In the early morning hours, our car traces the Trans-Canada Highway towards the ferry in Saint John, New Brunswick. As we enter the city limits of Edmundston, a dense fog envelopes our car, casting us into an impermeable cloth of invisibility. The only signs of the other motorists around us are the faint headlights that flicker like distant fireflies and the swoosh of other cars cautiously navigating the same path.
Visibility is such that we can see nothing in either direction on the road. Unaware of our surroundings, we cannot pull over. We cannot stop. We can only proceed with caution at a snail’s pace following the yellow line in the road, which ever so slowly reveals itself on our gradual approach.
On this stretch of road, the locals effortlessly speed by us, tracking the curves through a route carved out in memory. Having travelled this road often, they know its curves and turns. We watch the flicker of their tail lights wind past us up the highway. On this road, familiarity is their safety net. We have none.
For us, far from the familiarity of home, the fog of the unknown on this stretch of road is daunting, dislodging and carries with it a huge element of risk. To go forward, we must trust that the path will appear.
In a car, shrouded in fog, on an unfamiliar stretch of road in New Brunswick, is the quintessential test of faith. Moving forward into the unknown requires conviction, hope and trust. As Martin Luther King Jr. said,
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
Faith means different things to each of us. To some it is faith in God, in oneself, or in humanity. For everyone, faith abides in the hope for that which we have not yet received. Faith is complete trust in that which we cannot see.
My faith is deeply rooted in my Catholic upbringing. At three weeks of age, I was baptized at Paroisse Très Sainte Trinité in Rockland, Ontario on a cold December day. Later, as a young girl, I walked from my grandmother’s home to this church. The ground vibrated as I ascended the steps towards the church, the church bells loudly calling worshippers into attendance. The majestic gray stone church mesmerized me – the beauty of the stained glass, the scent of the incense, the sound of the pipe organ. My eyes would be drawn to the sign of the cross, a reminder of pain, sacrifice and love. My small hand was held by my grandmother, as we walked towards the altar. As I moved forward, I felt so tiny, and so humble in this place of tremendous mystery.
Over the years, I have come to understand that Faith, itself, is a beautiful, limitless force shrouded in mystery. That I must simply trust that which I cannot see.
Faith in God means trust in God,
Faith in myself means trust in myself.
Faith in that dense fog – in times of disappointment, sadness or fear of the unknown – means trusting my feet to guide me, when my eyes are blind to the path ahead.
This school year, I was challenged by a friend to do something I had never done before. The challenge stemmed from a broad question I had been asking myself: What do I want to do next in my life? I accepted the challenge, choosing to live in the words of Dr. King. To walk out on the first step on the staircase, even though the whole path is not visible.
As a planner, perfectionist and someone who wants to be prepared for everything, stepping onto an uncharted pathway is daunting. New teaching position accepted, I took a further step to start writing this blog. As a highly private person, writing and posting pieces from my heart, is a giant leap of faith for me.
While I am not sure where the pathway is leading me, I am continuing to move forward, making myself visible and, perhaps, attracting that which I am seeking. While I may not see my destination, I do accept that I can only arrive there by moving on.
I have learned that life carries with it disappointments along our journey. Faith is knowing and understanding that doors that do not open, were not truly meant for me. Walking with faith, means trusting my own journey. That God has placed me where I need to be right now. That the people I meet, and the students I teach are meant to influence and be influenced by me. There is nothing left to chance. This path I am on is the one meant for me.
For my students, walking in faith sometimes means walking into a dense fog. In fact, I often ask my students to travel into the fog, into the unknown by asking them to be: innovators, critical thinkers, creators, and problem-solvers. All require risk taking. For them, taking the first step into their own learning can be a daunting and giant leap of faith.
We, and they, learn best when we are thrust into circumstances that force us to become self-reliant, resilient and risk-takers. Some of us are equipped better than others to do so. By stepping out onto that staircase, each of us gains greater confidence in taking risks. The more risks we take, the easier taking risks becomes – much like the locals travelling on the Trans-Canada Highway who can effortlessly follow the roadway even in the fog. It is important on the pathways of our lives, that we shine the light for others, but then step out-of-the-way and let them discover their own pathway. Knowing that they we can face challenge, breeds confidence in our own ability to face adversity.
This year, there will be moments when we are cast into dense fog. When we must stand at the base of the staircase and make the choice to climb. Trust the journey. Have the courage to take that first step. But, most importantly, as each step becomes visible on the journey, let’s keep climbing. Faith makes all things possible. Always make your faith bigger than your fears.
* Special thanks to Dr. Mark Weston (@shiftparadigm) for contributing the featured image, taken at King Chapel, Cornell College, Iowa.