Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2004 / 21 Tishrei, 5765

Issac J. Bailey

Issac J. Bailey
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Have faith in having faith | One night a few years ago, I put $500 in the church's offering basket — the $500 I had just borrowed to pay bills.

Our financial situation was dire. We had spent the previous week buying gas and groceries with small plastic bags full of coins, the coins we robbed from piggy banks and found between car seats, each bag worth a dollar.

So when I got the word from G-d to write a $500 check for the offering, I thought it was crazy. I hesitated for a second, showed my wife the check and gave it away.

That was my faith on display — a faith that did not require an outside opinion, did not seek scholarship to verify, did not need an hallelujah praise to solidify.

It was simply on faith that I acted on what I felt — knew — was G-d's voice.

Not that I recommend anyone doing exactly what I did because I don't know how G-d speaks to you - maybe he'll ask you to hold onto your money in a similar situation. I know how he speaks to me.

But I've lost some of that; I've allowed life to wrestle it away.

Because life isn't straightforward. Because good choices don't always lead to good outcomes, at least not immediately. I have seen too many friends and family members die or get sick, have been burned and hated for having made tough but necessary decisions, have felt crucified by those proclaiming to practice the same faith.

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And in a way I'm just now realizing, Sept. 11, 2001, has affected me, too. Because, on what they call faith, 19 men killed 3,000. What's more, hundreds or thousands are lining up to do the same today, using the same language I used to put $500 into an offering plate.

I've heard many commentators say it is thinking such as mine — "G-d told me to" — that makes the world a less safe place, putting me on par with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Those comments cut into me, made me feel like a naive idiot for believing I was big enough to hear from G-d, which is why I've spent the past few months reading books on the origins of religion and watching documentaries on spirituality, hoping to restore what seemed lost.

But that intellectual pursuit hasn't helped, probably because faith can't be found in a book or on a TV screen. Which is why I plan to go back to doing what I did when I was at my strongest. Listen only for G-d's voice, leaving the questions about my sanity for others to ponder.

Because I have more important things to do. Like hold onto my faith.

Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News. Comment by clicking here.


09/29/04: Conditioning doesn't equal racism
09/22/04: My brother belonged in jail
09/15/04: Tiny miracles remind us of life's choices
05/04/04: What about the rights of dads-to-be?

© The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.