Keeping the Faith...
“Keep the faith!” she yelled as I drove away. I looked in my rearview mirror shaking my head as I watched her waving frantically. “What faith?” I thought. “I have no faith to keep.”
Marilee and I had been going out for over a month and she was a good person but hopelessly optimistic. We had met in the local bar where I spent most of my time. She was a waitress there but was not really part of that scene. She had been married to a roughneck, an oil rig hand, who had spent most of his time on the rigs and when not there chasing women in and about town. Their divorce had been final just 3 months ago. With no signs of him anywhere and even worse no child support, Marilee had no choice but to find any work she could. She became a waitress in my watering hole.
I had noticed her right away as most of the guys did, she was cute. But I saw something else, she was like a fish out of water. I was curious why anyone so unattuned to bar life would end up working the late shift at a dive like this. She evidently found me as interesting, noticing that I rarely sat with or even near people when I was drinking. After about a week she struck up a conversation. I really wanted to no part of it, but my curiosity got the better of me.
In the subsequent nights we began to talk increasingly. She told me about her 5-year-old daughter and about her desperation to support her. I spoke only of the most cursory facts of my life. I felt no need to impress her, last thing I needed right now was a woman in my life. But in spite of that we started dating. At first, I would help her clean up at closing time and make sure she got home safe. Then we started seeing each other on her nights off. I even met her beautiful little girl. It was all good until the day before Thanksgiving when she asked me to attend church with her. That was something I just wasn’t willing to do.
Over the last week she was trying often to bring our conversations to a place where God or Jesus was always being mentioned. I had politely sat and listened as she would tell me about her faith. To her God was real. Jesus was her Savior and friend. I could tell she honestly believed things that I saw no reason to trust or believe. I knew I would have to tell her that I not only doubted there was a God but that my only true believe was in the safety of my next drink. I knew she wouldn’t understand, but faith in a guy who died on the cross two thousand years ago was for saps. Not happening in my life, not for her or anyone.
How many years did I run from God? It was so many that I have a tough time remembering if even as a child being raised in a Catholic family, I ever knew who God was or if I ever had an ounce of faith. It is a long journey for any of us who came from under the layers of garbage the world piled on us, to a place where Jesus washes that all away once we turn to Him.
But how does that happen to a person, like me, they can go from completely faithless to one who is totally faithful. I really believe that is the core of what I write in these blogs. It is simple, but it is also complex. The simple answer lies in one book, God’s Word, the Bible. But the complex part is how God opens each of us to that Word.
In my case, and I have told this story many times, I picked up the Bible as part of a deal to keep my ever-failing marriage together. I agreed to read it if my wife would allow me to live my life as I wanted. To drink. To hang out with people she didn’t care for. It seemed easy enough. What I didn’t bargain for was the power of God’s Word.
I did not know,
“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Powerful words, right? But they are the absolute truth. The Word was able to take this besotted atheist and turn him into a man of faith.
I always must state that it is not magic, but it is a miracle. What I mean by that is you cannot just have the book sitting on your front room coffee table and expect that it will absorb into you by osmosis. No, the miracle part comes when you begin reading or listening, it will change you. And that, my friends, is amazing.
Faith can come to the faithless. The apostle Paul says,
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
That is why I am a believer today. I read and listen to the words of Jesus every day. I never miss one because I know there is still an enemy out there that wants to steal God’s words out of my mind and heart and I am not going to let him do that. I want to be and declare I am a man of faith in the Son of God who died and gave Himself for me. And that is what the whole Bible is all about!
I drove away from Marilee. I spent that Thanksgiving in the bar and avoided her from that time on. Eventually I heard she married a guy from her church, and I never saw her again. I sometimes wish I would have listened when she spoke of faith, but I did not. I spent over 30 years not knowing the joy being faithful brings. My prayer today is one of gratitude to a merciful God, who waited until just the right time to save me. I believe as you read this today, it is your time. Don’t spend this one more day alone, even among family, open the Word of God today. He is waiting just for you. It’s your time to begin to keep the faith!