The Savior, Part 5a: (Gotta Have) Faith

Continued from June 18, 2015 post, The Savior, Part 4: Three Chords

IMG_5432I didn’t love Belize. I love what Belize gave me—four of the best friends I’ll ever have, a daily habit of waking early and writing, an education in cooking, a healthy respect for intense heat, humidity, wood lice, fire ants, and flying cockroaches. Running as a form of exercise (up to that point it had always felt like punishment). Two years of car-free living. Simplicity. The Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, Alice Walker, Bob Marley (somehow I’d gone through four years of college without being immersed in these artists), baked bread, banana shakes, handmade cards and gifts, soca, punta, Happy Cow processed cheese, rice and beans, community.

In some ways my time there was a second adolescence and an extended college education all rolled into one: pushing boundaries, questioning authority, eyes opening to the injustice in the world, learning to speak in a voice that felt more like my own.

IMG_5433Belize didn’t get my best me. And like any relationship in which I was awkward or said the wrong thing or had a hard time finding my way, I feel bad for the partner sitting with me through it all, grateful and guilty at the same time.

I used to think, this must be when I lost my faith. When the rock of prayer, mass, and belief I’d stood upon my entire life, fortified by my U-mates and the Catholic community at Harvard, eroded into the sea. Mass was no longer refuge but work, the thought-provoking, soul-stirring homilies I’d grown accustomed to in the basement of Saint Paul’s replaced by tirades against unwed teen mothers and other radical feminists, against the faithless who didn’t come to church. (I’ve never understood this one; why complain to the people who went to the trouble of showing up?) It wasn’t just that the church was my job, not just seeing up close the power dynamics between a white American priest and the many Belizeans needed to run the parish. It was having my house broken into twice, my bike stolen, not being able to go out at night unaccompanied, feeling intruded upon every time some guy on the street hissed at me or called me Spanish girl. Belizean women were masters at shutting it out and going about their business. I never got used to it. I got so tired of being stared at, of anticipating what the men would say each time I left my house.

IMG_5434By the time I returned to the States, the faith I’d had at the beginning was gone. I am thinking of something Father Wally, our in-country coordinator, said one of our first nights in Belize: the reason you start something is not the reason you stay with something.

I tried to recreate my former faith in Albuquerque, believing if I found the right mass, the right community, the right spiritual director that I would feel at home again.

What I found instead: a curandera, the acequia, solitude, the mountains, yoga, poetry.

Stay tuned for The Savior 5b: (Gotta Have) Faith, Tuesday, July 7

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Published in: on July 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. yes, the mountains, solitude, yoga……

  2. Mija, I would say that you didn’t lose your faith, but instead it washed back to shore in the shape of a curandera, the acequia, solitude, the mountains, yoga, poetry. Faith is within you and is found in all that surrounds you and all you experience. You, mija, feel and love with all your heart and that makes you a beautiful woman inside and out. I Love you.

  3. Thank you, Karen. Beautifully written from the heart.

    • Thank you, friend, for reading and for the memories.


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