A Problem of Faith
When I was little and my Father first told me to pray my rosary I looked at him like he was missing something. What would praying a rosary accomplish? But the Father didn't say anything more, so I walked over to the front of the church, knelt, and prayed the first three beads. When I got bored, I stopped praying and pretended to move my lips with the words of God while I looked at everyone else praying their rosary.
Why people pray escapes me. It isn't as if God will answer when you call up at night, "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret." And yet I found myself the other night, an atheist by any other word, trying to start an involuntary prayer before I stopped myself for how silly it was to expect someone to respond from on high. So I turned my head to the side of the pillow and went to bed to figure out my own problems.
This wasn't the first time it has happened, and I suppose that perhaps I stopped believing in God as a force who could intervene when I realized he would never answer my prayers. I think this deception is a little cruel. To have children expect that they have a savior or a friend in God, but then learn only their two feet and wit is what will get them through the next day unscathed (or injured, depending on how creative they are solving their mazes).
This realization to create an imaginary friendship at the age of thirteen: his name was Rué. I told myself, "Margaret, you need a friend in whom you can confide. A friend with whom you are not afraid to tell your secrets and a friend who will always keep your confidence and our words secret." And so it was that a mouse named Rué was born out of the intellect of his mother and his task was to mend her broken heart. I suppose that's what children are born to do sometimes: mend the broken hearts of their lonely mothers. That which we place on our children is a burdensome task.
Rué and I had many talks at night. Some done on paper, others done while I paced my room, thinking of a solution. I grew older and many of my problems simplified as my attitude about them evolved to a more serene outlook on life, and Rué all but disappeared.
Yesterday I had a dream. I was in my bathroom in front of my mirror and I saw that my body was decrepit and bare. You could plainly see every vertebrae, every rib, and every bone. My veins were blue, visible, and thick. I hugged myself in alarm only to discover there was not much more of me left. It seemed like I was about to fade away. "I have not much left to give to you," I said. "Why is what I can give you not enough?" I don't know if anyone listened, for I woke up before I knew if I had been given the choice to live.
With Rué and the help of time, I did grow some close friendships, but never close enough that I could completely confide in them without thinking of what I was saying and how I was saying it. I have to be careful with what I say, like a mother would be, so that I don't tell promises that I can't keep. My best friend accuses me of breaking my word, even though I have kept her in mind in most that I do. When she hurts, I hurt, but I know it's mostly up to me to mend the wound and to find a way through to her. In many ways, she is like a child. Even now, as I write these words from my broken heart that I will later give to her, I find myself erasing sentences that I wrote with tears in my eyes, because I know hearing them coming from me would hurt her. I have learned that even in deep friendships, there are some things you will never be able to express. So I write these words for myself, hoping that writing them is enough of a substitute than to talk about them, and maybe these feelings will turn small and I can focus on her and what she needs.
I hope that someday she will need me no longer and that she can look at the world as it is from the unblemished threshold of her eyes. But I don't know. That's the problem with faith. You just have to hope things work out all right, and try your best, but you never know what is at the other side of the road, or if the road will even lead you to where you think you are going. I don't know if I hope to achieve some form of personal martyrdom or just to ensure my own internal self-deterioration, but when my best friend asks me to travel the road with her, I will travel it because she asks me to.
Maybe that's the fate of some people in this world. Maybe God chose them to do what he couldn't: to always listen and to always be strong and be the better influence. God places a mighty task on his children. In a way, it's unfair. But I suppose if the price is a little rawness from a few souls as opposed to the pain of many, then it is a small price to pay, and I just have to remind myself of that. That's always the conclusion to which I arrive; year after year after year of living through my own means. I suppose it comforts me in a way to believe that I am needed, even if sometimes this comes at a personal cost. And I suppose that this means that I do believe in God, after all. And I suppose that if I believe in God for the sake of my personal sanity, then others must believe in him as well for similar reasons. It's interesting, really. No matter how many times I have rationalized the supernatural, the thought of God always seems to have a way to come back creeping to me. Maybe it's not God but our own power of kindness and humanity that I believe in. Our humanity versus God: it's hard to know the difference.
Sometimes, I really feel like praying for guidance. I feel like saying, "what can I do to fix this?" and "how can I be stronger?" and I want to ask God – someone! - to give me the strength I need to form firm kind words, to hold back my anger and indignation and sense of unfairness, to have someone to speak with for a word of advice. But no one answers, and I unfold my hands and turn my head to my pillow and sleep and dream to find the courage, strength, and solace within myself to nurture a friend – a friend that when I feel lonely and weak, I sometimes wish I could be.