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Don’t Despair, Don’t Lose Faith, Don’t Stop Loving
Some time ago, before the pandemic was a way of life, I found myself under a menacing black cloud. One of my children was deep into the crack pipe, and they were spewing venom straight at me. I was hurt by the meanness of their words. I was frightened by the danger they were in and by my own powerlessness. My faith in the goodness of life was under attack. Hope for a loving future seemed very far away. Then, one morning, these words popped into my head. “Don’t despair. Don’t lose faith. Don’t stop loving.” This was the answer to my dilemma, and it worked. And, in his own good time, my child found his recovery.
I wrote the words down and posted them on the refrigerator so I would seem them every day. Now, as the pandemic swirls around us, they seem even more relevant than ever.
So, fresh from a good night’s sleep and a warm breakfast, what’s my problem? Everything. Nothing makes sense anymore. Facts change with the weather. Science and medicine are discarded in favor of the ranting of tribal elders. Division and hatred are the order of the day. People are dying all around me, climate change is wrecking our world, and I am afraid of my neighbor. Sound familiar? Stop the world, I want to get off.
The problem then: despair, loss of faith, and the inability to find love around me. But I can’t begin to fix my problems until I understand them, so here goes.
On the best of days, I believe there is a spirit which flows through me and out into the world. I call it Love. This flow brings an awareness of truth, beauty, and the knowledge of right and wrong. It carries compassion, kindness, and honesty, as well as peace, freedom from worry, and a realistic hope for the future.
Without this Love, life wilts. Without it, dreams wither. Without the light of meaning, confusion reigns. Without faith, hope is lost. Within the darkness, love cannot be found. Overtaken by fear, I turn away from the light of the spirit. When right and wrong are not so important as money and the opinion of others, I am blocking the action of the spirit. These sound like fatal prospects, and indeed they can be. To find simple, real answers, we need look no further than St. Francis Prayer.
“Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.”
“Where there is doubt, let me bring faith”
The Love of God is, by most definitions, perfect. The spirit of Love that flows through me must therefore also be perfect. (Not so the rest of me, which is made of imperfect clay.) It follows that God’s world is perfect too, just the way it is. God, I have heard, sees only goodness in his creation. Somehow, to align myself with the universe, with life itself, I must acquire new eyes. This new vision reveals the faith, hope, and love that are the foundations of our existence.
Faith is not a useless platitude, but a practical tool, suitable for everyday use. Faith that the universe is based upon love; that no matter what happens, everything is going to turn out right; that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” For hatred cannot long overcome love, and darkness cannot dispel the light.
Fear is the enemy of my heart. But with this perfect Love, fear is cast out and replaced by faith. And with faith in life and my journey through it, hope returns.
What now? Ride the waters of love as they flow through you. Look into the face of everyone you encounter and smile, even if you’re both wearing masks. See the humanity in them for they are just as frightened as you. No matter how evil a person’s behavior may seem, they are the physical manifestation of the Love of the universe, and we are inescapably connected through that Love, brothers in the most profound sense. No matter how twisted by fear their actions may be, the Love inside them can never die. No one is beyond recovery. Never give up on another human being.
And then? Make sure your side of the street is clean. Sweep carefully the sidewalk in front of your door. Refuse to allow your fears to color your view of the world and its people. See the perfection of God’s world everywhere around you. And if I can’t see it, look harder.
And don’t forget the simple things. Find a spot in Nature where you can chill. Don’t wallow in self-pity, make a gratitude list instead. Count your blessings, not your lacks. Get outside of yourself and see the world from another’s point of view. Help others. And above all else, treat others the way you want to be treated.
I guess what I’m really saying is this, Let go and let God.