, is another of my modern day heroes. One of his quotes became my mantra during a particularly difficult time I experienced on the journey of caregiving: “You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.”
My faith is constantly catalyzed by signs. Corny as it might sound, whenever I see a double rainbow, I know something wonderful is about to happen. If my feet tingle when I am meditating, I am reminded that God is pushing me upward. When I am feeling down or scared, I remember what Rick Warren said and I say, “Show me the way.” Invariably, something happens very quickly to guide me back into a higher energy field. When that occurs, my faith is strengthened, yet I know that simply having faith is a treasure in and of itself.
Next footprint: Humor
Please join this conversation and share your experience of faith, especially if you are a present or former caregiver…