Yesterday at church, the sermon celebrated Chinese New Year’s and welcomed the Year of the Rat. Fortune cookies were passed out towards the end of the service as a salute to the Chinese tradition and the speaker’s devotion to fortune cookies which got her through the trials of writing her dissertation. Ironically, in a sermon that was led by a self-proclaimed atheist, my fortune appropriately gnostic:
You will be pleasantly surprised by your own faith. Enjoy!
I don’t mean to assign significant meaning to the seemingly random occurrence of selecting a fortune cookie from an entire basket of fortune cookies; however, I was pleasantly surprised by how this particular fortune touched me at this particular moment. The sermon had been about finding a pattern in chaos, though the speaker suggested the significance of the pattern comes internally from yourself or, as she stated, your “youness”–aka, Eunice, as she dubbed it, your inner god.
The speaker (this was a lay led service) related a story about how as an art therapy student in graduate school she was asked to draw her concept of God. Trying to make a point about the lack of order to existence, she scribbled randomly on a piece of paper. Later, when asked to explain her “drawing,” she realized she saw what appeared to her as a flying bird amidst the scribbles. She explained in her sermon that this image represented what she felt was the essence of her Eunice. Ironically, in trying to draw nothing, she had drawn something significant to her self-professed spirituality. She was able to find a pattern in the randomness.
I felt the similarly when I opened my fortune cookie to find the appropriate words written on that slip of paper before my eyes. Sure, it was just a random message that I happened to get. Had my hand slipped to another cookie, I might have gotten some other message that meant nothing to me. Or maybe I would have received a different message to which I would have assigned some other significance.
It was the right random message at the right time, though. In fitting with the theme of the sermon, these words seemed to speak to me. All spiritual suggestions aside, the faith of the fortune could simply be a faith in myself, my Eunice. Too often, I lack a lot of faith in myself. It’s this lack of faith that refrained me from working on my application to grad school this week when I decided that since I had no experience working in a counseling type of setting, and I had no relevent professors or professionals to write my required recommendation letters, I would be rejected. So why bother submitting the application at this time, right? I decided my urgency was irrationally quickened by my complete frustration and lack of satisfaction with technical writing. I have a lot of work experience and plenty of former bosses who could write glowing reference letters. However, no one knows for sure how I am as a listener, a confidant, a fix-it of bruised souls. Is my desire enough to get me in? I just don’t know. I don’t trust myself enough to try. I lack faith in my Eunice.
I’m really not surprised by own lack of faith. Faith is a hard thing for me, all around. I’m not very good at trusting in something I can’t see, feel, touch, or taste. I have faith in some pretty simple things. The sun will rise, the stars will trace their paths across the sky, the world will go on whether I’m on it or not. I have a pretty strong faith that I will die. I have no faith in that time being long or short–I simply don’t know. I hope that it will be a long time from now, when I’m 103, and not tomorrow. I still have slopes to ski and roads to arduously ride.
I’m pretty good with hope. I hope there’s more to life than what I see, feel, touch, and taste. I hope there’s a God or life-giving energy of some sort. I hope there’s an afterlife and that somewhere out in the cosmos, my Mike still roams the stars, observing life and checking in on me every once in awhile just to make sure I’m okay. I hope if there is an afterlife, it isn’t boring. I am not sure I want to sit on clouds playing harps and praying for all of eternity (even if God or the life-giving energy is a pretty awesome presence to behold). No, I’d like to explore the universe and see what other civilizations are up to (I have faith there is life elsewhere in the universe; I hope I’m right).
My afterlife is like the rhythm in a song by The Church, which is not a religious band at all, but a great rock band from the 1980’s through the present. (Their biggest radio hit is “Under the Milky Way,” but they have far, far greater songs than that.) Okay, I’m just on a kick with The Church, having recently discovered more of their CDs through the guidance of a co-worker. But I have to say, if one were to wander the universe exploring life, music by The Church would not be a bad soundtrack. Steve Kilbey (the lead singer) might think I’m a bit wack for these statements. The music of The Church is so intricately woven that you can become lost within it and you just don’t want the sound to end. Eternal life is a never-ending song by The Church.
So, I’m still waiting to be pleasantly surprised by my own faith. I go back to my original assumption that the real meaning of that fortune cookie to me–the meaning I’ve made significant to myself–is that I will become surprised at my own faith in Eunice/Youness. Maybe I need to go fill out that application despite my lack of counseling-related references. How many people have decided to change careers mid-life (am I mid-life?) and how many of them have had sufficient experience in their newly chosen field to back them up on their one-chance hunch that they might be good at something else? Maybe some? I’m never one of those applicants who seem to radiate “this is the person” by resume alone. I can say, though, with all honesty, that I’ve wooed with my sheer confidence and my ability to convince others that I can do the job. Part of the application to the counseling program consists of an interview with the department heads. Maybe this is where my faith will surprise not only myself, but those I seek to impress.
I’ll bet I’d be pleasantly surprised. I hope I do enjoy it.