I remember when I used to wear my faith like a million-dollar fur coat. It was groomed for all to see, to marvel at, to be jealous of. I was too busy to notice that it wasn’t actually made of soft mink or fox fur, but rather, over time, it had become much too sharply edged for anyone to come near. It looked and felt like a porcupine. If anyone approached to admire this garment, it would proudly display its pricks and barbs, sending any curious person looking for everything but what I was trying to offer.
Then there were times when my faith was worn like a flag. Wrapped so tightly around my ankles, cutting the circulation off at my wrists and tightening around my lungs nearly to the point of suffocation. It covered my face so that I couldn’t see anything. I spent my days trying to convince myself that this torture of sorts was true faith. That isolation and blindness to all around me was the way to prove legitimacy and spiritual advancement. Eventually I cast everything off. The impressive coat had consumed my time and pushed everyone away, while the flag had nearly killed me. When I finally came free, I found that the people nearest to my heart had been neglected in honor of my righteousness. Because of this, I spent years in sorrow, but before I could make amends I had to start with mending myself.
For a while I had no faith at all. If faith battered the people around me, then what use was it? If faith was to produce good fruit, and mine had rendered me useless, then where next was I to turn? I put my faith in a casket in the corner of my bedroom, kicking it on a daily basis for what it’d done to me. Some days, I’d sit with my face buried in my hands, sobbing because faith had convinced me that strangling people are better than those who seek and wander freely—that it is better they gasp for air and live a life of self-loathing than to journey alongside Love.
Eventually faith hung from my bedroom ceiling, as if from a set of gallows. I watched it sway from side to side, occasionally tightening the harness when it made me angry, then loosening it when I thought it might be trusted again. At night, I would wrestle with its purpose, but most importantly, I wondered why it still lived. For all my beatings, accusations, and torments, this faith endured. Slowly, I rebuilt my life the way I thought God might want to see it, where my conscience was at peace—with the people in my life free to be messy, doubtful, reckless, wild and loved still the same.
Soon, faith disappeared. I couldn’t find it tightly wrung along a wall or stuffed inside a box or kicked in a corner or hidden among a prickly coat or wrapped tightly around my neck. In fact, I’m not entirely sure where it is some days, what it looks like or when I’ll find it next. But what I do know is that when I stopped trying to push, pull, bend and manipulate it, faith found a way to gently come along for the ride.