It’s so simple and yet so hard.
We speak of having a child-like faith, and if you’ve ever encountered small children, you know instinctively what this means. Children ask questions, but they also have an enormous capacity to accept. To wonder. To be struck by the magnificence of the world around us. To believe.
As adults, we lose that. Reality, rationality, life – they all play their part in trying to chip away at our capacity to believe. To have faith. Sometimes, it feels that in order to have faith, to believe, we must suspend disbelief. Strict rationality and faith often seem incompatible, but there’s always that child-like part of us that wants to believe. Sometimes, it’s comforting to not ask so many questions and just have faith, other times it’s excruciatingly difficult. In what other scenario does saying that you are turning over your trust not just to another person, but to a higher power NOT sound slightly nuts?
For me though, faith comforts us in our darkest moments. It keeps us going. It’s that one thing we cling to, almost instinctively sometimes, when things are truly terrible.
I was reminded of this fact again last weekend at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I’d never been, and very much wanted to, especially now, at this stage of my life. As I went through, I felt duly sickened and horrified by the details I learned, the small facts that broke my heart and made me want to cry, yet also heartened and inspired by the small or collective acts of resistance that saved Jews who would otherwise have been condemned. At the very end of the exhibit, there was a film playing, and in it, survivors talked of braving terrible atrocities and punishments just to celebrate Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah. In the midst of the suffering, the death, the absolute inhumane conditions, the spark never went out. People kept their faith, believed that one day the horror would end, thanked God for blessing them with humanity that their persecutors seemed to lack.
That’s amazing. In the midst of circumstances designed to break the human body and soul, to crush out every last ounce of personhood, faith remained alive. I know that there are those who lost their faith, feeling that God abandoned them by allowing such a tragedy to happen, but I prefer to focus on the fact that for many others, faith did not die. It endured, it survived, it grew.
How incredible is that?