Beginning on Faith

June 27, 2011

When I think of God, I imagine Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Cardigan sweater, collared white shirt, thick rimmed glasses, sitting on a porch swing at dusk.  And he’s in black and white.

I don’t really know where this came from.  As a child I mostly thought God looked like my bedroom ceiling as that was what I was looking at while I prayed.  He was very white and splotchy, and depending on the day, he may have a cobweb or two.  And then for a time as a teenager, God became something akin to plasma.  He wasn’t really all there, and I wasn’t sure really what he was.  But I wasn’t going to touch him.  And then at some point after I was first called “ma’am” by some teenage clerk in a drug store, God became Atticus Finch.  And has been ever since.

There’s something real about Atticus and yet unreal at the same time.  He was obviously human in character the way Harper Lee wrote him, so I am not attaching an unwarranted God-like aura to him.  He’s flawed in my mind just as he is in every other reader’s mind most likely.  But I think it has a lot to do with my gender.  I’m a girl.  Scout was a girl as well, and it is from her perspective that the story is told.  Through the story she tells, she, too, learns that Atticus is human.  And perhaps that because such a transformation exists, I am able to liken Atticus to God.

A pastor told a sermon the other week in church.  And in the sermon, he told two stories.

The first story was about a couple who came to him to be wed.  The bride told the pastor that her own pastor would not wed them because that pastor did not believe the couple would make it.  The pastor listened to their story and decided who was he to deny their marriage?  He purported to have faith, and who would he be if he did not use it?  He agreed to marry them.

The second story was about a woman going to Afghanistan.  She was a nurse going to serve in a hospital over in the National Guard.  She came to the pastor to make her funeral arrangements before she left.  She wanted to know that before she left she was in God’s hands already.  Again, her own pastor had denied to help her, and her family was against her.  But the pastor agreed, and together they made her funeral arrangements.

My mother relayed those stories to me as it was her pastor who told the sermon.  And as she was telling me those stories that pastor became Atticus Finch.  Although the pastor’s efforts might end in failure, he began with faith.  Although the trial of Tom Robinson may end in failure, Atticus Finch began in faith.

Now when I look at a page full of red marks from the edits that I have made to it, I remember Pastor John and Atticus Finch.  For although their efforts may end in failure, they began in faith.  As an aspiring writer, I begin in faith.  I do not say if my story is published.  I say when my story is published.  And when I think such things, Atticus Finch smiles at me from his seat on the porch swing.


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