What does it mean to be faithful? Faithful to our partner, faithful to our children, faithful to our friends, faithful to ourselves? The definition of faithful includes being steadfast in affection, loyal, constant, reliable and trusted. It means continuing to support someone, even in a difficult situation.
Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher who founded Waldorf education, described faithfulness like this:
“Let your loyalty to another human being come about in this way: there will be moments — quickly passing by — when he will seem to you filled and illumined by the true, primal image of his spirit.
Then can come, yes, will come, long stretches of time when your fellow-being seems clouded, even darkened. But learn at these times to say to yourself: The spirit will strengthen me; I will remember the true, unchanging image that I once saw. Nothing at all — neither deception nor disguise — can take it away from me.
Struggle again and again for the true picture that you saw. The struggle itself is your faithfulness.
And in those efforts to be faithful and to trust, a human being will come close to another as if with an angel’s power of protection.”
(Translated by Hans and Ruth Pusch)
For many people, the moment you fall in love is followed by a rush of intense emotion and energy. You find yourself staying up late, thriving on little sleep, wanting to spend every available moment learning more about this other person. You see all the amazing qualities and gifts of the other – you see “the true, primal image of his spirit.” And you discover new things about yourself and see yourself from the eyes of your new beloved. Everything is full of potential colored in the light of the love you are discovering.
Time passes and slowly that love changes and you are asked to make a choice. Are you able to be faithful in your love for this other person?
This practice of faithfulness has been a gift to me in my marriage. And it has been all the more important as we parent together. Exhaustion leads to stress which leads to frustration… and in those moments, I strive to hold on to my deeper knowing of who he is – the man that I fell in love with at first sight, the man that cried as he spoke from his heart on our wedding day, the man who stood by me as we began this journey of parenting, the man who supported and encouraged me as I prepared for my first VBAC, the man who caught our third baby before our midwife could even arrive. The man who knows all my gifts and all my challenges and loves me. The man that I love.
But, it recently occurred to me how I can also use this meditation on faithfulness for my children.
For many people, the moment you have a child is followed by a rush of intense emotion and energy. You find yourself staying up late, thriving on little sleep, wanting to spend every available moment learning more about this other person. (Okay, maybe you aren’t thriving on little sleep – but it is amazing the seemingly superhuman tasks are you able to accomplish in those early days of parenting on a small amount of fragmented sleep.) You see all the amazing qualities and gifts of the other – you see “the true, primal image of his spirit.” And you discover new things about yourself and see yourself from the eyes of your new beloved. Everything is full of potential colored in the light of the love you are discovering.
Your child grows and develops. Maybe you have already faced challenges you didn’t expect in parenting. If not, they are sure to come. There will be moments that your child “seems clouded, even darkened.” Even as I type that, it seems heartbreaking to believe. But, I have come to realize that my children will struggle as they attempt new things and take new steps in life. And my task is not to rescue them. It is to observe, respect and trust. To be faithful.
Our faithfulness is continuously tested. We do not get to be in relationship with others in a vacuum – and why would we want to. We are challenged in our relationships to change, develop and grow. And through this work we allow our love to deepen and grow with us.