FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Over the first year of my assignment here, I have reflected on the myriad anxieties of change. We have certainly experienced a dramatic amount of change in our environment as well as current events over the past year, from COVID mitigations to geopolitical shifts abroad.
At times, with shifting environmental changes, these anxieties were palpable and even raw for me. I suspect you are familiar with that, as you have negotiated many transitions and changes yourself, as the Army is consistently offering Soldiers and families new changes to adapt to. As that anxiety built up on me over time, I often reached down into my spiritual kit in search of ways to make meaning of the changes. Like a stone worn smooth from constant use over the years, I kept pulling out my sense of faith as a source of strength during the turbulence.
Many traditions and individuals interpret the term faith differently. To some, it is similar to scientific knowledge – that believing something is the same as being certain of the laws of physics. To others, faith is a mystery at its core. Some cite sacred texts as proof that faith is this or that, while others insist that faith is believing in something that you can’t see, yet still know to be true. As for me, I have found it more helpful to dwell on how faith works in me as opposed to defining it.
In my ministry work, I turn to Psalm 119:105 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible as a reminder of how faith works in me.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
This verse was originally written in an ancient language that understood the word “lamp” very differently than we do today. Where we might think of an LED camping lantern or a reading lamp with an electric lightbulb, the ancient lamp was nothing more than a simple dish filled with oil and a small wick that was lit. Not only was the lamp simple, it was limited. A typical ancient lamp would light up no more than 3 to 4 feet in front of a person in the middle of a pitch-black night.
Thinking of faith as an instrument that lights up the next few steps of our journey is very different than thinking of faith as a flashlight that blazes deep into the night, exposing every nook and cranny ahead. During periods of great transition and tumult in my life, nothing has been more reassuring than the presence of that warm, small light. This small light is just enough to do two things: It pierces the darkness around me with just enough illumination to see my next obstacle; and more importantly, it also burns with a steadiness that I can count on.
When I reach into my spiritual kit and lean on my faith, I depend on its light because I know it will illuminate not just the steps directly in front me, but also those journeys that have not come into the light yet.