Updated: Nov 7, 2020
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
FAITH OR FEAR
Turning off the TV after watching the National Explorer documentary, I simply couldn’t process the belief system of the several ancient cultures that were presented. I leaned back in my recliner and placed my hands behind my head, pondering over what I’d just watched. The documentary had presented the practices of several ancient and isolated groups of people from different geographic parts of the world. Two of the groups, however, were seared into my mind and actually made me question myself.
One group lived in a rugged the African terrain of Ethiopia. They maintained a centuries old tradition of leaving their valley to climb a daunting mountain to baptize their infants. The climb was almost vertical and consisted of following a series of foot holes up the side of the mountain and in and around its treacherous cliffs.
The documentary was filmed from the ground with human technicians and the air through use of drones. Prior to airing the actual ascent to the baptism ritual, the documentary detailed the great lengths at which the crew went through in order to film the pilgrimage from the valley to the sanctuary in the side of the mountain. The crew contracted with an acclaimed rock climber to assist them in traversing the exact mountain ascent the Ethiopian families would take. Although the film crew utilized rock climbing gear to negotiate the climb, the Ethiopians climb without gear and barefooted and the women carry the infants on their backs.
It was unbelievable the lengths these cultures were willing to go to honor their belief system. I assumed the reason the sanctuary had been built three fourths of the way up the side of the mountain centuries ago was for preservation or security. Yes, I knew it was their tradition, but maybe it was time to move to a safer location. Personally, I couldn’t quite grasp the belief that God must be encountered in a physical place in order to worship; instead, I believed we as human beings were the actual temple.
There’s definitely something to be held in awe to the fact that their belief was so fervent they would risk life and limb to trek to their shrine. Even more unbelievable is that besides risking their own lives, the culture is willing to risk their existence as a society since everyone made the climb to celebrate the baptism; the oldest to the youngest. When asked if they were fearful of the climb, they said they were but were willing to make that sacrifice for God – they believed their faith in God would protect them and bless their child. One person also added, “We are more afraid not to make the trek.”
What am I missing here? Why doesn’t this strike a chord with me? Would I do that? I don’t think so. Why is my faith not as strong as theirs?
The second group of people lived in a remote area of the South American rain forest. Their tradition was different yet just as treacherous in regards to the same risk of life and limb. Each year, the village held a day long prayer vigil asking for God to bless the village in the coming year with good weather. The day of prayer was marked with a day of dance asking for God’s favor in the new year. The dancers were fueled by the fish caught the day before the dance in a special village wide event. All of the males of the village went to the river – half stayed upstream and the other went downstream to a shallow area.
The first group stretched a fishing net from river bank to river bank and began walking the outstretched net toward the shallow end. The outstretched net drove the fish to the shallow end where the second group waited with spears and nets to catch and kill them. Whether one is ankle or waist deep, the water was so murky one could not see what’s swimming in it. The amazing part of this fish kill is that the river is alive with caiman, electric eels, and piranha…all of which are very dangerous to the life and limb of humans. These men were willing to assume this risk of bodily harm, even death, to catch the fish necessary for the annual prayer vigil. When asked if they were fearful, the men said yes, and that many times they would not be able to sleep the night before the fish. But all of them said they were more fearful of not asking for God’s blessing on the village for the coming year.
Once again, this does not resonate with me. Why is this ritual so important and embedded in their village? I once again, I found myself asking, Would I do that?
These concepts were so foreign to me. Both of these cultures risked the lives of their people for God’s blessing. It was so very interesting that, based on what I saw, the very blessing from God they were seeking was a promise of subsistence living. A blessing for the basics: safety, security, and nourishment, which was their prosperity.
I found myself questioning my own faith. What would I be willing to do for what I believed in? Why do they feel it necessary to risk it all for God? Why I do not feel it necessary to risk it all for God? How could each of those societies risk the lives of their young ones? If you want to risk you own life, that’s is one thing…but basically sacrificing your children for what you believe is something that I can’t agree with. Why do they do what they do for life on Earth, and why I do what I do for life after Earth? Do they do what they do because of what they don’t know or do I do what I do because of what I don’t know. Is this actually belief in God or conformity to culture? Or is it something in between? Is what they are doing what they have been taught and basically just what they know…or is there a deeper more spiritual meaning behind it all?
At one time, people thought the earth was flat and they also thought the sun orbited the earth. We only know what we know until someone knows better. The more I pondered, the more I keyed in on what both groups of people said. Both groups said there was more fear not to participate in the ritual than to participate in the ritual. Why? Isn’t life itself precious and a gift from God? Aren’t we here to live? Aren’t we taught not to test God or fate? And isn’t testing fate exactly what they do every time they participate in these rituals?
Is belief and faith formed in strength or weakness?
I finally reconciled the difference in their belief system and my belief system. It all boiled down to how we as people approach our belief in the creator. The question that only you can answer is…
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IS IT FAITH OR FEAR?
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*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!