29 August 2007

Manic Monday Redux

As I made my rounds of the various postings on the subject of this week's theme of the word "faith", I noted particularly the number of people who had lost faith, who had trouble feeling faith, who had trouble believing in God without faith, who wished for the strength of faith in themselves even without faith in God, or who expressed a deep and abiding faith.

All of this followed the news that Mother Theresa regularly confessed to a lack of faith but acted as if she believed even when unable to feel anything. One of the repeated themes in literature is this "Dark Night of the Soul" sense of moving ahead without faith. Being a child of the 60s, I thought of a story song about moving ahead in faith: "The Reverend Mr. Black" with it's chorus of "You've got to walk that lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself. Oh nobody else can walk it for you. You got to walk it by yourself."

In literature of course "The Valley of Despair" is a place in Pilgrim's Progress. In "Little Women" in the first chapter, the story speaks of Marmie's Christmas gifts to her daughters of the book by John Bunyan written while in jail for his religious beliefs. Marmie hopes that her daughters may learn to keep going even when confronted by temptation, terrified by evil, or abandoned in the Valley of Despair. Toward the end you have this quote when Beth is dying:

Beth could not reason upon or explain the faith that gave her courage and patience to give up life, and cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding child, she asked no questions, but left everything to God and nature, Father and Mother of us all, feeling sure that they, and they only, could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life and the life to come.

Little Women, chapter 36
Whether you believe in God or not is not the same thing as faith. Faith is the act of moving forward even when you are frightened, miserable, lonely or just mystified as to what life is all about. It is only in looking back that you can see how just the act of moving ahead got you past the rough and often cruel parts of life and in that moving ahead you found the nature of faith.

Yes, Pilgrim's Progress was a protestant Christian allegory based in many ways on the old Catholic Mystery Plays, but the story written more than 400 years ago is about life and the difficulties that at one time or another we all face whatever our beliefs or lack of them. If you don't have a copy or can't find one at your library, you can download the book at The Guttenberg Project. So famous is the connection of John Bunyan with his character that someone viewing the figure with it's heavy burden on the tombstone knows where John Bunyan is buried.


Travis Cody said...

There are so many different kinds of faith, aren't there?

Anon-Paranoid said...

We all have faith that one day we will get our country back.

You know the country I'm talking about. The one we lived under a Rule of Law that said All Men Are Created Equal.

That country is gone and disappeared over the course of my 60 plus years.

I try to hold on the faith that one day it will return and that is the only thing that most days keeps me going.

That plus faith in the Lord helps me get up each and every morning and face the day.

Without it I would truly be lost.

God Bless.

Anonymous said...


another excellent post!

"Whether you believe in God or not is not the same thing as faith. Faith is the act of moving forward even when you are frightened, miserable, lonely or just mystified as to what life is all about."

it bears repeating...... you nailed it!

thanks for touching my soul....

Linda said...

What an excellent post! "Little Women" was one of my very favorite books as a child and I can remember crying every single time I read the part where Beth died because she seemed such a kind, good, and gentle soul. And she had a ton of faith.

I believe that it's faith that most definitely keeps us moving forward otherwise we'd all be sitting by the side of the road having decided that our loads were too much to bear and there was no sense in taking another step on whatever paths we're on.

Life in itself is an act of faith, is it not?