“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”
This was one of my lines from my role in “Miracle on 34th Street”. It was the one line that I struggled with every…single…time.
“Common sense is faith when believing…”
“Believing is common sense when faith…”
“Faith is common sense…” Thank goodness for Jonny who always helped me recover.
It’s a simple line, really, but perhaps my struggle with faith that made it difficult. Perhaps it’s also my struggle with faith that is preventing me from ending “Dolly”. Lisa and I are in the same predicament, for different reasons. We both are at a point where we need to make peace with our faith before we can move on with life.
My favorite Biblical story is Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Lisa and I have both spent time in the Lion’s Den cowering in the dark damp dungeon. Or the kitchen floor on a dark night. Bathroom floor in a strange place. Lonely field. Strangers car. When asked if I believe in God, my answer is no. I don’t believe in God any more than I believe in my son. I know him. He was with me all those dark nights. It’s not my faith in God that I struggle with, but rather, my mistrust of people who are willing to manipulate my faith for their own agenda.
I find myself drawn to people of strong faith. I find comfort in their strength of conviction to God and peace in their presence. Birds of a feather, I guess. Unfortunately, this magnetism has not always served me well. I dated a man several years ago with whom I was very open about my beliefs. He seemed receptive and almost supportive as I spent my Wednesdays a Choir practice and much of Sunday’s at church. His support was not as it seemed. As our relationship intensified, said man began attending services of his own faith. At first thought, I was happy that he’d returned to his faith. Even if it seemed odd that he drove ten miles to another town when there were two he could choose in town. We would meet and share our thoughts on sermons. Almost ideal. Almost.
When we started dipping our toes into the idea of marrying, he grew more and more adamant that I leave my church and become confirmed in his religion. Our dates became a laundry list of why this was essential to our marriage. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t attended church since leaving his parents house. He absolutely had to convert me if we were to marry.
He never challenged my belief in God, but he manipulated my faith in a means of controlling me. Once drizzly night, I sat on his couch and started the conversation with, “We have to talk.” Everyone knows what that means. After explaining my discomfort with his agenda, he held my hands and cried, “We can’t break up. God gave you to me.” I was appalled. The word “gave” made my skin crawl, as it should have. We did break up. Thus began the phone calls, emails, threats, letters to my boss, and nights parked outside my house. In one of his last emails to me, he wrote, “I’ve also come around to your way of thinking–that answer I thought I heard in the parking was not the voice of my Lord’s Mother–she would never lead me this astray.”
He was not the first to use my faith as a means of manipulation, but I believe he will be the last. As the years have gone by, I’ve become strong enough in my faith to know that it can’t be rocked. During my time with him, I was in the Lion’s Den and have returned several times over the past few years. God has been with me when the rest of the world walked out. Last year was dark for me and that was when I left my church. It wasn’t an easy decision, but, looking back, it was the right decision for me at the time. It wasn’t from lack of respect for the church and there are many things that I miss about it. But in my depression, I needed to step away from the clutter of everyone else and find balance.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m not a big fan of Nietzsche, but this quote exemplifies my experience of last year. I needed to break free from the tribe and rediscover my faith on my own terms without the chatter of everyone else. I needed to be alone with God and through the darkness of the Lion’s Den, I found the peace and balance that I needed. Leaving church didn’t scare me because I trusted that God would be there. Now, as I face my future in the sunshine, I’m struggling with that trust. I’ve always known that God would be there in the darkness, but when did I come to believe that he would abandon me when the darkness lifted?
Lisa’s struggles with faith are settled on a whole different ground, but in the end, all struggles are cut down to the same core. I haven’t had much time to work on “Dolly” as I get my house ready to put on the market, but I think about it as I paint walls or sort through stuff. I believe that once I make peace with my issues of faith, I will know how to help her make peace with her own.
Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. I suppose I’ll get it right someday.