Praying to a Magic 8 Ball or sitting in a chair
I was talking to some friends recently and one of them gave a beautiful analogy about faith.
There is a chair. Do you have faith in the chair? Words about having faith in the chair are meaningless. You can say you have faith in the chair, but you show your faith in the chair by sitting in it. You may truly believe the chair will hold you, but unless you sit in it, your faith is meaningless.
I was raised Catholic. I believed in God as a little kid. When I got older, I stopped. Then I believed. Then I stopped. Then I believed. Around and around.
The reason I was able to go around and around was that I never “sat in the chair.” Faith was something decorative like a painting, or maybe more of a kitschy novelty like a Magic 8 Ball, but never something practical, like a chair. I would live as if God had no part in my day to day life. I would do whatever I could to make things go the way I wanted them to. And then when things were going badly, or I wanted something I wasn’t going to get, I “prayed” for a miracle. It was always about what I wanted. And in the most short-sighted, specific way imaginable. Not that I wanted peace, or love, or security, but that I wanted that apartment that I didn’t get, or that boyfriend who didn’t like me back, or those shoes they didn’t have in my size. And I wanted the old, white-haired, white dude in heaven to make that happen.
As a Catholic child I absolutely conceptualized God as the love-child of Charlton Heston and Merlin sitting on a big Throne in the clouds. But now, I do not have an anthropomorphized vision of God. Now my belief can be considered a belief in the general benevolence of life. I believe that when I meet the circumstances in my life with integrity and honor, I always end up better, and with better circumstances than I had. And I have come to trust that the pains and the dips and the falls are not setbacks. They are simply me not getting what I want. And I have come to trust that if I am not getting what I want, it is because it is better not to.
Lately, there has been a lot of me not getting what I want. Quite a bit of sadness and frustration. Lots of disappointments. And I do get disappointed when I want things and my life doesn’t work out that way. I could exhaust myself trying to get what I think I want. But instead this is where I exercise my faith. This is where I sit in the chair.
When I was eating sugar, I used food to numb difficult emotions. When I stopped eating compulsively, I learned how to bear uncomfortable feelings. I had to. There was no other option. And it turns out to be an incredibly useful skill. It has made me calmer, happier and stronger. And it let me have faith, because I suddenly had a means of showing it. I could be still and let things be the way they were. I could sit in the chair.