Learning Faith


I stood on the station platform with tears streaming down my face. I was leaving my Welsh home and heading for a strange country and a new life-style at Brigham Young University. My cases had been loaded onto the train, and all that remained was to say farewell to my father. We held each other tightly for a few seconds. He bent his head and whispered in my ear, “You’ll be just fine. I have faith in you.” He then gave me a gentle push toward the waiting carriage, and I boarded.

As his waving arm and tall figure slowly shrank from sight, an emptiness filled me. I felt desolate and alone. I stared out the window at the familiar green fields, hedgerows, and gray stone cottages fading from view. The hubbub of chatting ladies and the rustle of newspapers were blotted from my senses. I was lost in childhood memories of special times that I had spent with my father …

He stood about three yards onto the rickety bridge with my two-year-old brother on his back. “Come on, Sian. Hold my hand and we’ll cross together.” His voice was reassuring, but my knees were shaking. I was scared. From where I stood I could see the swaying rope bridge stretch under the weight of the walkers. I could hear the rope creak above the roar of torrential waters in the gully far below. My knowledge of engineering skills was very limited at that young age, but I was convinced that the bridge was unsafe. I quivered with fear and took a step back.

“Sian,” my father’s voice was gentle but insistent, “look at me.” I looked up into his strong, caring face. “Trust me. You’ll be okay.” He held out his hand. I looked into his eyes and stepped onto the quaking bridge. It groaned and I let out a small sob. My father clasped my hand tightly and started forward. I held on and suddenly knew that we would be all right.

I had put my trust in those large hands many times. My thoughts returned to the day that I was stuck halfway down a turret at Caernarfon Castle. The turret, like the rest of the castle, was dark and made of huge granite blocks. The stairs spiraled upwards and were worn from centuries of footsteps. Tourists milled around the ancient landmark. Laughs, shreaks, and voices speaking several languages echoed off the damp, cold walls. Climbing up the turret had seemed relatively easy. I kept to the outside wall where the stairs were wide and headed toward the light at the top. The route down, however, meant teetering on the sliver of stone step in the center of the tower while hordes of huge adults streamed by me, flailing cameras and bags that hit me as they passed. Instead of heading toward the light above I was going down into a pit of darkness. I was terrified.

I could hear people above me beginning their descent. I knew that I would cause a huge traffic jam unless I moved, but I was frozen. “Dad,” I whispered. “Dad.” The sound bounced back hauntingly. I heard footsteps, then a strong voice that I recognized. “Sian, take one step down; just one.”

“No,” I gasped, “I’ll fall.”

“It’s okay,” came the reply. “I’m right in front of you.”

I looked down, my stomach churning. I saw his hand reach out around the central pillar. I took a deep breath and stepped down.

“Good girl. Now one more,” came the encouraging voice. I kept my eyes on my feet and my hand on the clammy stone pillar as Dad coaxed me onward.

Suddenly there was light and green grass and safety. I ran through the archway into the castle’s courtyard. I was down. I was free. I looked for my father. He was standing at the archway watching me, smiling at my excitement and conquest.

That was the way he looked when I reached the summit of Snowdon for the first time. As the highest mountain in England or Wales, Snowdon, for a six-year-old, seemed as inconquerable as Everest does to me now. The old miner’s track was surfaced with rough shingle that shifted unnervingly as we walked. The craggy gray rocks and scattered boulders were a stark contrast to the sailor-blue sky and white scudding clouds above. Occasionally, we would pass a stray sheep searching for an area to graze. These hardy animals were so used to human invaders that they barely noticed us passing.

It wasn’t long before my short legs were failing, and with them my spirits. The gray path seemed endless. “Come on, Sian. You can do it,” Dad coaxed as he heaved me onto his back. It made the climb more difficult for him but helped revive me. We trudged past crumbling stonewalls that had been built by a now forgotten shepherd long before the era of cement. From a distance they looked like huge scars on the face of the mountain.

At last we reached the final scree. Dad held my hand tightly as we scrambled up. When we reached the plateau on the top, we sat down breathlessly. I looked around. Far below I could see moving people like multicolored ants. As far as the eye could see there were mountain ridges, deep valleys, and in the distance the glint of blue from the North Sea. I gazed around in wonder, then laughed excitedly. “We made it, Dad. We reached the very top!” I looked up to see that the expression in my father’s eyes at that moment was a reflection of my own. It said, I love you, I have faith in you, and I know that you can do what you set your mind to do.

In the distant recesses of my conscious mind I heard the rhythmic sound of the train, but my thoughts remained far away. I realized, with an increasing sense of wonder, that as I had been growing up, an eternal bond had been cultivating between me and my father. My childhood fears and faith in his omnipotence had developed into a loving, trusting relationship that was reciprocated more and more as I matured and gained knowledge and experience.

This idea seemed hauntingly familiar. Could this be how my relationship with my Heavenly Father was built? Like my mortal childhood, perhaps my premortal life was a time when I developed faith and trust in my Father. I learned all that I could while we were together, then left my heavenly home with the knowledge that Heavenly Father had faith in me and in my potential for good in this new phase of my life.

As I pondered these thoughts, a glowing warmth filled me. It slowly encompassed the hollow ache I felt inside. I knew that however far from my earthly parents I might travel I would one day return and still feel the closeness and trust that we shared. But even more important, I realized that this very same bond exists between me and my heavenly parents. As my faith and trust in Heavenly Father increases, so will his faith and trust in me. He will always be there to help me if I will only call on him, and one day, if my faith remains strong enough, I can return to live with Him and feel that unity eternally …

My reverie was broken by a cough at my side. I looked up startled. The train guardsman stood beside my seat. “Tickets, please, Miss,” he said. I smiled at him and reached for my purse. “You’re a long way from home,” he said as he glanced at the gray slip of paper. I thought of my distant destination and my family getting farther and farther away. Then all at once I felt that burning inner warmth once more, and an echo of my father’s words resounded in my heart, “You’ll be just fine. I have faith in you.” I knew Heavenly Father was with me, too, and with faith in him I could meet any challenge. Comforted, I smiled again and said, “Yes, sir, but I’ll be okay because I’m not alone.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott M. Snow