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Faith has me pinned again. Every couple of years we repeat our sad wrestling match, with faith and I locking arms for a few months and each eager to pin the other's back to the concrete gym floor. We don't use mats. Mats are for pussies.

Three things sparked this most recent match, the outcome of which is still uncertain. The first was prompted by my mother, a woman who spent a good number of her own years battling with faith, until she finally just gave up and let the born-again preachers wash her mind clean with the brackish river water in which she was re-baptized. While she never tells me directly I'm destined for a fiery eternity, she has made it clear that such an end is likely, unless I join her cult as well.

The husband and I have decided that there are only two ways that our niblet could ever rebel in a way that would actually shock us. Our jaws would clench if she ever decided to become a Baptist and sport a WWJD bracelet whilst trying to convert all of her friends and relations. Equally grinding would be if she decided to pursue musical theatre. One can only endure so many choruses of "Tomorrow" and the hub and I have had our fill, given the number of years we've both logged backstage. One more bar of "Hard- Knock Life" and our heads might, quite literally, pop.

I digress.

My mother, lately, has taken to saying "Everything happens according to God's plan" every time a family member exercises their free will and acts against what she had envisioned. While I am thrilled by this new phase in our relationship -- she is now able to let once-infuriating pass with only a martyr's sigh -- I find it troubling. Everything is now part of this so- called plan, from the mauling death of one of her dogs (don't ask) to the success of my step-father's garden to the war in Iraq. It's all part of the plan, she says, and rolls over again, without taking any action or acknowledging her complicity. Still, she seems so much more mellow than she has in years past that I find it too hard to examine this gift horse too closely. But it is not a path I'd willingly choose for me and mine, this suspension of responsibility in the name of God.

What brought me to the on-deck circle of this wrestling match is the undeniable fact that we just bombed the crap out of another country, whose God, conveniently, isn't exactly like ours. Is this all God's will? And, if so, which one?

(continued at right)

There's an image I can't shake. Since this war started, every time I stick my head in the nursery to check on the baby, I have to restrain myself from clambering into the crib with her, wrapping my body womb-like around hers, in some misguided effort to protect her from the world and comfort my own restless conscience while both of us are safe within the bars of her bed. And I picture an Iraqi woman wrapped around her child in some rock-hewn bunker somewhere, protecting her not from illusory pangs but from metal and fire. I can't find God here or faith or peace or redemption. This is what God-fearing politicians do -- and it makes it hard to want to share in their delusions.

Another image, however, always follows on the heels of this one. A few years ago, I took a day trip down to San Antonio with a good friend. She was gung-ho on seeing all of the sites, of marching from the Alamo down the mission trail under a blazing summer sun. I was crabby, hot and tired and generally surly, unwilling to haul my lazy ass up and down a trail when the temperature in the 100s and the sky was cloudless. So we agreed upon a compromise. I would give the grumpiness a rest if she would let us drive in air-conditioned comfort to a few missions, then enjoy icy margaritas on a cool patio.
At the last mission -- and I now can't remember which one it was, sadly -- after tromping around the grounds, sweating and waterless, I stepped out of the blinding day and into the arms of God.

I know. It sounds crazy. And, trust me on this, I know from crazy. We were the only people there, two gringas too stupid to stay out of the afternoon sun, walking into one of these old but still active churches, built in the 18th century to convert the heathen native populations into good Spanish Catholics. It was dark, lit only by the banks of candles near the pulpit, and naturally cool. A small Mexican American woman was dusting the wood pews and humming to herself. On its surface, it was nothing. A decent snapshot, maybe, if you could get the exposure right in the near dark.

But appearances lie. It was all I could do to not fall on my knees and cross myself, muttering words about the Father and his family. I wanted to light a candle and pray for my grouchy soul. In that split-second, I understood faith, and then, like fever dreams, that moment was gone, leaving only a echo. It could have been the physical transition from outside to in, or it could have been a touch from something more celestial. I still don't know.

And so we go around again, faith and I, assuming our old positions and searching for the right combination of taut moves that will let one win. I haven't found them yet, but I grapple on, clutching faith's wrists so hard they bruise.
About the Author:
Adrienne Martini has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper, and a pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. During the day, she fields freelance gigs and is gainfully employed as an editor at Metro Pulse, Knoxville, Tennessee's weekly voice. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy, who will be a big one- year- old in June, and wife to Scott, who declines the mention of his age. Email Adrienne at: shaken@austinmama.com


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