Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” –Matthew 21:21
Most of us know fear instead of faith. Most of us may hear words like this and have absolutely no belief or personal experience that suggests it could be true. Even those of us who call ourselves spiritual or faithful. Even those who throw the name Jesus around like it’s water, don’t live according to his message.
For several years, I had Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi, next to my bed. Before going to sleep, I’d start to read a few pages, and I found myself putting it down in frustration and disbelief. Right from the beginning, this Indian yogi talks of sages who are able to traverse time and space and appear physically in two spaces at once. He shares stories of sages who are able to use their voices to reach people and bring what they want or need toward them. (From a place of goodness and love, not witchcraft.) He talks of master yogis who heal people’s illnesses, or bring men back from the dead.
I was like, Puh-lease, Waa? Can’t be true.
But then, after I started dabbling in Jesus, I changed my mind.
(I’m a little worried about sounding like a scary evangelist here, so bear with me. Don’t go just yet. This is a good story.)
I spent several years at a job I didn’t like. “Didn’t like” is an understatement, actually. The people were wonderful and kind, so that wasn’t an issue. There was a flexible-enough schedule, a decent enough salary, so everything looked good on paper. I was just really ill-suited to the actual work. Like, if a mean fairy was playing with my spirit and wanted to give me the worst possible job for me, maybe that would have been it? I often wondered if cleaning toilets would have been a better use of my time, and I’m not putting anyone down who cleans toilets. At least in the act of cleaning I would have felt productive. I would had something to show for myself. I would have been able to stand back and be satisfied, at least for a moment, at a job well done.
I began to consider that period of my life “my time in the ashram.”
At the same time I endured this job, I was part of a leadership team in the company that was trying to get people to open up and embrace change, and the metaphor being used was fitting into a new jacket. Or taking the jacket off. I can’t remember, exactly. I just remember going to one of the vice presidents in tears one day, telling her I was really trying to fit into this jacket, like, desperately, and it just wasn’t working. I needed a different jacket altogether.
A friend of mine, and parents, kept saying, But you have a pension, and you have a lunch break, and you have a day to work from home. Be happy with what you have. This is just a job, and then the rest of your time is your own.
But that mentality is just not me. It’s not the way I’m wired. I can’t really compartmentalize my life that way. I’m all-in. If I’m devoted to something, if I’m investing my time in a task, you get the best of me. You get every part. I’m bringing all my resources to the table, everything I have to tackle whatever problem I’m facing. That’s just what I do, and I can’t change it. And I don’t want to. Because in every endeavor I face, I want to be me. The fullness of me. Anything else doesn’t honor the people involved, and I respect us all too much to give less than that.
And there wasn’t a lot of honor happening at this job, because I was becoming a shadow of a person.
So I started reading the Bible. I didn’t do it for answers, necessarily. I did it because I was writing a book set in pre-Christian times, and I figured the Bible would be good research to help me. And I was pissed about what I was reading, and confused. None of it made sense. And I didn’t really get this Jesus fellow. I just couldn’t understand him. Sometimes he seemed like an asshole, and there was some arrogance that he knew everything, and I just felt genuine resistance to stuff he was saying. What were all these parables, anyway? Riddles?
But something in me was changing. Something was happening. I couldn’t name it or describe it, but I was reading that shit every morning, and something was getting in on a level below my ego, below my overthinking, overly practical brain.
And one morning, after a couple of months of reading the Bible, of trying to find a way out from my daily suffering, I woke up and realized, without a doubt, I had to quit my job. Like, this was a certainty that existed like no other certainty existed before.
So I did.
And I had no back-up plan. None.
So while I did not regret my decision, or think there was any other way (because I wanted to be alive, and staying there would have been killing myself), I had no fucking idea what I was going to do, and I became completely paralyzed with despair at how awful I sucked. All I saw was me making mistake after mistake after mistake, really really sucking at life, unable to get out from under the rubble.
So I prayed and sobbed harder than I ever had, and I asked for Jesus to help me. There was no resistance left. I was not in my mind, because this had to happen below the level of ego. I was in my heart. And I asked for him to come in, and I felt his light shower into me, and fill my heart with a pulse it hadn’t had before, and within that afternoon I had a plan of action and the energy to tackle my problems, and I have never looked back.
That guy wanted me. I think he was trying to get me all along. I had just put up so many walls and assumptions, I wouldn’t let him in. And he doesn’t invade. He’s too gentle and too sweet. He waits until you ask. And then he’s like, Hallelujah, here I am, baby. Come and take me. (So maybe he talks a little like Al Green.)
All this is to say that taking a leap is what gives you faith. It’s not conceptual. It’s not something you can think your way into, something you can explore like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s just diving into the water. But that usually doesn’t happen until you’re in a place of despair, until you’re in a place where you always feel like you’re fucking up, until you are honest with yourself about all the things you don’t know. That’s why this dude speaks so well to lower-classes, or to people who are a bit more humble. They don’t have a lot of expectations, and they’re not entitled. So they’re willing to bow down and ask for guidance, and ask for forgiveness, because they don’t think they deserve everything.
Shit, this story is getting long.
I guess the gist is this. If there is something you want desperately, or something you’re grappling with, it’s worth turning it over and asking the Above for help. (Maybe Jesus?) That doesn’t mean you get exactly what you want. There is no guarantee for that. But you will get an answer, at some point. You will get guidance, if you’re open to listening. And that guidance, if you keep asking, just makes your life better. It makes you more alive. It makes you more grateful. It makes everything more real and more visceral. If you’re willing to take the plunge and be vulnerable. If you step a little out of your comfort zone, God is going to meet you. And meet you again, for as far as you’re willing to go. The depth of your faith is the depth of God’s glory, of what you’ll be able to see is possible.
But if you never step forward? If you never take a leap into the unknown, asking questions from your heart, looking for guidance?
Yeah, you have no reason to see any results of faith. Because there will be none. Everything is just random, coincidence, shadow.