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  • Paul Cumbo

Heartbeats and Faith

Not too long ago, my son fell asleep in my arms. Because of the way he was situated, I could feel his pulse. It was the end of a long, hard day. The kind that makes the world seem like an awful mess. What a clear reminder of beauty and goodness, then, to feel my son's heartbeat so distinct and so close. As I held him in the quiet of his sleepy bedroom, I was grateful for this reminder.

Earlier that day, I'd had a long talk with a young man who's struggling mightily with some tough stuff. He asked me why I have faith when God has no discernible track record of solving painful problems. I told him it took me a long time to understand that faith isn't a transactional deal, and that when I pray, it's not for God to fix problems—it's for strength so that I might face them with resilience, humility, and love.

As I thought over our conversation, and continued to feel my son's heart beating, I wondered if a heartbeat wasn't a halfway decent analogy for the presence of God in our lives. Our heartbeats begin before we leave the womb, and they are with us always, even when we're not aware of them—which is to say, most of the time. Our heart responds to the demands we place upon it.

Then again, I figured maybe that's not a good comparison at all. Because our hearts eventually give out. But then I realized it: when they do stop beating, that's the very same moment we return to God—in which case, I suppose, such analogies are no longer needed.

Anyway, as I held the miracle of my son in the silent darkness, I said a prayer both for him and that young man. It wasn't a prayer for the absence of struggle; rather, it was for a steady circulation of resilience, humility, and love in the midst of it.


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