I’ve always tried to live my life with Faith, without ever understanding what that meant until recently. It’s in truth been something that I’ve struggled with since I’ve been a young adult, when the little girl who trusted completely in an invisible God, grew into a bullied adolescent with a lot of hurt and anger for having what she perceived as too much Faith. I came to see my tender, open-hearted ways as the source of my pain. I fought my nature so that I might trust less, so as to protect myself, and as a result Faith became some guarded and questionable stranger in the corner of an ill-lit bar. I’d heard about Faith all my life, and I’d watched it practiced exceedingly well by those I looked up to, but as I entered my twenties I found myself wanting to come into their hearts and steal what they had like a thief in the night. I wanted to covet it and make it my own, but it remained something I mostly mimicked.
There are times in your life when you are changed forever, and in those moments clarity seems to ensue. When it does, you are suddenly aware that you are not the same, and can look back on your life and see things that you couldn’t before. When my best friend, and the only man I’d ever truly loved was struck by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury 20 days ago, I experienced one of those moments (though it was some time before I was able to process it).
Those 12 days I spent in the hospital were like being thrown into tar-pit of grief, Fear and insanity. But there was no room in all of that for pride, and thankfully, for over-analyzation. I had spent a decade of my life prior to this letting my over-annalyzation of everything stop me or at least complicate my ability to do the things I felt called to do, and had only recently in the past two years come to a place where I’d learned to listen to that quiet voice in my heart speak, and turn down the neurotic voice of Fear. Through the process of making my new record, “The Giant Unquiet” I had begun to understand more and more about what it meant to have Faith. As best as I could, I’d returned to the young girl I had once been (who I felt was my most authentic self). Yet still, I had Fear.
However, the tragedy of my beloved almost dying burst open whatever walls were left around my heart. They were completely blown apart. I became vulnerable in a way I’d never been in my life; an open wound bleeding, a soul that was falling into darkness without wings. My brain was off. I was all emotion.
I didn’t just go to the chapel to pray for my beloved ( though I spent many hours there ), and I didn’t just pray over his body and ask God to send healing energy through me into him ( though I did this despite being uncomfortable in every previous attempt in my life). I didn’t just ask everyone I knew to pray for him (though we had thousands praying soon enough). These were not just “things I did”. They weren’t things I did as a break from what was happening in that hospital. Rather, my life in that hospital became a prayer. Every breath was a prayer. Every touch of my hand on his heart, or stroke of his face was a prayer. Every time I watched him suffer. Every word spoken. Every heartbeat. Every cell in my body and pump of my blood. I had become a prayer. There was a war happening in the hospital room, a battle for life and death. But there was another spiritual war inside me raging; birds scattering to the sounds of gunshot, smoke hanging in the air, the smell of flesh and bone all twisted together in my heart’s battle between Faith and Fear.
It’s been twenty days since the accident, and my beloved is alive. He is making slow, progressive improvements towards healing. He is changed. And I am changed. I am not the same as I was before. I look back now on the last ten years and I realize that what was holding me back from Faith was that I hindered it with my worry, my anxiety, my Fear, which all diminished my Faith, or perhaps allowed me to pretend I had it, when in reality I did not. I told myself I had Faith, but was unwilling to let go. I realize now that my life changed when I started making decisions on what they call “blind faith”, that is, I let go of Fear and believed 100% in what my heart was telling me was right. When I chose to turn down a teaching job, I remember I felt peace, not worry, and it surprised me since I had no rational reason to feel peace in making such a crazy decision. The road ahead was hard, but I kept making decisions based in Faith. I raised the money for my record through Kickstarter, though my Fear told me it was impossible. I decided to give up my belongings and apartment and buy an RV, even though my Fear told me I would fail, be alone, and have nothing. I finished my record as best I could, even though my Fear told me it wouldn’t amount to anything, and that no one would enjoy listening to it. And while I’d seen all these events as singular, what I didn’t realize was that each time I believed and had courage, I had strengthened my Faith. And so when it came time to face the tragedy of my beloved being hurt, all those experiences came to the forefront and were made available to me, like a reserve of precious, life-giving water.
People talk about Faith and you hear words like salvation and reconciliation and transformation. But for me, and many like me, the journey has not been such a straight line or quite this narrow. The first step for me was to believe, and I think the harder you believe, the more you give yourself over to believing, the more power your prayer has to manifest change. You can’t have Faith and be afraid. One cancels out the other. Doctors told us not to have false hope, but I think you have to be willing to raise yourself up to the highest heavens in hope, and be willing to fall that much further if you’re prayer is not answered as you hoped it would be. Which brings me to another new realization I am just beginning to grasp: that things are unfolding just as they should in a way we can’t understand, regardless of whether our prayer is answered as we hope it will be. This is how I suppose people arrive at the saying “it was not meant to be” or “everything is happening as it should”, which used to infuriate me. It’s funny how words can fix to allude you from truth, or set you free.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and tonight gratitude is the pillow on which I will kneel and say my nightly prayer. I am grateful for my gifts. I am grateful that I am blessed to sing and play, and that I can share my songs with those I meet, and through music transcend the typical barriers that separate people. I am grateful for my family and friends, who continue to enrich my life in too many ways to mention. I am grateful for the outstanding kindness of my Taxi Rally Comrades, who came to my rescue both financially and emotionally in my time of need. I am grateful for the kind eyes of a small child in the waiting area who smiled at me while I was crying, precocious as hell, and sat next to me without any Fear at all. I am grateful for the Muslim teenager who said he’d pray for me, and for the Jewish chaplin who held my hand for an hour in the dark and spoke a quiet prayer in Hebrew. I am grateful for the many, many Christian friends who have formed prayer chains for this intention. I am grateful for those who do no subscribe to any faith, who have still united their wills with mine to send positive energy into the universe. I am grateful that my beloved is as of today breathing on his own, his eyes tracking people around the room, his limbs moving in response to pain, and his vitals steady.
My heart overflows with gratitude for all that has been, is today, and for any moment that is granted to me tomorrow. I am a prayer. All of me. Every part of me.
May your Thanksgiving be abundant in love, harmony, friendship, peace, family, and above all… gratitude, which is in the end, the source of our joy.