Digging God and Marcelo

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
I know I don’t look like the destructive type, but I once totaled my husband’s nativity set.

Well, I didn’t destroy it personally, but I did call in some hired muscle in the form of a disturbed dog. When the job was done and the wise men’s dismembered bodies were strewn around the kitchen floor, I secretly did a jig.

I celebrate Christmas, but you won’t find a nativity scene at my house. It’s not because I’m so private about my religion, or because Banana Republic and Zales have killed my spirituality with their ubiquitous marketing campaigns. In all honesty, I believe in God, and I love the story of Jesus’ birth.

But I keep it quiet. Because, let’s face it, it’s just not cool to dig God.

I recently read the wonderful book Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, about a boy named Marcelo with a diagnosis that lies somewhere on the mild end of the autism spectrum. Marcelo has managed to create a world for himself that is comfortable and familiar. He goes to a special school, lives in his tree house, works with horses, delves into religious pursuits, and retreats to his “internal music” whenever life gets to be too much for him. Then, one summer, his father demands that Marcelo enter the “real world,” which translates into taking a job in the mailroom at his father’s law firm. Marcelo’s eyes are opened in some alarming ways, and seeing the real world – our world – through Marcelo’s frank and naive gaze is a little uncomfortable for the reader, because it’s so true.

In one particularly interesting scene, Marcelo and his dad are traveling on the commuter rail together for Marcelo’s first day at the law firm. To calm his nerves, Marcelo takes out his rosary and begins to pray quietly. His father calmly explains that praying is not appropriate public behavior. It’s just not done. I was thinking that the dad was a real jerk, and then I realized: if he’s a jerk, so am I. The dad is right. We live in a secular world, and there are rules we must follow to succeed. In general, people who are considered successful don’t make a fuss about their faith.

I don’t have any need to evanglize, but I don’t want to hide an aspect of myself that is becoming increasingly important to me. It’s hard to imagine feeling comfortable even mentioning prayer, church, or God in a group of my peers, the vast majority of whom do not practice religion. It’s not comfortable to admit it, but even though I’m all “grown up,” I still want to fit in. Shouldn’t I have outgrown this feeling by now?

Acknowledging faith in God makes me feel vulnerable, so I resist. I’ve been too embarrassed to be enthusiastic about religion or, really, about anything that makes me seem less than strong, less than self-sufficient. It’s the same way I used to feel about therapy Getting over that was a necessary step in helping my marriage thrive, and I’m so grateful that I did.

It’s scary to admit to believing in something that’s invisible, or to get help when you need it, or to build a life around loving someone else. It’s scary to need anything, period. People might laugh or, worse, judge me.

Seems a bit late, but I’m finally realizing what people mean when they say, “live your life for you.” My self-consciousness has gotten me nothing, except a bubble of protection from the mockery that I fear. Yet, how many things has that self-consciousness cost me?

Well, church, for one.

3 thoughts on “Digging God and Marcelo

  1. Justin

    I’m leaving this reply first to assure you that I’m reading, but also to say that sometimes church is a really great refuge from this sort isolation. I’ve found that religion is often a search for answers more than a certainty in dogma. Believing in God is not necessarily synonymous with proselytizing. For me at least, accepting religion meant accepting my own uncertainty. Practising my faith means listening for God speaking to me from many different places. Going to church probably clarifies her voice more than anything else. In any case, you don’t necessarily have to talk about God, or your beliefs, in order to pursue them. Sometimes listening is just as important. So while I don’t discuss God amongst my friends, unless they ask, I still feel I’m living my faith, and my Sundays help me feel like part of a community, even if it’s a quiet one.

  2. Chris

    Wait, you’re religious?! I wish you’d told me that before that warm evening in Lincoln Park, when I made certain commitments with 200 of our closest friends and family as witnesses…

    I knew all this reading would lead to no good. You should find a new, simpler vocation, like, say, punching.

  3. shannon Post author

    Justin, thanks for the support, the comments, and, especially, the readership. You’re great.

    Also thank you for referring to God as “her.”

    I like how you put that: living your faith. I agree that proselytizing is not a necessary part of faith, nor is even discussing religion. However, I do want to feel that my life authentically reflects my beliefs, to feel, as you do, that I’m living what I believe.

    And, to you, Chris. You’re right. When we were standing in that church, and promising God that we would love and cherish each other, I should have told you that I actually BELIEVE in God.

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