There was something about Mary. No, she wasn’t in a movie by that title. She wasn’t famous or rich. She didn’t drive a nice car or even wear nice clothes. But, she always looked nice and showed up to her work on time. I remember she would wear a zip front polyester blouse with a floral design. Her pants, also of polyester, would be of whatever color matched the flowers in her blouse. She drove an old car and made sure we always had the most delicious molasses oatmeal cookies after school. No, Mary wasn’t my Mom, but an older lady who took care of my brothers and I while my Mom worked alongside my Dad on our farm. She picked us up from school, helped my Mom make meals, and took care of everything my Mom couldn’t while she was driving trucks or tractors with my Dad.
So, what was it about Mary? She suffered from severe asthma. She often would have to sit down in the middle of work and grab her inhaler and catch her breath. Even when she felt her worse, she would still take the time to walk to the barn to find my Dad to relay a telephone message. (there weren’t cell phones back then!) I used to feel bad for her when my two older brothers would dial the home phone from an upstairs line and she would run to pick it up downstairs, only to find they had hung up when she answered. This usually sparked an asthma attack. Yet, she kept loving on us as young children. Why? It wasn’t because she had an easy life. She had lost her husband to death by alcohol, had no children of her own, lived alone, and had asthma. Mary had faith.
Faith was what kept her going and kept her attitude in check. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 13 so I didn’t understand anything about faith or God when I was young. But, as a young child I saw it in her. I saw her attitude of selflessness,of loving, forgiving and serving others even when it was difficult for her, even painful for her. She attended Mass at her church faithfully and she gave of her small earnings. I witnessed faith in action in her life.
What is faith to you? Is it the definition found in Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Or does it describe your particular religion or denomination? Is it found in weekly church attendance, or does it describe your belief IN a God? If you read all of Hebrews 11, you’ll find quite a list of people who had faith. It’s often called the “Hall of Faith”, but few ever bother to read all of the chapter down to verses 35b- 40, that begins “There were others” This a contrasting statement and an introduction to look at the others, the ones who didn’t have everything work out perfectly with faith. The ones who were tortured, chained, killed. poor. Yeah those ones. So, why would the writer of the Book of Hebrews put that there at the end of the wonderful story of faith that recalls all the good things that happened to those who had faith? Because that is the real side of faith. Faith isn’t believing in it is believing. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”(NIV). Abraham didn’t just believe in a God, but he believed God. That is he believed what God said, even when things looked difficult or impossible. That isn’t easy. It’s not easy faith. It is hard faith.
My youngest, Chris, who is a sophomore in college and an aspiring filmmaker, has taught me quite a bit about film making. I credit him for telling me about the hard faith film genre. Maybe you havn’t heard about it either, but it is starting to get recognition in Hollywood with films like “Generational Sins” by Third Brother Films. I haven’t seen it yet, so this isn’t an endorsement, but just to let you know that hard faith is a thing. It does not wrap up the Christian life in an easy package. It depicts reality, not just what we want reality to be. It is not wishful thinking. It is the difficult faith like the faith of those in Hebrews- the “other” ones at the end of the chapter. It is the hard faith of real life. it is life in all its ugliness, imperfectness and unanswered questions. It is the faith found in a woman named Mary, who demonstrated it in front of a family who at the time didn’t have a faith in God. She never got healed of her asthma, never got rich, and eventually grew old and passed away. But, she like the “others” of Hebrews now have something better. And though she didn’t receive greatness here, she made a big impact on a young girl, who would later write about her. That is real faith, not that you believe in God and what He can or could do in your life, but that you believe God. Trust Him, that He’s got this, even when life is hard and difficult. When people aren’t healed and storms cut lives short. Faith is what can keep our attitudes in check and is what others can see demonstrated in us and through us as Christians. Don’t show just an easy faith, show them what faith is like when things aren’t going your way. When you find yourself as one of the “others” of Hebrews 11. That’s my challenge for you for this week. -God Bless -Nancy