You don’t just wake up one morning brimming with faith. That would be sweet, no? Typically I wake feeling like I’ve had a collision with a circus train. Fortunately I am married to a man who feels exactly the same. The morning mantra at our house is “don’t touch me”, “ don’t speak to me”, and “If you think I am picking up that Chihuahua poop in the living room floor at this hour you are sadly mistaken!” I suppose there are things about which faith does come easily. I have complete faith that any meal my husband, the chef, prepares will make my toes curl. However, even after following the recipe as carefully as my almost non-existent culinary skills allow, I have absolutely no faith the chicken marsala I’ve just spent hours agonizing over will be edible. To my credit, only three people who have tasted my creations have become seriously ill.
I joined a contemplative meditation group in 1994 that met each Tuesday for a couple years. Many were part of the same church congregation and very active members, me not so much. As the group started I thought to myself “My nieces were right, I’m not holy enough”. I am an introvert and not comfortable being part of a group, especially a potentially judgmental church posse. The theme that first night was “Be Still and Know God”. Although I “Knew” God, I was not on a first name basis with the ”Be Still” notion. Our weekly routine was to introduce a topic for the evening and meditate for 30 minutes. I felt down to my shoes that I didn’t belong and could no more be still for thirty minutes than I could cook a meal Julia Child would devour with gusto. I had no faith in the process or in my ability to meditate. The ONLY thing I could think of was Blue Bell ice cream. “Be still and know God.” I told myself. “Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla”, my unholy inner spirit shouted back. “Empty your mind so God can speak to you.” I pleaded with my wandering mind, “Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate” said my worthless little spirit.
Months later the group had a retreat in the country; one of the activities was to go out into nature and find an item that represented our personal spiritual journey. I only found a paper cup, which didn’t exactly spring from nature. It certainly wasn’t natural for me when I began meditating either. I saw that paper cup as my developing spirit; it was paper then but it would grow, evolve. I could see the evolution from paper, to thin plastic, to thick resin, to glass, and someday to fine china. From this, I learned faith can grow.
If ever something will teach you faith, it is most certainly marriage. There is nothing that will test your mettle like cohabitating for years on end with another human who has as many opinions, idiosyncrasies, faults and illusions as you-particularly if your partner is male. As my Mom says, “If it has tires or testicles you are going to have trouble with it!” For me, trusting a marriage partner has not come easily; I came by this through years of exposure to people I should never have given my trust to. My relationship track record prior to meeting my husband was dismal, in part due to the fact that my partners’ moral compasses were broken and they had become stupiddamnshitty dirt bags. I grow weary. So, my approach has developed into a periodic renewal of faith in marriage and in all things.
More than once in my life I have experienced the “dark night of the soul”. It proved to be more like the “dark two years of the soul”, a crisis of spirit so deep I didn’t have the strength for faith to materialize. Life was daunting and overwhelming, and I felt that little of what I did really mattered. When you are in the midst of this sad fatiguing time the things you typically rely on for guidance don’t work. Praying is so difficult you either cry or just mutter a weak “help”. Your intuition goes right out the window, if you are lucky enough to sleep you don’t dream, and you can’t focus on those things that are life affirming. What I learned from this cruel void was to look inward for God, to look to the Christ within, not out there somewhere in the heavens. I came to see that to have faith, we must choose to have faith.
This is not to say that life is hunky dory from then on. Take last week for instance. My laptop contracted a virus, the mother of all viruses just to be clear here. And despite that I had what my local computer Guru promised was the “best virus scan available”, my pretty pink computer that Sweetie bought me crashed and left this world, NEVER to return. This is the computer all my business records are on and more importantly the same computer the book I am writing is on, a book I have poured my heart into for 3 years now and cannot replicate. I did have a backup on flash drive but could not, even if Dr. Evil put a kryptonite gun to my head, find the thing! I am not saying I melted down, but my head did spin completely around according to the staff at Three Geeks and a Grump. To say I was a bastion of hope and light is not exactly correct. After two days of stewing, fretting and waiting, my data was retrieved by the Geeks. I hugged all of them repeatedly and promised to fund college savings plans for their children. I was once again reminded that where faith is concerned we don’t have to be able to see the future, just take one step and a time, turn the corner and take another. It takes practice. We commit to keep practicing and commit to keep choosing faith-our entire lives.