By Eleanor Deckert

A heart-to-heart conversation with an older friend is something to treasure. In a quiet, trust-filled moment, you might ask very personal questions.

“Have you always believed the same thing and expressed your faith in the same way? Or does this shift and change over your lifetime?”

Fran was widowed and left alone to raise four very young children. Her peaceful stamina amazed me. How could she endure such heartbreak? “I don’t have a religion,” she answered my curiosity, “I have ‘faith.’ By that I mean, I trust that things will work out.” Her example of family dedication and community service inspired me.

Barb was a teacher in a religious private school. When I met her, she was living in one chilly room, no longer driving, relying on neighbours to bring her groceries. This was poverty I had never seen. Yet, her wisdom was a beacon of light for me. “God gives me all I need,” she gestured to the shelves of non perishable food, the electric heater, the blankets wrapped in her nest. I brought her a hot meal. She warmed my heart.

Emil was hard of hearing. But he listened! I could confide in him, ask him personal details, plumb the depths of his experience. Always making deeply focused eye contact, always slow to reply, always worth the wait, he shared a wealth of goodness. “Become as a child,” he told me. “Mary is your Mother,” he led me to believe. “Nothing evil can coexist near Mary,” he stated with confidence. My night-time fears melted away when I invited Mary into my mind and heart.

Anna was extremely clean, her house perfect, her manner strict, her ideas somewhat rigid. I felt a little timid near her, not so cozy. Her faith seemed certain, no room for doubts. Once I asked her and she said, “You keep doing what is right. You don’t waver just because you doubt. Keep going. The truth doesn’t change. There may be a storm, but you stay with what is solid and true.” Storms, indeed! Her perspective has helped me get through intact.

Cynthia, since childhood, has lived through many hard times. Hungry, her mother unreliable, she stashed food to be able to provide for her sister. Lonely, she became pregnant as a teenager. Loyal, she married and kept the baby. Faithful, she ‘did the right thing’ while following the religion she knew. Later, she questioned, searched, opened her heart, read other sources, travelled to learn, interacted with others who showed her new ideas. “Sometimes when I go to church, I feel clarity, I feel surrounded by angels and brightness. Sometimes when I go to church, it seems dull and meaningless, I cannot listen or sense anything holy. Both are part of my faith journey,” she explained. “I do not fear the empty times. I wait. New experiences will come. Of course you change over your lifetime. A child aches for stability. A teen wrestles and searches. Grief shapes you. Trust is broken. Marriage is challenging. Parenting is exhausting. Alternative resources come to your attention. For me ‘faith’ is not one answer for my whole lifetime. It is ever renewed.”

I guess that’s why faith is called a journey.