Maybe it was a vacation we took to Yellowstone to see the geyser Old Faithful. Its jet of steam and boiling water shoots into the sky so reliably you almost wonder if the park ranger is secretly pushing a "Go" button for it. (The ranger isn't.)
Or perhaps it wasn't that at all. Perhaps it was Starr, our faithful Great Dane, who greeted us so predictably as we arrived home from school or swim team practice. For whatever reason, the word faith didn't feel to me like an especially spiritual one. The dog was faithfully predictable. So was the hum of crickets late into a summer night, so was the start of school each fall. So was the geyser.
Of course, I knew I could be faithful, too. If I borrowed a friend's book or bike and promised to return it the next day, was I faithful in doing so? I usually was. I wanted my friends to be faithful about returning stuff I lent them. These were small ways we could be faithful to one another.
I sensed, though, it was even more important to be faithful to God, who is the unseen but totally powerful Love that is always present wherever we go, whatever we do. What did it mean to be faithful to God?
For starters, I could at least remember to think about Him, to pray to Him each night before I drifted off to sleep. It was a good thing to remember He is good itself, always as close as one's own thoughts, and to remember that faithfully each day. And to live in line with that fact.
For a long time, though, I didn't know where this good faithfulness came from. And I wanted to, because I noticed some bad things that came around too faithfully. For instance, every winter I got a cold. And there was a time when another guy on the swim team and I got into fights - words, not fists - faithfully every day for a couple of weeks. That's what might be called dead-end faithfulness. It leads nowhere. It also comes from nowhere. And I didn't want to keep slipping on it and falling.
Then I found a passage in the Bible that says, "Thy faithfulness is unto all generations" (Ps. 119:90). But "thy" in that sentence doesn't mean the geyser or the dog or the crickets. It doesn't even mean you and me. It means God.
Think of that. God is faithful to us. That's where faithfulness starts. Then it circles round to us, to our generation and all generations. We all can then employ it by being faithful to Him.
When I saw that God, Love, is the source of faith and is always faithful to us - faithfully loves us and cares for us and sees us at our very best - I felt I could begin to defeat bad things that recurred too regularly. In other words, in prayer I could take the "faithfulness" away from them, and they'd have to collapse.
For instance, by remembering that God faithfully loved me and cared for me, I didn't have a cold this past winter, or the one before that. And I haven't had a fight in I don't know how long. With this new understanding - that it's not just me trying to be faithful to God but it's God being faithful to me and you and all of us - I realized I could put my own faith on a better footing, one that never turns slippery.
I could see God's faithfulness to me underpinning my own best efforts to be faithful in prayer, in honesty, in returning things on time as promised. And, as I said, I could pray in a way that helped and healed me.
God is faithfully seeing us as good, as talented and befriended. In fact, God is so faithful in seeing all this in us that we're empowered to be faithful to Him and to take the gifts He has given us and use those gifts more fully. It starts with God. He faithfully loves and cares for us. Then the faith circles round, enabling us to be faithful to one another. And to Him. The circle begins again.
Let us be faithful and obedient, and God will do the rest.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)