The flip side of faith is not fear or doubt. It occurred to me this morning, as I woke from tossing and dreaming and turning in the predawn hours, that the flip side of faith is simply not knowing, and knowing that that’s OK. Not having a clue and going ahead anyway. Because, of course, there’s a third side to faith, and that’s the Lord.
I don’t know, Lord, what’s in front of me. I don’t know, Lord, what’s around the next corner, but I am walking forward because I know, Lord, that you are with me.
One of my dreams this morning was about lectoring, an activity I love, being an old theater hand. I dreamed that I was reading in a far more elaborate, labyrinthine church than our parish church, but that the celebrant was familiar to me: our pastor, Father Barnes.
I approached the lectern and looked down at the lectionary. Instead of having a single reading per page, the open page looked more like an encyclopedia, and when I scanned it for today’s reading I saw that there were at least two entries for April 14. The first wasn’t a reading at all but an explanatory note, some sort of boilerplate advisory to lectors maybe, which I did not read. I knew, with mounting anxiety, that my mission was to read the reading, and then my eyes found it. It said, “A reading from that book of WHAS.”
That is probably an anagram for something, and you are welcome to analyze it for me. Knock yourself out. My beloved Katie, who is quick to try to make things “OK,” thought of the Greek monogram for Jesus Christ, IHS, but I was pretty sure that’s not what WHAS was. All I remember of the rest of the dream was realizing that (1) I was not making much sense of WHAS, (2) this was taking an uncomfortable amount of time, (3) the congregation was waiting silently, and (4) Father Barnes was patiently letting me take as much time as I needed.
Realizing with relief that the pastor was in no hurry, and that I needn’t be either, I woke up.
I have begun feeling antsy about my upcoming trip to Europe, a honeymoon with Katie that has been delayed 28 years, followed by walking the Camino de Santiago with my daughter Marian. My dreams, my tossing and turning, have helped me to understand this antsiness.
As I wrote two days ago, all of the projects of my working life as a commission writer have come to fruition in these two weeks before my departure. The flip side of this coincidence is that I have no idea what I am doing for work when I get back in July. Actually no idea isn’t quite true. I have plenty of ideas, but no projects.
And I’m trying to be fine with that. I am walking forward, Lord, and I need to remember that you are with me.
I thought of my father after waking up this morning and after the first few swallows of coffee, which Katie graciously brought me. My father left a big-business job in New York at the age of 53 for an unknown future. That he did not know what was next is proven by the facts that followed: he opened a personal financial service called Taurus (get it?), served one client, closed shop, and studied to become a sculptor. We delivered his last bronze from the foundry to him on his deathbed in the hospice.
I had a strong feeling of comfort this morning, much like knowing that Father Barnes was the celebrant in my dream. My feeling was, Dad was already right here where I am. He walked this unknown country.
I talked with Katie over coffee about my strange, dreamlike state, which persisted. I said I did not want to dispel it entirely, not before I had written about it, and now of course I’ve done so.
I shared with Katie my sense that my feeling of faith and my awareness of not knowing were about our upcoming trip, but of course, I said, they are about death too. Then I got a bit teary. “And Dad is there, too,” I said
This is an amazing moment. Thank God.