My Name Is Faith

from a writing prompt on the subject of faith: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/daily-prompt-unfaithful/

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Faith has always been a loaded term to me. For one thing, it’s my name.

As a child, I was surrounded by girls named Jessica and Stephanie. Nobody else was named Faith.

Even as a child, I thought about my name, what it meant and how it affected my life. I desperately wanted to be named Tiffany.

When I asked my mother why she’d named me as she had, she explained that she and my father had not been able to decide between JoAnn and JoAnna and so I became Faith, named for my grandmother, who I saw only twice a year and who didn’t seem a particularly holy person in her sad polyester slacks.

We didn’t go to church, but I knew that my name had something to do with God. It was written on the signs of churches. It was in prayers.

“What does faith mean?” I asked my mother, “why did you name me Faith?”

“It’s a word that means to believe that everything will work out okay…it’s a wonderful word. It’s your grandmother’s name.”

That, to me, didn’t answer much. As a child, I wished that my name didn’t mean anything at all.

I lived in south Georgia, where everyone believed in God. Even when I was young, I understood the irony of my being named Faith.

Because I was smart, I saw that grown-ups contradicted themselves an awful lot and that they didn’t seem to be having much fun. A big new supermarket was built in town and the parking lot was hot like hell in the summertime.

By the fourth grade, struggling with the cursive ‘r’ and loathing my un-cute glasses and not-long hair, I was standing at the edge of the playground and wanting to go home.

At age 9, I was melancholic and dabbling in hopelessness. I was beginning to identify, with increasing frequency, a feeling of desperately wanting this to end…the school day, the shopping trip, the car ride.

I wanted to go home constantly and, to me, faith was believing that whatever it was I needed to end would, eventually end. The bell would ring and the hallways would fill, the door would open, the engine would start and I would be on my way home.

***

Sometimes, when I’d spend the night at a friend’s house on Saturday, I would have to go to church with them on Sunday. The seats were invariably hard and I could feel the press of the world outside, light pushing in through the glass.

My name would be belted out over the dull bowed heads, “…have faith…in faith…trust in Christ…have faith in God…” and I’d just sit there feeling fake and bored, knowing that it whatever it was that they spoke of, it was not for me.

I was, as a result of my 4th grade melancholia, sent to Catholic school, where the nuns seemed to not like me very much. I wasn’t Catholic and my name is Faith and my skirts were always messy, my shirts untucked.

I tried though, at the requisite mass, to pray and to taste the body of something sacred in the dry flour on my tongue. The grape juice was sweet and I liked the psalms all full of pastures and nets and music, but Catholic school didn’t heal my melancholia. If anything it made it worse, because it was such a horrible place but it was supposed to be a good place.

I was beginning to have a lot of doubt in people’s integrity. It wasn’t like they say it is in the books and middle school made me want to die, with the boys singing that terrible song: “Gotta have Faith, a-Faith, a-Faitha…”

One could say that suicide is invariably bound in a loss of faith. Wanting to die is not exactly the opposite of having faith, but it is certainly a crisis in faith that life will work out in a way that, if not pleasant and wonderful, is moderately bearable.

By the time I was a highschool dropout, I wanted my punkrock name to be Faith Lost or Lost Faith. I took pills everyday that were supposed to make me feel better, but they just pissed me off more.

The only time I was happy was when I was alone, driving and listening to the radio, or sitting outside, smoking cigarettes by the river.

I’d take the back roads out to the edge of the county, looking at the two lane highway as a way out, finding all the exit points and daydreaming about where the roads led.

In 1993, the American South felt to me like a vast empire, nearly impossible to escape.

I left home and returned many times. Sometimes I’d cry in the car late at night, some song about faith filling the dark air and making me feel something like hope, that maybe this move will do it, maybe this will be home…

***

It wasn’t until years later that, in the course of what some might call a nervous breakdown and some might call psychosis, but what to me was just a crisis of faith, the end of the road and a new beginning, I finally figured out what my name means.

My mother was right, it does mean to believe that everything will work out okay. It means more than that though. In order to believe that everything will work out okay, you have to know how to believe in something.

Because of the way my brain works, I can’t believe in things that aren’t true. That’s always been my biggest problem. I found the world as it was told to me to be simply unbelievable.

I’d like to be able to say that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so long as you believe in something. That’s not true though. A lot of people believe in a great many things that don’t do them any good at all.

There is plenty of faith in the world, but a lot of it is misled.

There is a story about a man in flood that is trapped on a roof. He prays and prays for God to save him. He says, “I have faith, God! I have faith!” He waves away the helicopter, shoos away the boat.

As he drowns, he asks, “Why? Why didn’t you save me? Was my faith not strong enough?”

God explained about the helicopter, explained about the boat, asked, “What did you expect?”

I think now that I must’ve always believed in God. I always had faith in journeys and callings, crossroads and songs on the radio, the kindness of strangers and things showing up just in the nick of time, the folly of hard lessons learned.

I always believed in Spring and in cocoons.

I believed in ice and steam, tides and the moon.

Being one who pays attention, I have always known that the world is full of fine workings, patterns and unfoldings. I’ve seen a fern and watched the birds flying, first North and then South.

It is faith in people that I have always lacked.

In order to believe that everything will be okay, in order to believe that the world works in the ways that it must and that everything will turn out fine in the end, you have to trust that people will abide by whatever this thing we call God is.

In order to believe in the power of God, whatever it may be called, you have to trust that people will do the right thing, that they will trust their gut, that they will see the bright side. You have to trust that they will be brave for the best reasons.

I have reconciled my faith in God, learned to trust that this is all a part of some great unfolding and that if I keep my heart clear, I will find home everywhere.

In the new year, I am going to have to work on having more faith in humans.

5 thoughts on “My Name Is Faith

  1. This is the first post of this Daily Prompt theme that I can relate to- you explore the concept in a way that many of the others haven’t. That is, just talking about the word / concept instead of specifically a religion. Also, thanks for sharing your experiences with having that name. I’ve often wondered about what it would be like to be named Faith.. :)

  2. I take this seriously because your post is seriously well written. It’s very compelling story. For awhile, I thought you might have done something serious to yourself. Alas, happy endings. Yes, it’s hard to live with the name given to you by your parents, me included. How can I be called after the saint when I grew up as a black sheep in the family. I suppose, it’s part making my parents suffer to serve them right to give me such a name. As to you Faith, thank you for sharing your story. Blessings to you in this 2013 New Year.

    • Thanks for appreciating words and story…and for being a seeker. Yes, in spite of my name and because of it and in spite of and because of a million other words and ideas, I made it through okay. Like most stories, terrible things did happen and, like most stories, there is quiet, cozy aplomb at the end…whenever that might be. Happy New Year!

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