I have held onto this post for over a month now, waiting to be sure that the Wonderfriends who know the family I write about here have heard the news I share below. I’ve chosen this week to publish it because it turns out to be a companion piece of sorts to last week’s “Road Map to Holland” book review.
Matt and I recently participated in a 6-week class called Parents as Spiritual Guides at our UU church. I had to miss a few of the sessions due to my jet-setting-mama ways in February, and I was truly sorry about that because it was an excellent class.
One week we were asked to think about “faith” – what it means to us, how we keep it alive, and whether it has ever failed us. When you ask a group of UU folks to talk about faith, an interesting conversation is bound to ensue. Faith, to some of us, is a loaded word: one that many of us have negative associations with. Some UU parents have no religious background at all, and some who were a part of other faiths left because something about it did not sit well with us. And so all of us have come together, looking for an inclusive, supportive, liberal spiritual community within which we could comfortably raise children. When it came down to it, many of us couldn’t say what faith means to us, and have avoided the topic for a lifetime.
I was grateful to have that session on faith, because it was an opportunity to listen to others and in turn begin to articulate my own thoughts more coherently. A question posed by one of our classmates helped me to zero in on what faith means to me. She essentially asked how we rationalize the really awful things that happen in the world, and in our lives, as people who claim to have faith. Thinking about it from that angle helped me to put into words my feelings on this subject for the first time. It’s a work in progress, but I’d like to share it.
I have faith in the innate goodness in the world. I have faith – a belief or hope that I act upon – that my actions, such as raising my children thoughtfully and intentionally; being kind and generous to friends, neighbors, and strangers; the blood, sweat and tears I put into my work – will make a positive difference in the world. I have seen that, thanks to this attitude, good things come back to me as well in the form of loving and supportive communities, and I have faith that this will continue throughout my life.
I don’t have blind faith. I don’t believe that everything will work out because God or The Universe or anything else will make it so. I think sometimes life will really stink. Big time. It will be unfair – there will be war and cancer and poverty and AIDS and loved ones dying. Bad things will happen to good people. And I don’t have Someone or Something to blame this on.
Matt and I have wonderful friends who, after waiting a long time to conceive, became pregnant last year. We were all thrilled that these amazing individuals who work with and love children would become parents, and we held our collective breath as the pregnancy proved to be viable, lasting, and healthy. The pregnancy had its challenges, but some weeks ago, a gorgeous baby boy was born. I found that I had still been holding my breath for these friends, but as I cried happily over the pictures of this little guy, I was able to relax and celebrate.
Just a couple of days after he was born, Matt received a phone call from the baby’s father, who is a childhood friend of Matt’s. He asked Matt to be the baby’s Godfather (and noted that they were thinking of the four of us as sort of an extended “Godfamily” to their son). Matt was, of course, exceedingly pleased, and accepted this special role in the baby’s life immediately.
But then the baby’s father shared something else. They had just found out that the beautiful baby has Cystic Fibrosis.
Here is where one’s faith in the goodness of the world gets tested. We are grieving for a child who is alive and well, knowing that his life – and his parents’ lives – won’t be exactly what they and we had imagined. He may get pneumonia a couple of times as a baby and there will be on-going medical interventions required to keep him healthy. A child’s experience with this disease can vary quite a bit. I am able to picture this child growing up, going to school, having friends, playing sports, and going off to whatever college he wants because he’ll be that smart, believe me. But it’s overwhelming, the grieving that happens when a child is born whose path isn’t what we all expected, whose parents got off the plane only to discover that they were in Holland rather than Italy. Their tickets were switched.
There are those who say, “Everything happens for a reason”. My universe doesn’t work that way. I don’t believe this baby has Cystic Fibrosis for some kind of cosmic reason, other than the fact that both of his parents turned out to be carriers and the odds worked against him.
I prefer to turn that platitude on its head and say, “You can find reason in everything.”
The bad stuff? It exists and it stinks. This sweet baby having a serious illness? It’s awful. I don’t want it. If I could take it away from him I would – in a heartbeat. But where my personal faith kicks in here is in my attitude that the beautiful, sweet baby who happens to have Cystic Fibrosis will change the world. People will learn more about themselves from having him in their lives and watching him grow and change. He will bring joy and amazement every time he overcomes an obstacle. His parents will know fear, yes, but also bravery that at one time may have seemed unattainable. His very existence has already opened all of our hearts and minds to hope and limitless possibility, which will reach far beyond our interactions with him and his parents to impact a great many other people.
And that’s what I mean. I don’t think there is a reason for it, but I can find reason in it – reason to hope, to believe, and yes, to have faith.
A whole lot of faith.