Over the years, this journey of mine has taken me on a variety of pathways, some far more complex than others, some going far-afleid from the faith tradition in which I was raised; but always, I have found, these paths converged with and complemented one another, deeply enriching the ways in which I view what is sacred, what is holy, what is divine. And as I am a storyteller, I have collected stories over the years which speak to my heart, which resonate with my spirit, which celebrate the incarnation of God in human flesh, a cornerstone of my personal faith. I used one such story in my "Made
for Living" column in December of 1980 and on this holy morning, I share it with you. Perhaps it will speak to you, too, and both enliven and enlighten your path today.
Blessings and love, Linda
Faith Lights the Magic Lamp
Faith has been defined as believing in that which we cannot see, finding the possible in the impossible. But in spite of the seeming ease with which “faith” can be defined it seems to be less easily conceptualized. Yet the importance of understanding what faith is cannot be minimized as again and again in scripture, we met this word, are confronted by it, and in turn, must confront our own ideas, feelings, understandings of what faith means.
Several years ago I stumbled upon a story which, for me, explained the concept of faith in a dramatically beautiful way. It is the incredible story of an equally incredible woman, Helen Keller. The story began when Miss Keller visited the Bronx Zoo. She enjoyed every minute to her tour, but when she came to the lion’s cage, a problem developed. Miss Keller insisted on entering the cage to “see” the lion close up. She was told that this was no tame circus lion, but rather the real thing from the wilds. No matter. She insisted upon entering the cage. Nothing, no one could dissuade her. She had learned so much about these creatures and here was her chance to study one face to face.
Against all argument, Helen Keller won the opportunity she cherished. The cage was opened and she walked in alone. As others stood by quaking, she approached the lion. The beast stood stock still, studying her. She touched the animal, running her hands over his mane. As if in response to command, he raised each paw to “shake hands”. When her hand reached the tip of his tail, she laughed, for she had not known about the little “feather duster” she would find there.
Those who stood watching from outside the cage died a thousand deaths as Helen Keller dropped to her knees beside the lion and spoke to him in the strange voice of hers, that miraculous way in which she had learned to speak to others. They watched, incredulous, as the lion let out his claws so she might feel the savage sharpness of each prong. Helen Keller knew that a human, gripped by fear, experiences a sudden spurt of adrenalin which we cannot sense but which is immediately recognized by animals. And the beasts, alerted by this signal, respond by protecting themselves. But she knew no fear. She even buried her face in the lion’s mane, as she said, “You beautiful creature!” The lion had no cause to fear her and he understood that. And moments later, Keller walked quietly from the cage. That tells it all.
This is faith- a trust in what one deeply knows, intuits, understands- and what more needs to be added but perhaps the words of Helen Keller herself:
“Dark as my path may seem to others, I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual searchlight, lights my way. Though sinister doubts lurk in shadows, I walk unafraid toward the enchanted wood where the foliage is always green, where joy abides, and where nightingales nest and sing. I regard as a mere impertinence of fate the handicaps which were place on my life from the beginning.”