Sunday, February 17, 2013

Faith of Our Fathers...and Mothers...and Others

I want to offer this as a very brief follow-up to my previous blog.

It's kind of personal, but something tells me it may "strike home" with some of you, maybe even many of you.

I've been a bit of a gypsy in my life. Prone to shifting my circumstances pretty readily. I joined the carnival when I was 23, ended up in Montana for seven years, lived in Kauai for a while, England, Colorado, then joined the Navy for eight years finishing my tour of duty on the east coast with a follow-up of about four years working for the Federal Government in some capacity or another.

And then I decided to ride my bicycle across the country! Now I'm enjoying Santa Barbara, CA and getting ready to re-start my trip this spring.

During all of these years, my father has told he "loves me" but he "worries about me". At the same time, he's never been one to initiate much contact with me. I'm sorry to say he has not been inclined to "make the effort" to do that. It's always been me calling him.

My mother, well, ever since I started disagreeing with her point of view of my father and "everything else" she's thought (at various times) there was something "wrong with my mind", and she has been concerned that I stopped "following Jesus". In other words, she "worries" about me, too.

I mean no disrespect to either of my parents. They are who they are and I know they've been doing the best they can knowing what they know. And it is not like I came into this world knowing what I know now, or even what I have come to better understand in the last few weeks even.

Nevertheless, neither of my parents have ever taken much time to really get to know me as I am. When I've been at my father's house, along with my step-mother and step-relatives, and my two sisters I've usually spent most of my time listening to the stories of their lives. Nobody has ever really asked me much about mine. I kind of wonder if any of them are reading these blogs.

In contrast, there is a couple in Tennessee, my German professor from Tennessee Tech and his wife, who became like "adoptive" parents to me in my early 20's. Whenever I visit them, it is an almost endless barrage of questions! I have frequently visited them on my way to or from Kentucky where my father and step-mother live, and several years ago I really noticed the striking difference.

Now, it may be that due to the other dynamics of my family and our history together, that there are other reasons why my relatives don't really want to know what's going on in my life. They may feel any "problems" might have something to do with them, i.e. how they have or have not related to me over the years, but I've never really felt that way. It would have been nice to be able to share all of my "successes" in spite of the challenging history, but that has really not been much of an option, either. And, maybe their perception of what is "success" is different from mine.

What I have realized most recently though is what I have really wanted from my family was a little "rational faith" in me, a little "faith" in my ability to take care of myself, based on the evidence of my life. Again, though, maybe their view of "success" is too different from mine, so they don't see the evidence of my adaptability and my courage to take on new challenges, to freely uproot myself and try something new. They don't see those things as positive qualities in me.

As I have thought about this more, I have begun to think that when it comes to parents relating with their children, faith plays a pivotal role. As a parent, can you trust that your child is being guided by their own inner core and Life Purpose, or do you feel you have to make a lot of decisions about all of that for them?

By all means, young children need "care" - they need the effort of love that provides for their basic biological and psychological needs - food, clothing, shelter, protection. Parents need to know what to expect from their children at various stages of development, so they will also know their child's potentials and limits, and challenge the child accordingly in terms of reaching their highest potential at any given stage. This is where close and objective observation (free of parental "projections") is so important. The best parents will make the effort to pay attention to their child, to ask them questions, to help them come to a better understanding of themselves, their likes and dislikes, what is important to them. The parent must provide appropriate "boundaries" and recognize when the child can handle a greater level of responsibility for themselves at each stage of their development.

It is in this way, the parent develops a Rational Basis of Faith in their child, and their child's increasing ability to take care of themselves, to make more and more decisions for themselves, to take on more and more of the responsibilities of daily life.

If that faith is lacking, then it is much more likely that the child will struggle, even long into their adulthood, with having Faith in Themselves, and, therefore, the will to accept the ever increasing challenges, that require effort as part of being a human being in this world.

I have come to the conclusion that, where I have in the past considered the need of each of us as children for "unconditional love", I now think Rational Faith might be even more important, and that is what we also have to offer to one another, based on our actual knowledge of each other as that develops in the course of our relating.

Yes, it is also possible to come to a place of having Rational Faith in oneself without ever receiving it from others. But then again, sometimes, it can make all the difference. Imagine a young man in a classroom whose teacher told him, "You're a good writer" when he wasn't so sure about that himself. That man may go on to write books that could very well help change the world.

I am grateful to all of the people in my life who have expressed their confidence, their "faith" in me as well. It has helped me to be willing to persevere, even during the rough times, and now with this Clearer Understanding at least from my current point of view, I'm looking forward to "Spreading the Faith" to others!

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