Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Articles of Faith: IV

Trying to divorce my personal life from the public arena is like asking a turtle to remove his shell. I'm rather transparent when it comes to my emotions. My theater background helps buffer the shock of toxic stress. For the case of the dead engine, I became the television commercial voice advertising the latest prescription that cures faithlessness. Order now, and receive a free trial period! We'll send you, at the most inopportune moment, a chance to test your faith! In some cases, people who experience a trial do experience side effects including mental cramps and emotional fatigue. People who don't have faith may have more severe symptoms. My period wasn't too unbearable; Mrs. Faith walked with me as I showed up to work, fellowship mask in place, ready to perform the friendly customer service song and dance.
I looked forward to talking with Patty, co-owner of the restaurant where I serve. Strict in her work ethic as she is in her Pentecostal faith, Patty intimidated me at first. She reminded me of my mother: critical, commanding, yells a lot. Yet when it comes to dealing with daily drama, Patty is approachable, understanding. She loves as passionately as she hates. She adores children; her own daughter died when she was just a teen. She admonishes mock Christianity that feels good, faith built with cheap stucco versus real wood. "His yoke ain't that easy!" She struggles, but she's sturdy and honest. She admits her own short-comings, willingly pointing out the knots in her beams. "I smoked pot for six years after I was saved. People don't change overnight!" She remembers what it was like to be a babe in the arms of Christ; struggling to pick apart the old life, trying to determine what can be refurbished and what must be demolished and completely rebuilt.

I shared with her my assessment of the car saga. "God is punishing me for drinking." She warned against such thinking. "It's not punishment," she reflected. "Sometimes things just happen." I wanted to believe her, but Faith shook her head. Was she negating what my boss said? Fortunately we were slammed; I had tables back to back and no time to ruminate reasonings and renditions about my car's condition, though I wanted to believe Patty's explanation. I did not want this to be punishment, I wanted to drink. Yet, the Spirit speaking in me demanded a holy different desire: to abide in Christ. What if my car dying was a consequence for me straying from the path God has set before me? The implications are vast, the least of which is that God is watching and he is actively participating in my life. God is watching me - a small town girl, a brown-skinned little orphan Annie, a traveling gypsy, a former pot-head and recovering alcoholic, a single mom living on food stamps and $3 tips. I heard the question again: Do you trust that God loves you? Mrs. Faith reached for her Mister, but I was standing in between, not yet ready to let them meet.

Tired from a busy night at the restaurant and emotionally exhausted from the car situation, I collapsed into bed. But the devil wouldn't let me rest. For hours I tried to figure my way out of the conundrum. What happened to the oil filter? Who could have taken it out? My ex-husband used to work at Jiffy Lube but he's too lazy to crawl underneath my hood. And I don't get close enough to anyone to make enemies. I gave up wondering and moved on to other concerns. How am I going to get to my other job on Monday? I can't afford to miss a single day! Boxcars of worries rammed into each other, my train of thought stalled on a broken track. "Enough!" I threw the covers off me, got out of bed and down on my knees to pray. "Lord, forgive me. Help me. I can't fix this one on my own." I continued pleading, more than necessary. Mr. Trust laid down to warm up my side of the bed. When I finally curled up to sleep, he put his arm around me.

When I woke up Saturday, I didn't notice any change, not immediately. I went about my morning ritual, still thinking about the car, but by the time I took my second sip of coffee I noticed the edge wasn't so jarring. There was no bridge to cross the abyss, none that I could see. Yet, the anxiety of crossing had lifted. Without its heavy weight oppressing me, I could think more clearly. "I just have to trust God is working," I announced out loud. My cat looked up at me, indifferent, then went back to eating her breakfast. The birds went on singing, calling out from one grand oak tree to another. I am often envious of animals. They don't have to worry about rent or utility bills. Their car never breaks down. If only I could be as carefree as a bird.

Christ came to liberate us, proclaiming that God will never forsake those whom He loves. And He loved the world - saints and sinners alike. If we trust in His love, the words of Christ should come as no surprise: "Consider the Raven: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better that the fowls?" (Luke 12:24) Christ assures us: "Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31). This being the case, Christians should be immune from worry and anxiety. Do you trust that God loves you? If I am following the word of the Lord, then my answer should be a resounding "YES!" Why, then, was I so troubled?

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