This I believe

As a religious scholar, I question, rethink, and reformulate the content of our theological beliefs--everyday, all day.  Doubt comes with the territory: divinity scholar preys upon seekers and simply breeds further seeking.  While I do not necessarily consider this process of continual discernment and refinement problematic--quite the opposite, in fact--the vast array of theologies, ethical prescriptions, and liturgical visions can become dizzying.  Caught up in endless possibilities, my feet never touch ground; I float, always in flux.

But when looking over some old college essays the other day, I stumbled across a short piece I had written for my religious autobiography class.  Asked to write my own "this I believe" statement, I did not speak of my doctrine of Christology or understanding of salvation or belief in God, as most of my classmates did but instead drafted a short meditation on human interaction.  I was surprised to find that now, four years later, I would still stand behind what I claimed.  I may never plant my feet firmly in any one place, but perhaps my toe always grazes this forever murky but unmistakable present land of hope and sincerity....


This I Believe


Crash!  The bridge of my nose meets the hard, cold steel pole of the swingset and I fall to my knees, tears springing from my eyes.  My forehead throbs, and I see blood beginning to ooze from my kneecap.  I look up anxiously from my torn, dirt-smeared pink dress and see my mother rushing towards me.  She scoops me up and envelops my small body, holding me so close to her body that I can hear her heart beating.  I wipe the tears away from my face and look up at my mother.  Her eyes let me know that she can take care of anything, that it will all be okay.

I nervously fiddle with the buttons of my blazer and peer down at my stiletto pumps, anxiously awaiting the verdict of the potential employer sitting before me.  He clears his throat, raises his gaze from the notepad he had filled with scratches and notes, and his mouth breaks out into a smile.  His eyes are warm, kind.  “Congratulations,” he says, rising from his chair.  “We would love to have you join our office this summer.”  I, both relieved and elated, hold his gaze and allow my eyes to linger on the way his eyes crinkle.

As I quickly walk down the university campus and hurry to reach my next class, I see a mountain of loose papers and notebooks fall from the hands of a girl several feet away from me.  I glance at the scattered mess before and hesitate for a small moment, and then I walk more quickly.  I bend down when I reach the dropped items and begin gathering papers with her.  As we both rise from our squatted positions and stand, our eyes meet.  She thanks me; her gaze penetrates into mine.  A minute later, the connection is lost.  We depart and head to our intended destinations.

I believe in eye contact: how eyes crinkle when a person smiles genuinely, how intent gazes show that someone is truly listening and truly cares about the speaker, how brief glances form connections between strangers.  Eye contact appreciates and affirms every human being’s humanity and inherent worth; it conveys love and trust and commitment and respect.  A shared gaze communicates and reveals far more than words ever will.  Every time two people meet eyes, their very souls extend towards one another and, for a brief moment, touch.   

Emily Rowell Brownfaith, musings