Last year at this time, I wrote a piece, ‘The Class of 2014’, in which I gave a summary of my year, and pointed out the good things that had happened. I was quite happy to see how many people read it, and better, revisited it, throughout the year. I thought I’d do the same this year, although the ‘spin’ has to be different.
During the last twelve months, I’ve lost my home (again), relocated to an area of the country to stay with people with whom, ultimately, I did not feel safe. After considerable turmoil, I returned to the middle West very hastily, and at great expense. Now I’m camping on someone’s couch, at their tremendous inconvenience, with the hope of avoiding the trauma of a homeless shelter in my immediate future. I interacted a spectrum of people ranging from with people who insisted on treating me like a child (which is humiliating), to people who expected too much—they don’t understand conditions like PTSD or Anxiety Disorders, and the limitations such conditions impose (which is frustrating). Curiously, those who did the one often did the second as well.
It has not been a stellar year.
Although there was a lot of negativity in 2015, there were positives as well. I discovered, for example, that I meant something to a young lady of ten, even though I had to leave before she could express that feeling. I discovered the selflessness of friendship, going above and beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations. I learnt something about being forgiven and embraced after many years’ absence. I found ‘keep it simple’ to be a very useful rule of thumb, and learnt not to worry, or to plan, beyond the next meal. I learnt to accept that in every situation, there is a certain element of the unknown that must be taken into account in any expectation because Surprise is part of the Universal Experience. Predictability is a bore and life is anything but boring….
I was also reminded of a very old lesson—actions speak louder than words. What makes a person a good Christian is not whether they’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, but what they’ve done with what they’ve read. The wisest people are not those with the catchiest clichés, but the most profound silences. I’ve also learnt that some of the best people are those who suffer the most. They know what it is to listen because they have known what it was not to be heard.
I learnt a lot about faith and here I have to make some distinctions. I don’t mean the Pollyanna-type faith expressed in mindless optimism, or the saccharin faith that (big sappy grin) ‘The Lord will provide’ because it said so in a Sunday school song. No clouds part to let a brilliant sun shine through, nor do choruses of angels intone ‘Ahhhhhh’ in heavenly wise.
I mean the faith that comes from living in hard times and surviving. Consequently, when my friend said ‘It will work out,’ I knew she was speaking from experience, and to my joy, she was not wrong (though the fruits of faith sometimes blossom s-l-o-w-l-y). Although it was difficult, in time I found myself thinking her way.
We’ve discussed faith before. It is a vital element of being human, it is easiest to have when things go well, and most important (as well as most difficult) to have when having faith is most needed. There are very few people in the world who have had an easy time with life. Pain is relative—the disappointment that annoys me might devastate you, and yet, you might find it easier than I to believe that no matter how long it takes, ‘joy cometh in the morning.’ We all have endured disheartenment and sorrow, and we all have survived it. These are the lessons 2015 gave to me.
Why is Faith vital?
What do you have without it?
Paul TN Chapman
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