after David Whyte
What is there to have faith in?
Only the slow crossing of the moon
only the way a bean splits its two fat lobes
and the stalk beneath unfurls
the way a child grows without our noticing,
an inch, an inch,
until she’s gone past the old mark on the frame
or a tree, drawn from a narrow curve of wood,
a handful of leaf,
to branches that part the wind.
After these fall rains, the garden rises,
thick with grass, lettuce, beggar’s tick,
everything growing, everything changing.
And yet I have no faith.
Not in me.
Only in the slow pull in me.
A child cannot tell herself to grow.
And yet she does.
Faith has gotten a bad rep.
Her name taken,
used as a shield against
the seeker, the troubled,
the questioner, excluding
the non-believer, the Other.
Now those who would seek Faith
don't mention her name, fearful
of the wrath of those who stole
her reputation and wanted her strength
without being willing to bear
her questing, her journey, her passage
through dark nights, dark woods,
faint path through places seldom traveled
for Faith requires
we walk her path alone.
We form a company
Faith asks us to trust the teaching
to walk in the dark, on the faint
path that she assures us
has been trodden before.
To follow it where it leads us
down from this high mountain
into the canyon
with the wild rivers running,
scaling cliffs that seem
impossible from a distance
to gain a further mountain
though we see not the path
’til we walk it. Sometimes knowing
its presence only
by the soles of our feet when
the dark night, the dark woods
leave sight useless. Faith
is the evidence of things hoped for,
the presence of things not seen
’til the moon rises,
once more showing
the path we are on.
Those who have
lost faith in Faith
have left behind
the faithful, looking
for a new ...
no they will not use
that word, it's tarnished.
They seek the way
which seems untrod,
though seekers tell
of its landmarks,
seen and not yet seen.
This is the piece I wrote in response to the David Whyte poem “Faith.” I have used initial caps for Faith. Maybe not the usual form, but it makes the word “faith” stand out for me. It helps me to discover what I meant by the poem. Thank you so much for the writing group. There are experiences I have buried so deep—which are unresolved. They just seem to creep out almost unnoticed when I write with the group.
I was a pastor to a tiny group of proud atheists in Pennsylvania. It was a sort of circuit, long ago Universalist. One church (gorgeous) first occupied in 1723 on the Susquehanna river in the tiny hamlet of Sheshequin. They had a woman pastor in the early 1800s! The other church in Athens, built in 1845. We soon attracted progressive Christians and progressive Jewish folk. It was fascinating. Needless to say, it was quite a ride. But with the help of the prompts and the safe and caring circle which you so carefully tend, lots of work is being done!
Poem as prayer
By one who professes no Faith.
Yet the faithfulness of the moon
Has touched him deeply.
And the poet has patience, watching the moon rise
Night after night over cold snow.
A kind of spiritual practice.
Watching night after night until Faith comes.
Prayer has been his door on Faith and not the other way around.
The sitting came first, then the prayer, then Faith.
David Whyte suffered.
He does not tell us this in his poem.
Could he have written this poem had he not suffered?
Did sitting in his suffering come first?
Moon rise over cold snow—and I am back in Pennsylvania
The noise of the life-flight helicopter in the frozen darkness
Trudging over black ice in the dark, alone
Toward wounded, hurting, frightened people
In ER, in ICU, in the family waiting area.
Responding came first, then prayer, then—almost unnoticed—Faith.
Faith: day after day with cantankerous atheists
Night after night with suffering people.
I hardly noticed Faith when it came
Like the moon, slender and barely open.
Maybe love is more important
But Faith, in its own quiet way
Has never faded.