Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.
A few months ago my friend Joe lost his job as a marketing consultant. The minute he lost his job he started to panic that all of his savings would be depleted and he wouldn’t be able to support his young family. For two weeks he suffered through sleepless nights, worrying that he’d be unemployed for a long time. He became very anxious. It just so happened that on day 14 Joe got a short-term consulting job and he started to work while still looking for long-term employment. Every week he’d say that the consulting job was ending – and yet it kept getting extended. Joe was so concentrated on when the short-term job would end, that he never stopped to consider that he was working and actually making a little more money than he had before. A few weeks ago he swore the job was ending on Friday and sure enough it got extended again for another month. And then Joe told himself the story that imminent doom was only postponed for a short time.
Joe says his wife tells him all the time that he should have a little more faith that things will all work out. But Joe clings to his belief that because he can’t know what tomorrow will bring he can’t feel safe and secure. He perceives the uncertainty of the situation to foretell only the worst. So what does Joe’s wife exactly mean when she tells him to have faith and how is that different from Joe’s belief that trouble looms? Sharon Saltsburg, a Buddhist teacher, says, “Beliefs try to make a known out of the unknown. They make presumptions about what is yet to come, how it will be, what it will mean, and how it will affect us. Faith, on the other hand, doesn’t carve out reality according to our preconceptions and desires. It doesn’t decide how we are going to perceive something but rather is the ability to move forward even without knowing. …. Belief clings, faith lets go.”
Having faith is often touted as the answer to our worries. Yet the unknown scares many of us and we cling to our fears and worries instead of letting go and embracing uncertainty. As much as many of us would like to have faith, it is a road that can be difficult to travel.
But the good news is that this is a situation where the idea of Maybe can really help someone like Joe. Maybe is an in-transit place from belief to faith. Those that have faith may have no use for Maybe, but for those of us who get stuck when circumstances seem dire or we don’t know what to do next, Maybe can come into our lives and comfort us. Maybe leads us to take our beliefs and question them (e.g., Maybe our beliefs are not true? Maybe something else will happen? Maybe this is good? Maybe things can better?), and it can open our hearts and allow us to experience space and light in the midst of crisis. In a way, Maybe creates a kind of “cognitive” faith that can help us get us through an unexpected situation. And if we work to continuously experience this open space of Maybe, we start to embrace the unknown as the unfolding of all possibilities.
With this in mind, Joe and I have been playing around with the idea of Maybe to try to alleviate some of his stress. Joe has been trying to admit that Maybe things will work out, Maybe he will get a new job, Maybe he will keep the current job or Maybe everything is okay right now and he will figure the rest out in time. The idea of Maybe is so effective for Joe because it continuously offers him more than that one possibility that was keeping him up at night. As Joe realized through Maybe that there are infinite possibilities ahead even though he can’t see them yet, he was able to relax at times and stay open to whatever life has to offer in his future. Joe tells me he has good days and bad days with trying to stay in Maybe, but the days Maybe works he feels a freedom that he never felt before.
Who knows, Maybe this experience will lead Joe to have some faith after all? Just, Maybe!
UPDATE: THIS IS A BLOG POST FROM MAY. I MET WITH JOE YESTERDAY AND HE IS STILL WORKING AT HIS TEMPORARY JOB AND IS MAKING MORE MONEY THIS YEAR THAN LAST. HIS WIFE IS PREGNANT AND HE IS TRYING TO BUY A NEW HOME. HE TOLD ME HE IS GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH HIS “TEMPORARY” STATUS AT THE COMPANY. HE ASKED ME IF HE WAS DEVELOPING FAITH. I ANSWERED, “MAYBE!”