Let me ask a potentially blasphemous question to start the Year of Faith:
Faith in what?
If you answered, “Faith in God,” either you are very, very holy, well on your way to canonization (though you might not think so yourself, you humble soul), or you are a Catholic automaton, spitting out what our Protestant brethren call the Sunday School Answer.
Of course the answer is God! The answer is always God! The question is, do I believe in him?
Or, do I believe that some thing is my salvation?
Or, do I believe that some person is my salvation?
Or, do I believe that I am my own savior?
Indulge me for a moment while I perch myself upon my pity pot. In August we moved from Oregon to Michigan and purchased our first home, a beautiful but quirky older home that needed some remodeling – and now repair (God bless all plumbers). For weeks we lived in a house under construction, the bedroom in the office, the office non-existent, books in their boxes, with an never-ending layer of dust all over the floors and furniture. It's an unideal situation for anyone, especially for a writer who works from home.
In addition, we were living with my parents when our son was born. We've lived on our own before, but not with a two-year-old. It's one thing to keep house without parenting, or parent without keeping house, but the two together! Well. Hats off to all of you!
Then there's being lonely, missing family, friends, and a network of support. And let's not forget the poor two-year-old, whose little world turned upside down. “Terrific” twos, anyone?
To this I have sometimes responded heroically, but sometimes my many faults and flaws have flared up and blossomed fully into sin. Of course. Of course. I'm stressed and sad, and when I'm stressed and sad, I react to my situation according to deeply-ingrained habits. Newsflash: not all my habits work for good.
Often I act as if some thing is my salvation. I wander the grocery aisles, scanning for the gizmo or gadget that's going to organize my entire life and therefore make me happy. “Maybe I'll get a second toilet paper holder... and then I'd find time to write.”
Often I act as if some person is my salvation. “If only my son would nap more consistently, or go to bed at eight like he's supposed to, then I'd feel less harried.” Or, “If only the contractor would hurry up and finish this, then the house would feel put-together. And I'd be happy.”
Often I act as if I can be my own savior. Now, I know we just moved 2,324 miles and bought what a money pit, but if only I could...
- Get in daily Mass
- Say all my prayers and do all my spiritual reading
- Get up early
- Write my novel
- Buckle down and do some potty-training
- Underspend my budget
- Follow my schedule
- Read more Emily Post and Miss Manners
- Make delectable meals
- Keep the floors mopped
- Color-coordinate my wardrobe
- Find the magical discipline method that will keep the two-year-old from throwing embarrassing temper tantrums at Meijer, at Lowe's, and during social calls – in short, everywhere
...then I'd be less selfish and cantankerous. Intimate friendships with real Michiganders would spring effortlessly into being, without any fear of rejection. And I'd be the joyful, loving, holy St. Rhonda that God created me to be – if only I could get my act together.
Guess what? My faith is that of the atheist. I act as if I'm the highest power out there. For all my weakness, I still think that I hold the solution to my problems.
I'm no better than the Pharisees, who said all the right things and did all the right things, but acted as if their beliefs and their works – rather than God, the agent, working through their beliefs and works, the means – were their salvation.
Buying a second toilet paper holder does not heal the wounds that sin has gashed in my heart, soul, and body, however handy it might be.
Waiting on other people to do what I want them to do has no real and lasting effect on my own behavior. How can I expect others to behave according to my wishes when I cannot govern myself?
Manipulating life's circumstances to fit some imaginary ideal, or copycatting another's life, however holy the person, cannot make me a partaker of God's divine life. I have not that power.
God alone can transform me. Salvation is his free gift; grace is his to bestow. All desire for and fulfillment of union with God originates with him. We love him because he first loved us. And he is not stingy with his gifts. As Isaiah 55 says, God wants me to drink deeply, eat good fare, and “delight [myself] in fatness.”
I can believe, or not.
I can accept it, or not.
I can cooperate with it, or not.
What I cannot do, however, is bring it about by the force of my own will. This is a matter of faith. In all areas of my life, large and small, important or trivial, I am asked to make an act of faith.
Construction on our house will, someday, be finished – and like the lilies of the field, we will discover, once again, how God provides for us. In fact, our being here is itself a sign of God's provision – my husband has a job!
Soon, I will began to find the balance between parenting, housekeeping, and work – discovering, once again, that God shows me His ways when I surrender to him on a daily basis. In fact, the house continues to be clean, food continues to be made, and writing continues to be done!
Soon, among the many wonderful people that we're meeting, I will discover a bosom friend and kindred spirit. God knows how hard it is for me, and he always provides. In fact, one new friend in particular has gone out of her way for me, visiting, chatting, listening, volunteering to watch my son when I need a break, becoming my running partner – all the things a bosom friend does! Intimacy simply takes time, and I must be patient.
Through these crosses and resurrections, through his provision, God calls me to himself. Not for its own sake does God grant me provision. In openly acknowledging and thanking him, I dispose myself more and more to being transformed into Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The question, “Faith in what?” then, is an appropriate one to ask during this Year of Faith. It's not at all blasphemous.
Copyright 2012 Rhonda Ortiz
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