the bible says, “the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” i’ve always thought of that scripture in terms of the tangible: finances, relationships, job, but it came to me so clearly that the devil has stolen bits of my faith with each passing year of dreams deferred.
i was never much of a believer in marriage, leaning more toward a personal construct of permanent companionship, sans a contract (spiritual or secular) or shared space. surprisingly, over the course of 12 years at a bible teaching church (learning biblical truth and releasing my grip on what i believed was true) a spark was lit, albeit a tiny flame, for the possibility of matrimony. i quickly found that what is seen and heard can overshadow what is read and learned. nothing can eat away at fabric like moths, and stories about failed or failing marriages bore a hole in the frayed hope i had in the institution. after attending a bachelorette party for a would-be bride who called off the wedding, experiencing the disappointment of my own expired relationships, and watching a close friend (whose wedding i was in) divorce within two years, the shadow of doubt returned and this time it metastasized.
the year i moved to dallas i had just ended at 3-year relationship. we were from different cultural backgrounds and faith. i cobbled together my ideal relationship and was cautiously optimistic that we could blend faiths and cultures to make our relationship work. compromise was at the heart of my naiveté. culture trumped compromise and any idea of a future. i was in dallas for 5 months and returned home twice, each time for a wedding one of which was my dad’s. i was half drunk at the reception and will be eternally grateful for my dear friend who was with me when i dissolved into a puddle of tears. i was so broken i couldn’t attend the post-wedding luncheon hosted by the son of an nba basketball player (his dad was the best man), instead i spent the day with my cousin and her 2 year old son. in my defense, a maelstrom of swirling emotions created this perfect storm: a blow-out with my mom who refused me entry to my home (that she was renting), informing me i was her landlord and we had no cause to speak unless it was about the house; the dissolution of my relationship and living in a new city sans family or friends was simply too much to bear. i don’t think anyone ever fully grasped the emotional turmoil i felt, people just assumed idgaf about my dad’s happiness.
it has been over a decade since all of that happened. but the delicate fabric of my faith is still damaged. where is the repair kit for the rips and cuts in my lace, sequined, silk garment? where is the almighty with his divine needle and thread? is it better to simply toss the fabric and opt for a more resilient textile? neoprene maybe? it stretches and conforms to the body it envelops. or what about faux leather? it’s durable, withstands the elements, stains are easily wiped away, and microtears appear with wear but look like intentional striations in the fabric.
there is a man in scripture who asks jesus to heal his child. the man says, if you can do anything, help us. jesus responds, if? everything is possible to him who believes. the man says, i believe, help my unbelief. i empathize with that man. his child, whom he loves, is tormented and he desperately wants the boy to be free. jesus has the power to heal the child, but a miracle requires faith. the man is honest, i believe but i need you to help that place inside me that doesn’t believe. that is real talk. as christians we say we have faith that god will do this or that but in truth, there is a place inside that only He sees, and that place is called doubt. we hope he will heal, deliver, bless, but we steel ourselves against the possibility that what we ask will not come to pass.
four years ago, i lost a friend to lung cancer (she wasn’t a smoker). she was married with a 4-year old son. chemo treatments fed the cancer so they stopped that and she had a lobectomy. we were at ASL class one evening after her surgery and things seemed to be looking up. but then she took a turn and within six months was back in the hospital. i went to visit her and shifted uncomfortably when the doctor entered and read the advanced directive. she suffered a brain bleed, lost sight in her left eye, and eventually went home. two months later she was gone. i missed the funeral due to work travel but our ASL team performed a tribute in her honor. last week i stumbled upon a video we recorded the year before she passed. she was a chicago-stepper and was teaching us the basics for an upcoming surprise party for our ASL classmate. i smiled when i saw the video, watching her glide across the floor with ease as we counted and tried to match her movements.
last month my sister-friend of nearly a decade lost a two year battle with cancer. she prayed, we prayed, she believed, we believed. in the end, she left us with beautiful memories and a silent charge to love, serve, give, and leave nothing behind when we breathe our last. me and another girlfriend still muse over how connected we all are because of her uncanny ability to link people who need each other in ways they don’t know until they meet.
watching her battle cancer, my faith quilt was worn thin, threadbare. i held on to very last moment, refusing to accept death, believing still for a miracle. even when she texted me days before she passed and said, “just pray for strength, this part of the journey is hard” my mind couldn’t accept what she was telling me: you all will need strength in the coming days. we did, and still do.
i find it easier to have faith for others, but difficult to have faith for myself. if it’s a challenge i have faced and overcome like unemployment or a financial setback, i know the lord has and will see me through. but when it’s a new obstacle, uncharted territory, i am awash with uncertainty and find myself scouring the pages of my worn bible searching for solace and trying to wrap myself in a cloak with holes and torn edges.
perhaps faith is a tapestry, not a continuous bolt of fabric with clean lines and smooth edges but a patchwork quilt, held fast with stitching, each square a memento of a trial faced and won, or lost. in all that i have witnessed and endured, my faith has been tested, tried, and challenged, but it will not be destroyed.