October 23, 2018

Keeping the Faith with God

I am a woman of faith and depending on different things going on in my life, I decide what the faith refers to. There have been times where I've been so connected to God I trust he is my faith. Yet other times I have been in such doubt about God that I place the strength of my faith in something else, most often my son. Faith is something I need everyday and am blessed to be able to see it whether or not I am close to God.

Years ago I was watching the news and there was coverage of a tornado in Kansas. A young woman was speaking of holding her baby and having her ripped from her arms during the impact of the tornado.  They found the baby and she had died. As I watched this woman clutch onto her other child, she said she trusted God had a plan for taking her baby. I never forgot that woman or her devotion to God.

I cried for her loss and for her strength. I didn’t understand how she could see things as she did, but it was at that exact moment I decided I would never live my life without faith. It could be faith in my child, God, or myself, but there was going to be something to channel my faith into everyday. I often wish I could find that young woman and hug her because she has had a truly profound impact on how I live my life.

People often think Keeping the Faith is about God or Judaism, but it isn’t. It is about my life, my worldview, and how I keep faith. I've led an interesting life and when I reflect on the highs and lows, it turns out faith has always mattered to me. Even when God is not in clear view, he is always there. It has not been my faith in God that wavered as much as it has simply been my need for him that has changed.

I pray daily, go to temple more often than not, and love the high holidays. I spent a lot of time in temple over Yom Kippur and I was emotional. I took my son to Kol Nidre services and they were wonderful. The services were fabulous, the music was perfect, and my Rabbi gave a wonderful sermon. I really love my Rabbi. Love her from a place so deep in my heart that I sometimes think only she can see it.

When we returned to shul on Saturday morning I felt unsteady. I started to cry within 5 minutes and cried for the next 3 hours. I couldn't stop crying. Every word from the bimah had meaning, every song moved me, and each time my son tried to comfort me or a stranger offered me a tissue, I cried more. It was odd and I was both entertained and mortified. I couldn't figure out what was going on with me.

As I looked at my son I was overcome with the same feeling of love I had when I held him the first time. As I listened to him recite prayers and read Hebrew from the prayer book, I sobbed. I was so proud of him and of myself for giving him such a foundation in Judaism. If how your children turn out is the way we are to judge our own lives, then I have done a remarkable job as a mother.

As my Rabbi gave her sermon I felt a shift. I couldn't tell if it was her I felt lifted by, or perhaps it was God. Maybe I was just in a moment where I needed God and so I was able to see him through my Rabbi. Perhaps it was the brilliance of my Rabbi. Either way there was a shift and with each tear I felt stronger. I went into the holidays with a sense of obligation and left with a real sense of faith.

I feel lucky to know love, give love, receive love, and grateful to still be open to finding love. I am blessed to have a Rabbi who teaches me to listen to what I need from faith and embrace it. In the past 48 hours I was able to learn from my past, value my present, and be excited as I anticipate my future. The perfect combination of me, my Rabbi and God. I felt like I understood the woman in Kansas.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. I came away from the high holidays feeling brave enough take a step forward. I can't see the staircase and it is okay. Sometimes it is enough to stand on a step for a long time because when you're ready you will put one foot in front of the other and if you are lucky you will be going forward.

To my son, you have made all of my dreams come true and I want you to know that you are a wonderful human being. To my Rabbi, Naomi Levy, you have shown me the way home when I didn’t even know I was lost. Thank you. To God, I heard you. To those who read my work, thank you for being here and sharing in return. May we all have a wonderful year of health, happiness, and keeping the faith.