Marty and I have a heritage rooted in Christianity. We continue our Christian confession in spite of or more rightly because of our liberal proclivities. Our faith is our foundation; it is our past and our present. Marty and I were both raised in a Christian church, stayed in a Christian church and raised our children in a Christian church, it is part of who we are, part of how we think, hopefully, it drives how we act toward others.
Marty was raised in the Baptist tradition, a bit more conservative than my Presbyterian foundations, but largely the same. The only real difference, as I see it, is the emphasis on God’s grace and church polity. Baptists focus on humanity’s actions; Presbyterians focus more on God’s actions for humanity, a small but telling difference for Marty and me.
My faith in God and what that means has been tested over the years, certainly no more than the past five years when Marty’s strokes changed our lives. The idea that God never gives you more than you can handle has been sorely tested in my eyes. While it may not have been more than I could handle it’s certainly right to the very edge of my emotional and intellectual capabilities. I have been alternately grateful, angry, thrilled, depressed, faithful and faithless through all of this. To say these past years has been a test of my foundation is a complete understatement.
Amazingly, Marty’s faith, her basic belief system, her foundation has never been shaken and never been stronger. When we talk about religion, our faith and belief in a higher power, she has never wavered, she has never expressed anger or disappointment in her God for what has happened. She has only said I believe God carries me and cares for me. I think if anything her faith in this higher power, her belief in God’s action for humanity is stronger than ever.
Personally, I have a hard time finding God sometimes. I get angry and I lose my faith on a regular basis. Not Marty, I don’t understand why she doesn’t feel anger, why she doesn’t whine about the unfairness of her situation, why she doesn’t moan about God taking her most precious gifts from her. She simply doesn’t, she simply, very simply believes, very simply holds faith, very simply knows God holds her in God’s hands.
Marty‘s evolved view of Christianity is simply, “God is with me.” She has managed to avoid the trap of humanizing her God by blaming God for her strokes; she understands her illness is not of God, by God or for God, it is human illness caused simply and completely by the frailty of humans.
She knows intuitively not to ascribe human characteristics to God, she believes God is infinite and she knows we have but finite understandings causing us to cast our fears, our anger, and our own prejudices as God’s. Marty knows we can’t excuse our frailties by making God frail.
Her God is not one of hate or retribution, her God, my God; the God of our Christianity is one of benevolence and grace. Marty doesn’t blame God or hate God for allowing the illness she is just grateful for her continued life and the chance to continue her life. She believes God is with her.
There are days I want to blame God, to rail about the inherent unfairness of Marty’s loss. On too many days I have found more hard questions, more friction in my beliefs and faith. My doubting times are much more frequent and much stronger than ever. I wonder, I doubt, I lack the clarity of my faith. I’m not Marty, I don’t have her strength, I don’t have her faith.
Marty, like Job has accepted her life and her fate and said I will live as I am, I will live with my faith in a God that is with me and loves me. She knows that better today than ever. I am constantly amazed at what I learn from Marty.