Growing up the atheist son of a scientist, my path to God was difficult. That I found Him at all is a miracle. With no conventional religious education, I learned the Lord’s Prayer in high school, where we said it before every football game.

Later, as I was just beginning to seek Him on my own, a Baptist minister gave me the best advice I ever heard. He said “Kaj, you don’t need to believe entirely in God. You don’t even need to have faith in Him at all. All you need is the faith to ask for faith.”

Despite my doubts, I tried it, and it worked. It’s not something that comes naturally, though. It is as if my doubts diminish me in His eyes, and the guilt over my lack of faith keeps me from Him.

But then I think of how my son learned to walk. Ever the drama queen, he took his first steps at his first birthday party. In front of a crowd, of course. But before that, and even after, he struggled to walk towards me, holding on to chairs, tables, anything at hand. Lacking the confidence to walk on his own, he did what he had to do to get where he wanted to go.

Did that disappoint me? Of course not. I knew these were fledgling steps, and that they would soon be followed by strong, independent strides. Did I tell him “Walk now, or else?” Of course not. The very words look ridiculous.

As much as I love my son, I’m not arrogant enough to think that I can love him more than God loves me. All the love, patience and tolerance I feel for John Tyler is returned to me a hundredfold.

It’s there just for the asking.

BrevityQuest 2007

I could tell you a story. I like stories. Some stories are rich with detail and a sense of meaning. Other stories are humorous and meant merely to entertain. Yes. I think I could tell you a story.

The story that comes to mind involves a man who wandered away from the path his faith brought before him. That path was one that involved trusting that every action and every movement he made would take him where he needed to go. Much of the time those actions and movements did not make a great deal of sense, at least on the surface and within the context of the present tense. He moved 1,500 miles away from the city he called home for most of twenty-seven years and away from all the people, places and things that he was familiar with.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because you gave up the life you knew and now you are being given the chance for another. You gave up that life and any efforts to reclaim it will only result in disappointment, heartbreak and misery."

He lacked any real sense of faith when he asked that question, a question consisting of a single word. The answer only left him feeling challenged, as if the only thing to do was to prove the voice wrong in its summation of the circumstances now before him.

It wasn't until everything he knew began to wither and rot that he realized there was some meaning in the words. And still he continued to challenge, to insist that he was capable of anything, to defiantly scream that he could take back the life he had given up regardless of any evidence to the contrary. It was all circumstantial, anyway.

And then through a series of mostly ordinary events, the man was led far from his home where he would have a vision that matched the images that came to him in dreams, an impossibility for his rational mind to consider. If a person who appeared in dreams could appear in real life, in a place that matched the description given to the man in dreams, could it be possible that there was something to all he was told in the dreams and visions that washed continually over his mind?

The need to answer that question sent the man on a journey in search of answers. On the course of this journey, even when he faltered and even when he fell, he would always find enough resources to pick himself up and continue on. He would find faith in the words, in the visions and in the dreams and his faith would hold him up even in the darkest of days.

Years later he found himself floating. It wasn't that he stopped believing, for his faith continued to surround him, but things were quieter now. They were easier. There was no want, no longing, no quest to be fulfilled. It seemed as if the only thing remaining was the passage of the remainder of his days.

And then it came like a thunderstorm, somehow both beautiful and destructive within the same context. There would be a call, a siren song, from the life he left behind. It beckoned to him, asking that he fulfill a promise he made many years before. And it was a perplexing challenge. While this seemed to him the answer, in some ways, to what he felt he truly desired and needed, it also ran against what his spirit believed in.

He would hear the words again. "Because you gave up the life you knew and now you are being given the chance for another. You gave up that life and any efforts to reclaim it will only result in disappointment, heartbreak and misery."

"I have followed the path and I have done what has been asked of me. I want this, for myself, and for her, for us to finally be together..."

Steering away from his faith and belief in that which guided him and going back to the place he had been led away from, a place where only disappointment and loss would greet him, he chose pride and vanity over faith. More than two years later, after coming to the edge of losing everything, including his sanity, he fell down on his knees.

"Why have you forsaken me?"

"Seek out the path you abandoned and it will be cleared for you once again."

He pulled together all the resources he could find and asked for help from all those who could offer him a hand and slowly made his way back to the place he had been guided to ten years earlier. Once he was there, he waited, and he struggled as he tried to determine why there was still an emptiness, an emptiness that came from feeling a lack of direction or meaning.

"It is not the physical place that holds meaning, it is what you found in that place that you must seek."

And so he sought out the people he had known and went to the places that once held meaning, but still there was no sense that he had found what had been lost.

And he was asked, "If you could have one thing, what would it be?"

He paused, held himself tightly against the sharp winds that blew against his spirit, and said, "Faith. That is what I have lost."

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