Thursday, April 23, 2009

Article of Faith: II

Part 2 of 5
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. (Psalm 9:10)

The beginning of a beautiful relationship sprouted early like a Florida spring. It pushed through the mulch of old habits as a curling tendril, eager to attach to its life support. I was intimidated at first, newly divorced and wary of lovely promises. Still, I became engaged to that which I dared not follow in my past life, before Christ. Mr. Trust met me at the crossroads, a character uniquely different from the spirit with whom I normally travel, Mrs. Faith. I have assigned these two powers with personalities; if I view them as active participants, they are easier to approach and integrate into my daily living.

Mrs. Faith and I are long-term companions. We met during my childhood when I first began to develop a "belief in something for which there is no proof" (Merriam Webster). She didn't appear until after I found out Santa and the Easter Bunny were socially constructed figments of the imagination. Mrs. Faith introduced herself following a conversation I had with my cousin Suzanna, the only one in my family whose parents were regularly attending church. I lived just around the bend from her and while walking home on our country road I asked, "How did you get Jesus to be with you?" She said quite plainly, "Just ask him into your heart."

I was surprised by the simplicity of what was required, expecting some voodoo hoodoo ritual similar to what my mother use to do while dancing around the house with mixed incense from a joint in one hand and a smoking pine branch in the other. Though I had my doubts as to the effectiveness of my cousin's rite of spiritual passage, I determined it was easy enough to at least try. That night I called him up, "Jesus, if you're there, come see about me." Not long after I received a call back.

I was asleep in my top bunk when the light came. I climbed down from the bed to see its brightness shining from the space between the closed bathroom door and the floor. When I opened the door, the light erupted and embraced me. Nothing was visible except the lid of the seat, and bare feet standing upon it. I lifted my head to view the body, instinctively knowing it was him. Christ had come, and he was standing on my toilet. He said something (to this day I do not recall his words,) and extended his greeting with arms stretched out as if to say “come to me.” Why the King of Kings would come to stand on a commode throne is beyond me, but it was this vision that introduced me to Mrs. Faith. Though it was just a dream, it caused me to believe Christ was real and he’d agreed to come see about me, to stand above the excrement of my troubled home life and help me flush it all out.

If Christ is the lamp unto my feet, she is the path upon which I walked. Often, though, she was too soft, her ground lacked firm foundation. Having been flooded again and again by mental and emotional chaos, the path was always a bit swampy, like the earth beneath leaky plumbing. Still, I trudged along, bearing dissonant feelings of disgust and joy, as a child playing barefoot in mud puddles. For most of my short life, it has been just us, Mrs. Faith and I, supported occasionally by an olive leaf suggestion that God is indeed watching over me.

Up until very recently, Mr. Trust was a stranger to me, and I don't talk to strangers, not without consuming several alcoholic beverages, and since I quit drinking (again) and smoking (finally) I have yet to discover means to engage with strangers without great anxiety. This is an oppressive challenge and has been since childhood; I am incredibly uncomfortable in groups of two or more. This has become a considerable obstacle in my walk with Christ since two or three gathered together is the appropriate number for Him to be in the midst (Matthew 18:20).

Extreme discomfort in a group of strangers is what makes fellowship at church my least favorite component of service. "The Peace" makes me feel at war within, imitating cordial greetings, smiling by mouth only. My eyes search for a single person I know well enough that I might escape the crowd to reach familiarity. "Peace be with you" or "God Bless" is superficial for me. I do it out of formality not authentic sincerity. I feel like a fraud, masking my facelessness: These people don't know me. I'm just a hand to shake. This is precisely what I was thinking the day Mr. Trust introduced himself. He started the conversation with a question, spoken through a pastor's sermon: Do you trust that God loves you?

"Yes, Jesus loves me" is a song we learn to live by early in our Christian journey. How it is learned differs from person to person, but for the most part, we learn this simple faith first. At a certain point, we make a conscious decision to take her as our route through life, a choice that may seem foolish to some, but to believers it is an honorable feat. To believe in something that cannot be proven is bold, daring even, though there are some Christians who are possessed by spiritual pride, presuming to be superior in spiritual strength compared to non-believers who just can't seem to make that leap.

We brave Christians clasp firmly the hand of Mrs. Faith in our darkest hour, never giving in to hopelessness. Most hold onto the "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" childhood mindset throughout our adult lives. Yet, truth be told, the notion of a loving God is a learned belief. Learning a belief is as untenable as any computer program, susceptible to viruses, possibly causing an entire system to crash.

The average Christian remains with Mrs. Faith because he has been conditioned to believe. Faith is familiar to us, a road commonly traveled, comfortably reliable. But what happens when she turns in a direction we have never been before? Worse, what happens when a jackhammer rips her road to rubble? Though intangible, our faith is as real as love or beauty, as is the pain of any assault against her. Yet when challenged, exclusively relying on Faith is risky, there is always room to argue, question, doubt. We falter, our hesitation makes us weak. When confronted with the ultimate inquiry - what is the meaning and purpose of all this? - belief in the existence of God works to a certain point. Faith is good, but she is vulnerable standing alone. We must build a hedge around her. Enter Mr. Trust.

No comments: