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FAITH

"If you want faith, you have to work for it." Flannery O�Connor

Leanord Byram, my grandfather, died at home at the age of 93, on April 30th, 1995. He was surrounded by family members who maintained a 24- hour-vigil over him for weeks. His life will never be chronicled in a history book. His was an ordinary life, lived by an extraordinary man. He resided in the same small town for over 60 years. He worked as a logger and woodsman on the rivers and streams of New Brunswick and Maine. Later, he became an auto mechanic, then a carpenter, and eventually purchased property and farmed his land. He lived in a small, modest three-bedroom ranch during the years that I knew him. Still nestled into the corner of the living room sits the desk that he spent hours at every day.

In retrospect, he was perhaps my greatest role model. He was deeply involved in the pursuit of "the truth", with a devotion few have ever surpassed. For more years than I've been alive, he studied the Bible and other religious works with vigor, and frequently corresponded with others on spiritual matters. His life, while not easy, was rich and abundant; filled with family, fellow seekers, and above all - faith. Each day carried for him the promise of an opportunity to grow closer to his God. And though I know he experienced confusion and frustration regarding earthly matters, once he found his faith, there wasn't a day in his life that he walked without it.

While my grandfather placed absolute trust in a God who resided outside of him, I'm still learning to trust the inherent wisdom that exists within me. He sought the heavenly spirit, while my search became earth-bound. He found what he was seeking; I'm still looking. Still, while I seek, I, too have found. I've learned to trust my body's instinctual way of knowing what it needs in order to most effectively house my spirit. I'm also learning to trust that I'm connected in some inextricable way to the vast wisdom of the universe. The more my awareness grows of this connection, the more in touch I become with the meaning and purpose of my own life.

I'm learning to trust that while life is unpredictable and can hurt very deeply, I'm no more alone in the darkness of my despair than I am in the light of my joy. While I've suffered and will continue to suffer, I've healed and will heal again.

It was easy to believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy as a child; mine was a simple faith evolving from a trusting heart. I never saw the North Pole, but I believed. As I grow older and have lost much of my ability to believe in what I can't see, my life experiences have served to renew my faith. I can't conceive that the absolute beauty that I've enjoyed in the natural world is little more than an act of random. I can't grasp that the intricate and enormously complex web of life is ultimately coincidental. I'm able to speak from my heart when I tell a companion who's despairing to hold on; that the pain will surely fade. I know this through my own experiences. I have seen, and thus I believe. The agony that has tampered with my faith has ultimately led me to trust in deliverance. I hurt and I heal. I am a natural being participating in an ongoing and natural cycle. Day follows night; the warmth of summer returns each year once the winter has claimed its season, and I will surely always find my way to a new beginning. Endings and beginnings are always intermingled.

While dealing with the after-shocks of my quake, I've come finally to understand the meaning of faith. It doesn't require faith to acknowledge that which we can see and touch and measure. Faith is born of mystery, of promise, and of hope. The guarantee for which it stands isn't written or legally binding. It exists only within the human heart and is seldom easily acquired beyond childhood. And like so much which follows this precious age, it requires care. At this time in my life, I'm in the process of planting and weeding, as I strive towards the cultivation of faith.

�Tammie Byram Fowles, LISW, Ph.D., SagePlace excerpt from her book "BirthQuake".