Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've been struggling with faith.

As a little girl, I wanted to be Mary - yes, that Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I knew that she was good and kind, and I wanted to be *that* good.  I felt my faith devoutly, and I wanted to be the best that I heard of Christ: infinitely kind and selfless.  I grew up in a household where the word "christian" was used as an adjective to describe exellent attributes; if we heard of someone doing a good deed, my mother would say, "oh, he's a good christian man."  I never really questioned it until I had a Jewish boyfriend, and my mother said, "He sounds like a good Christian man," and suddenly I realized that she really meant "he sounds like a person with good values" and she had it confused with theology.  It opened a crack, and the crack became a chasm.
So, in my twenties, I became an atheist.  I threw it all out: baby, bathwater, and the whole bit.  I grew disgusted with religion in general, and rolled my eyes at almost the mention of religion.  Opiate of the masses indeed, I decided.  Definitely not for me.  I was above all that.
When I got married, an Elizabeth Barrett Browing poem was read, and the line that caught in my throat in a romantic way was "I love thee with my childhood's faith."  I missed being a person of faith.  (The irony that my faith went away, and my love for my husband also went missing, is not lost on me.)

Having a baby brought some faith back into me.  I felt the little person inside me moving, and knew that it was a holy thing, nothing short of a miracle.  I looked into her eyes, and was certain of a presence larger than myself.  I started to call myself an agnostic.
Then cancer hit, and I started to pray, without premeditating such ideas: I did not decide to pray, I did not decide I believed in God, I simply prayed.  All of my prayers sounded like "pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease" as I begged for my life.  The more coherent prayers sounded like "I want to live, please let me live to see Katherine grow up, please let me live," but mostly they were whole body prayers that made me tremble in the wanting; they were wordless begging.

I still call myself an agnostic; I believe that the nature of God/god/gods/goddess is unknowable.  I actually find a great deal of comfort in the unknowability of the divine, because when I try to put it in a box, it never fits for me.

So, I continue to wrestle with my faith, but I find that I do have a kind of faith.  My faith in the divine and my faith in myself are tangled up together; a messy grouping beyond unraveling.  When I have a dark night, as I have lately, it feels that I am completely alone in the universe, and that there is no possibility of recovery, and that none of my dreams will come true.  But then something lets the light in, and that something feels divine, and it whispers to me that I will be able to make my dreams come true, and I feel comfort.

I have taken a huge leap of faith in asking for a divorce.  Faith that my career will revive, that my finances will revive, that my daughter will thrive in our home when it is without conflict.  Faith that I can trust that I really did try everything to save my husband from his depression, faith that I really did my absolute best to save our marriage.  Faith that the voice that tells me that I am more valuable to the universe when I am living my truest self, opening up my possibilities, instead of remaining small in a marriage that hurts my soul, is telling the truth.  Faith that somewhere in this lifetime, there is love waiting for me: romantic love that is tender and fierce, that accepts me as I am and draws out the best in me.

I wrestle with my faith daily, as much as Jacob with his angel...and for longer than a night.  It is wrestling with myself, and with the divine, all at once.  It is wearing, and I am weary.  I don't have a text to guide me the way Christians have The Bible or Muslims have the Qur'an.  I do have their stories, though, and I also have Mark Nepo and The Dalai Lama and Rumi and Mary Oliver, and I have the seasons that freeze and thaw.  I don't know what the result of my wrestling will be, but I continue to wrestle.  And I continue to hold on to the brave hope, faith, that somehow this is all going to work out.


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