Choosing Faith Over Fear – by Florence Niven

 – Spirit Sisters meditation, October 2020

and breathe neon sign on treA few years ago I experienced a painful tingling sensation across the middle of my back. I assumed – because of my extensive television medical knowledge – it was shingles, even though I saw no evidence of a rash. After an examination, my doctor told me that, sometimes, when we’re under a great deal of stress – which I was at the time – we forget to breathe. She said I was shallow breathing – in a sense, hyperventilating.

I had let fear take over. I was holding my breath – waiting for the other shoe to drop. The painful tingling was my body’s way of telling me it wasn’t getting the oxygen it needed.

My doctor sent me home with instructions to breathe.

I decided a change was in order. Since living in fear was doing me no favours, I made a concerted effort to live in faith. To ease up on the delusion of being in control, and lean into being – if not thrilled, then at least ok – with not having all the answers. Being open to what Spirit Sister Tysie Mitchell refers to as the Holy Mystery.

Now I must admit, I’m not as cool as Tysie is about this notion – but I aspire to her grace.

So here’s the question of the day – how does one live in faith – not fear – in the middle of an honest-to-goodness pandemic? It’s the stuff of science fiction. How in the world did we go from the ‘possibility of a 2 week lockdown’ – to this?

I’ve been thinking about the last Sunday morning service at Edith Rankin before we were told to close the doors. There was a noticeable drop in attendance from the Sunday before, as media reports of the virus started to escalate. My husband and I were ushering that morning. The McCrackens were the greeters. From where we were standing, at the back of the sanctuary, Don and I could hear the laughs and giggles coming from the Welcome Centre as people arrived. Marlene and Brian were struggling with the absurdity of suddenly ‘bumping elbows’ with friends and neighbours they had known for years, rather than greeting them with a warm handshake, as was our tradition. Let’s face it. Back then – we didn’t know, what we didn’t know.

And here we are, preparing for the second wave. Once again stocking up on hand sanitizers, canned goods and bathroom tissue; grabbing our face masks as we leave the house; staying away to stay safe. It’s very easy to get caught up in the wondering and second-guessing. Fixate on limitations and restrictions. Allow fear to seep in, climb up your spine and wrap around your shoulders. Or perhaps that’s just me.

More and more, we face the very real ramifications of isolation, as we hear of the challenges our friends and family are facing. Knowing our only option is to stay away – support from a distance.  It’s not something, we as a community of faith, are used to doing.

Add to that – the heightened awareness of systemic racism, the protests that bring out the best in people, for sure – but also the worst – the environmental catastrophes, the economic reality of this pandemic… Holy Mystery? Holy Moly!

I remind myself to breathe. Breathe in faith. Breathe out fear. I try to stay present as a way to stay positive.

My son and his fiancé are planning a February wedding. From day 1 they wanted to keep the ceremony small. Their guest list was capped at 60. Then Covid struck. They started thinking 14 was a more realistic number – with only immediate family present. As we get closer to the date, there’s a strong possibility it will be just the two of them and their officiant. And you know what? Whether we’re there in person or see their pictures later, it’ll be ok. More than ok. The two most important people will be there, and they will be surrounded by love.

We still plan, we still organize, we still anticipate – it’s human nature. But if we’re wise, we’ll ease our grip on the notion of control, and allow space for contemplation and reflection. Breathing room.

On an airplane (remember those?) we are advised to remain calm and adjust our own facemask before helping our loved ones. We can’t expect to be of service to others if we don’t first ground ourselves in the knowledge that we’re not alone. God is with us. Breathe.

When we live in faith we become open to the abundance all around us, hidden behind what fear would have us see as scarcity.

When we live in faith we become open to opportunities, hidden behind what fear would have us see as limitations.

When we live in faith rather than fear we’re better able to participate openly, honestly and respectfully in the challenging conversations that are needed in today’s climate.

Choosing faith, over fear, reminds us we are surrounded by the Sprit. And from there we can move toward faith-filled action. It starts with our breath.

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Breath Prayer

Breathe in and know God is with us.

Breathe out.

Breathe in and know God is.

Breathe out.

Breathe in and know God.

Breathe out.

Breathe in and know.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe.

 

Florence Niven, October 2020