I remember it still. How could I forget?
I would startle awake, with bedsheets tangled around my legs. My hands would grope for evidence of my own heartbeat — proof that I was alive.
I was alive.
Before the jolting upright, I stood graveside, kicking dirt into a six-foot-deep rectangle. My grave.
There was no casket, no flowers, no mourners. Just a single hole slashed into the Earth.
The haunting fear of death came predictably, just after the lights went out. A pale specter with bony fingers and a black tuxedo would show up, creaking open the door into my mind, then making himself comfortable until the coming dawn. He smiled a lot.
During the day hours? I was fine, distracted by the click-clack of my own high heels on the State Capitol floor and the exhilarating rush of a newswoman’s deadline. Yeah, I could deal with the day-time deadlines. It was the night deadline — that single traced line around a future grave — that I couldn’t handle.
Those nights dogged me.
I wanted to believe in God. I wanted faith. At times, I would think I’d cornered faith, but once in sight, she’d race for the lap of the grinning man sitting in an easy-chair on my cerebrum.
“Do you ever have trouble believing?”
Once, I remember asking my husband that question after he turned out the lights. He said he didn’t, and I never asked him again.
Some say faith is a matter of bringing one’s knowledge of the Bible 18 inches south into one’s heart. Me? It was the reverse. Faith hid in my heart, but I couldn’t figure out how to dislodge it, moving it 18 inches north into my intellect. I wanted to believe, but couldn’t.
I still remember the long car rides alone, on my way to news assignments across the state of Iowa. I’d tune into Christian radio. I think I said the sinner’s prayer 50 times one year, but never felt any different. I cried out to a God I wasn’t sure existed. I wondered if I’d gone crazy, talking to myself at age 30.
Looking back now, I think my heart was smarter than my brain. My heart wanted to believe, but my head hadn’t caught up yet.
A.W. Tozer once wrote that faith is like an eye. The eye sees everything in front of it, but never sees itself. I’ve begun to realize that I had faith after all, but couldn’t recognize it for what it was. My puny faith was groping for God, in a way that neither my eyes nor my mind could see.
My heart was gazing upon a saving God, even when my mind couldn’t make out the shape of Him. Somewhere along the line, my heart began to outsmart my head, and my mustard seed grew. The guy in the easy chair left one night, and never came back. And once Faith didn’t have that lap to sit on anymore? Well, she was stuck with me.
I don’t have that graveside dream as often as I used to. But every once in a while, I find myself standing there again, by the hole. And sometimes, I lean over to put daisies on the ground.
That’s when I feel the sun warming my back.
“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
— A.W. Tozer
“For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing;
it is the gift of God.”
— Ephesians 2:8
Writing in community with Ann Voskamp …
Ann asked us to write about The Practice of Faith… “What does it look like to believe? How do you practice your faith day to day? How do you share that faith, deepen faith in Christ, live that faith out in the midst of fears?”