Faith

I come from an extraordinary family.  My own family is worth a hundred books–I could write a series just on the jobs my father held or on the summers we spent as children with our beloved cousins and great-aunts and -uncles and parents’ friends’ kids at Ocean Isle Beach, NC.   My mother and father’s first son died suddenly one night from a rare strain of meningitis only days before his first birthday, so by the time they were 24 years old, they’d already buried a child and yet they kept going, having Ben and Spence and me  and doing the best they could to give us the kind of lives they thought we should have even though they were not right for each other.  That, too, is worth an epic movie in their honor.  Ben and Spence became self-made men, one a VP for a company in North Carolina, and the other a lawyer in Colorado representing people against insurance companies.  I could not be prouder of them both if they were sitting in the White House.  In fact, we’d probably all be better off if they were although there’s no way on earth one would be the vice president to the other.

And then there’s my extended family–my umpteen cousins and aunts and uncles, and, as I said, I had the privilege being raised with greataunts and greatuncles, and my family is Southern.  I mean Southern.  Names like Odell and Zenobia, Auburn and Annie Ruth Sasser.  Milton and Deward and Aunt Grace (a woman has never been so aptly named; I swear the woman is the living light of God) and even down the path of history on my father’s side, an Aunt Australia.  We put up vegetables in the summer–yes, I have been in the fields picking Dixie Lee peas and Purple Hulls and snap beans.  I can shuck a corn–and my father made our weekly ration of sweet tea with the glee of a wizard over a cauldron of dragon’s blood and eye of newt.  Our big Southern family is full of boot-strap businessmen and women, lay preachers, well-traveled entrepreneurs, and people who, in varying ways, want to help the world.

Being Southern like we are means being Christian and loving Jesus and there is no other way.  I never took to Christianity as a lifestyle, even though I tried, because I saw too much hypocrisy in people’s behaviors and there was too much mythology for me to take the Bible stories literally.  If I couldn’t take the Bible literally, I was told, I wasn’t a real Christian anyway.  So, church looked a lot to me like a show people put on for each other, and walking with God was taught, so I interpreted it, to be much more about behavior-control than creating an intimate relationship.  I left the Christian church as soon as I could after I left home and did not return to it until a few years ago when I entered the Unity Church in Wilmington because I was trying to heal my resentment with the evangelical Baptist influences of my childhood.  But, I didn’t stay any longer than I needed to.  One Sunday morning I looked around and thought you know, all this is alright with me.  And I did not go back.

My life’s journey so far has been about the questions of faith, about its necessity for me.  I’ve learned the hard ways about being faithful, and I’ve done my fair share of being unfaithful, too, so I know all about that.  Right now my stories are eaten up with characters who struggle with being faithful–to themselves, to their lovers, to their families, to their feelings, you name it.  So, I know I’m kneading this kink out for myself on the pages of my work.  As it resolves with my characters, so it resolves with me.

I have two female cousins who are saturated with their love for Jesus, and I look at their lives and marvel at how confident they are, how neither has met, to my knowledge, with failure of any kind.  Setbacks and challenges, sure, but they blaze on with their eyes full of Jesus fire and gardens begin to bloom where once a trash heap stood.  At least that’s how I see it.  One is in her 40s running a wildly popular frozen yogurt bar in North Carolina and the other, only 13 years old, is now in Kenya with her church on a mission.  They are bookends to my place in the extended family–the older cousin I idolized when I was a kid, and the other is the youngest of a brood of several cousins who were like little brothers and sisters to me.  I love them both dearly, and the simplicity of their faith moves me.  I admit I am jealous of it, especially when I read the precocious and ardent words of the 13-year-old’s blogs, so reminiscent are they in tone of the early writings of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, who later became known as Mother Teresa.

It leads me to wonder why spiritual faith comes so easily to some while others wrestle with it, or, for those people who surprise and confound me most, seem to live perfectly wonderful lives without concerning themselves with it at all.  I, too, have had my intimate moments of surrender with the Christ, with God, and, as Michael puts it, spiritual awareness seems to be an ever deepening surrender, which, given my rebellious and stubborn–and dare I say prideful–nature, makes my dance with faith ever more like a tango somedays, wherein I am skillfully, yet unsuccessfully, attempting to get away.

The deep roots our family has in faith has saved my butt a time or two when I have made rather selfish decisions that lead to less-than-ideal consequences.  I am grateful for these roots and often wish I had been the type of cousin to have ecstatically married Jesus when I emerged from the baptismal font.  Or, maybe I did, and I’ll be the last one to know.   I have never been one to dovetail into a committed relationship, that is for sure.

As I live in Florida, away from my dear friends and my family, I question my faith, why, only six months ago, I was so certain God was calling me here, to so much change, to this life.  I am in a moment of doubt.  In the quiet place in my heart, I know I am here to write, that the task in front of me is that simple, that everything will work out in the end, that I have been given the gift of this time to cultivate the desire of my heart and create the life I dreamed about when I was a girl.  You can’t be a writer if you don’t write.  And you can’t write if you’re not alone.  In this solitude, I try to remain faithful to the promise I made when I said yes all those years ago to the God who has called me into intimacy.

But, it is hard.

night night beloveds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About marlowemoore

I'm a writer, dancer, and naturalist living in the Tampa Bay area.
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6 Responses to Faith

  1. Sharon says:

    Hi Marlowe. Very interesting and honest. I enjoyed that. I’m not sure faith is as easy for others as you think. I am sure that we all emerge from that baptismal font to greet our life of faith in God with simplicity and great joy. It just doesn’t stay simple for very long…neither life nor faith. Somehow, though, I believe that the faith that began when we were young provides an underlying stability and compass that keeps pulling us along toward God in spite of ourselves. I question everything, and I don’t trust people who don’t. I will say, though, that I have become more comfortable with resting in the mystery of it, because I know for sure I can’t understand it and I can’t live without it. In fact, I pray often for faith itself, confessing that even my faith has to come from God. Indeed, it is hard…but we struggle on. As far as hypocrisy goes, I have kind of concluded that most people are doing the best they can, and that if they think they have conquered everything else, they are usually left with being judgemental, which is right at the top of the very bad sin list, so apart from the grace of God, we’re all screwed! I, too, am so thankful for the family that you and I share. I would point out, however, that you apparently had a glitch in your word processor and accidentally deleted the paragraph about what a pillar of faith and example of Christian awesomeness I have always been. You might want to go back and check your original script. 😀 Love you lots! Sharon

    • marlowemoore says:

      Sharon, you deserve a very long, very rhapsodic blog about your awesomeness alone. To be sure! Thank you 1) for reading and 2) for making such a response–I enjoy your insights and experience, and I do love hearing from you. Yes, comfortable resting in the mystery…what an uncomfortable concept, though, and letting it all be without analyzing it to death or fretting about the right outcome has been work. I still fret over right outcomes…probably why I’m awake at 1:57 a.m… but your comments have made me happy, to hear your beliefs about early faith pulling us along toward God in spite of ourselves. It is something to marvel over, and we have been very blessed to be born into our family. Love you lots!

  2. maria squitieri (giresi) says:

    marlowe…as u have come to know, i am a person who has little of everything….except faith. There i have an abundance. it runs side by side with “hope” of which i have an abundance of as well. without the two i would have shriveled up and died a long time ago. i believe that wholeheartedly. I know that God exists, and although the definition of faith is:a “strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence “, God does offer proof; in the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset, as a crocus breaks dirt after a frigid winter, as the unconditional love we see in man’s best friend’s eyes when he looks at us…and on the downside He offers proof after we’ve suffered heartache..to feel the loss of something we have to acknowledge the gain..to suffer pain, we must recognize that we have felt joy..i know i mustn’t have looked as a very religious person, God fearing either..but i am…i have never struggled with faith even after everything i’ve been through…the loss after loss after loss…God blessed me with that grace. i think people have a problem believing and trusting in something or someone that they can not see. that may be a superficial explanation but i think there is some truth behind it. you, of all people, know that i have repeatedly wondered why i ended up in wilmington..and i complain about it but underneath all my cynical jabs and pot shots i know there is a reason..same goes for u in florida..u are meant to do great things, marlowe moore…whether it be in wilmington, or florida or somewhere.else….its going to happen…
    ps…i am so loving your blogs….

    • marlowemoore says:

      You are so special. Do you know how glad I am you didn’t drop my class? Of your writing that I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of it, this blog response is my favorite. I should have suspected as much, Maria, for you to have such an unshakeable faith…how is it that we never talked about it until now? All in God’s time, I suppose. Thanks for reading the blogs. It’s nice to know I’m not in a vacuum down here. And thanks for keeping it real and bringing the grace. Love you.

  3. Marlowe, as I read your blog on faith, I have to say that it moved me in so many ways – there just aren’t enough words. It moved me because of the memories it invoked – the smells and tastes and sounds of our past together. It moved me because of your honesty and transparent expressions of life and experience. It moved me because of the imprint we’ve obviously left on each other’s lives across the years. Mostly it moved me because this cousin that you have seen as someone who has never flinched at faith – who has never been found wandering in the tension faith can birth – is wanting to say to you that she is someone who has certainly wrestled with and worked through her own questions about this Great Mystery that we know as God … and the precious Word that we know as His Son … the Savior of our deeply Southern family … and even greater – the world! 🙂 (Yes, there IS a whole world out there beyond our family! Who knew??)
    Ironically, I have had a couple of very recent, intimate conversations with two of our cousins who have been sifting through their own faith-stories … much like we used to sift through the shells at the inlet after high tide. As I talked with both of them – we found that we had gone, or were going through a re-examining of what our faith means to us. Not what denominational doctrines we were taught … nor what you well-described as the “learned behavior” of our religious training … (both of which I think the generations right before us have hoped we would carry out in practice – just as it has been modeled before us) … but thankfully, what was being re-examined was the true HEART of what I KNOW the generations have hoped to instill in us as they have passed their faith down the limbs of family tree – and that is PERSONAL awareness of the Gospel’s message of love and redemption – and a desire to know and yield to truth as it is carried out in God’s call to all of His creation. The fact that our family has passed down such a precious Christian heritage to us is a gift I will eternally be thankful for. I believe it is at the root of all that makes our family what it is – and it’s priceless. I’m sure that sometimes it’s been easy for humanity to get in the way of that desire … creating specific ways that it will “look” if it is to be lived out correctly … translated correctly … interpreted correctly. All of that has been meant for our good and edification … but the truth is … I believe that if we TRULY trust God … the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … then at some point we will lay back and we will trust Him to be the sea beneath us … to carry us … to hold us as we float out into who He is … and discover by His grace, the intimacy that awaits us along the journey. That doesn’t mean that God’s truths don’t have definition … but they are HIS definition, not ours … and that makes faith, in the end, a very simple – yet difficult thing to work out. I think that is why the Bible tells us to “work out our salvation” … not with ease and no questions asked … but it says, with “fear and trembling”. That sounds pretty messy to me – what do you think? 🙂
    About 7 years ago now, I looked towards the heavens and asked God, “Are we like, getting ANY of this right?” My spiritual life had be crescendoing to a feverish pitch as I had so many questions mounting about the specific doctrines and platforms of our family’s Baptist background. While that will always be my faith’s foundational stones – and I’m very thankful for that, AND the tremendous teaching, love, and faithfulness of my parents – I found myself asking honest questions and almost feeling scared to find out the answers. I described it as all my years as a Believer being lived out in one cove of the ocean … and if God WAS the ocean, then wasn’t it safe to explore those waters for myself and trust that, as CS Lewis said, “wandering” doesn’t mean “lost”? Wouldn’t God want that for me? Well, it wasn’t exactly a wildly popular notion amongst some of those I polled, LOL, but one day, I had a conversation with a minister whom I respect greatly, and when I posed my ocean theory to him, he sat back and looked at me and said, “Marlo, never be afraid to venture out into God.” Well, that statement freed something in me and thus began the most amazing spiritual adventure of my life. I found myself up at all hours of the night – wrestling with questions, studying Theology for myself, crying, praying … and sometimes quite afraid. The uncharted waters were deep and raging at times … but I kept “venturing” out in faith until I found myself, all over again, in Him … a continuation of that “saying yes” you spoke of … the wholehearted “yes” I spoke as a child … stretching and reaching for more … and it taught me the greatest lesson of all … and that is … if you have finished changing … then you’re just finished, period. I found that never again will I foreclose on the Mystery … and I can see how each season of our life offers us new ways to venture out into God, and then to rest as He safely returns us to a new spot of shoreline – new inlets full of undiscovered shells to sift through … washed up on those shores by the very Sea that has given us all life … and love … and grace. While I am so touched that you have seen some evidence of faith in my life … I think it’s important to say that faith, in and of itself, has not always been easy or without tension … but I find it’s equally important to point out that those are the very things that has made it MINE … and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
    So, dear cousin, as you find yourself alone with your thoughts, your character developments, and your writings … I will be praying for you as you venture out into God … and I’ll be praying that the discoveries you make … will take your breath away. I love you so much.

    • marlowemoore says:

      Oh, Marlo. How much reading your and Sharon’s responses to this blog has made me miss you both. I have always considered you women who, faith-wise, I aspired to be, yet I seem to enjoy sinning way more than any of the other women in our family. 🙂 I remember a conversation you and I had at the last Dutton reunion I went to a few years ago, about how we were re-learning our relationships with God, and it IS rough sailing. Perhaps, upon reflection, why is was so natural for Jesus–the Truth, the Way–to calm the winds. I could write for hours on what you and Sharon and my friend Maria said in your responses, and I am so thankful that you all are here to speak to me while I’m in this solitude, which is exactly where I need to be. Wandering absolutely does not mean lost, and I don’t understand anything if it’s not exploring the life I’m in, much to the hand-wringing and nail-biting of some of my own family members. 😉 I love you so much, Marlo. And I want you to know that I understood, as I was writing the blog, that all I was really writing about was my perception of your faith (one day I do want to write an essay about when you saved me in your bedroom when I was 9, do you even remember that? It made a hell of an impression on me, sister), and so I knew I was getting it wrong, in the sense of writing your truth. So, I apologize for that, but, in the end, I’m glad I did, otherwise who knows if you and Sharon and I would’ve shared our experiences so candidly, and I’ve missed that in our adulthoods. I love your whole stinking family, and I’d be so thrilled to continue these conversations on faith with you guys if you want to email about it. ❤

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