In Faith, not Certainty

In Faith, not Certainty July 16, 2023

the Veteran's Memorial Bridge seen from the Steubenville side, looking out at West Virginia
image via Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain


We went to Robinson, in Serendipity.

Serendipity is still driving perfectly, more like sledding or riding a magic carpet than driving a car. I’m shocked daily at how, in spite of the horrible misadventures last winter, I did manage to pick out a good used car. It was just a fixer upper, that’s all. I now know not to ignore juddering or a weird gasoline smell. The electricity is all working beautifully. She’s still got the torque strap around the cracked motor mounts, but Jimmy says that’ll hold for quite some time. He’s even got another strap if something happens to this one. And then, my car will be perfect.

I am thankful to the people who send a tip in my tip jar with “motor mounts” in the memo line, by the way. But we are always so behind on just staying alive that I’ve had to just spend my gratuities on groceries and past due bills instead of on a car repair.

In any case, the car is working just fine, and will for the immediate. Someone had sent Adrienne a gift for a trip to Old Navy, to get new clothes before school begins at the end of next month. The nearest Old Navy is in Robinson, about halfway between Steubenville and Pittsburgh.

Adrienne hasn’t had fun since Christmas. She doesn’t have any friends anym0re– that was part of the reason we decided to throw in the towel and stop homeschooling. There’s just no social life to be had in Steubenville, for homeschoolers, unless you are a Certain Type of Catholic, and I’ve never been able to be that type. We had no car and no way to do anything fun for five whole months, and we’ve been driving again for two, on a tiny budget with next to nothing to spare. Today was not, strictly speaking, a fun day, because Adrienne doesn’t like clothes shopping. But it was a trip. She’s been desperate for a trip.

“We’ll get snacks at Sheetz when I stop for gas,” I prattled as we got in the car. “You can pick out a few snacks, anything you want. And then we’ll go to Robinson. We’ve got enough for one or two pairs of jeans and three tops, depending on sales. We can always go back for more if we have a bigger budget later.”

I’ve been afraid to go to Robinson. Robinson is were we were when Serendipity suddenly stopped working. Then we found out she wouldn’t be an easy fix, and then the duplicity from the Lost Girl, and I was trapped. I’ve been a little superstitious about making that journey again, as if it would kill the car a second time. Still, Adrienne desperately needed clothes and a trip.

We can’t know everything, I reminded myself. No one ever can. Yes, the car might break down on the way to Robinson or the way back. A sink hole might open up and swallow you. A meteor could strike you. An enemy could drop a bomb on the United States, though I don’t know why they’d bother to bomb Steubenville. You can never be perfectly safe. You have to have faith, and drive.

Downtown, past the bank and the courthouse to the Market Street Bridge. I hate that bridge. There’s no pavement underneath there, just a thick metal grate, and it makes the car vibrate as if you’re about to pitch off the bridge into the Ohio. The Veteran’s Memorial Bridge is much better, but it’s under construction now. It’s even more frightening than Market Street. I am terrified of heights.

I started across the bridge, gripping the wheel, willing myself to look straight ahead. Of course I wanted to get over it as quickly as possible, but the Market Street bridge isn’t like the Veteran’s Memorial. It’s not part of the freeway, it’s an extension of a city street. There’s a stop light at the end, so you can safely turn onto Route Two. And the stoplight turned red just as I got to the middle of the noisy metal expanse. The cars in front of me stopped.

We can’t know everything, I said to myself again, staring straight ahead at the layer cake of bare shale rock going up the side of Route Two. We can’t know that the bridge won’t crack in half and fall down. But if it does, it won’t be under the weight of a tiny little sedan. We can’t know whether a car will run the light and hit you when it’s your turn to get onto Route Two, but if he does, he’ll be at fault and not you. We can’t know whether there’ll be a landslide that takes the whole highway into the river. But you’ll never get off this bridge if you don’t have faith. 

The light turned green.

The tail lights in front of me went off.

I made my way onto Route Two, and round the bend to twenty-two, and then to get gas and snacks in Weirton and back onto the freeway.

We can’t know everything, I thought to myself as I drove.

What’s the worst that could happen?

That I’d die?

Would that be so terrible?

When I came to Steubenville I was hell bent on becoming a saint. I was going to do everything right to impress God and win souls for Christ. Stuck up and self-righteous as I was, I had little fear of death. Since then, in these seventeen strange and terrible years, I’ve learned that my religious practice, not the whole Catholic Church but the sect of it that I knew, was nothing but a vicious cult run by abusive men. I could not receive any sacraments for a few months, because the mere thought of going to Mass or receiving Communion made me sick with panic attacks. I have been trying out standing in the backs of churches and breathing through my panic on Sundays the past few weeks, but I don’t like it. I honestly don’t know if I could ever go to confession again as long as I live. Some of the time, lately, I am more or less an agnostic. Some of the time, I believe that God exists and am petrified. Some of the time I believe in Him and hope. The hope is part I try to hold onto.

We can’t know everything. 

Route 22 took us through vast expanses of wholesome Pennsylvania farmland before spitting us out in Robinson, an impossible labyrinth of strip malls. The first time I drove to Robinson I got lost for hours. This time, it only took twenty minutes and two wrong turns to find the Old Navy.

The sales were excellent. Adrienne was patient in trying on her clothes. We got two pairs of women’s jeans and four t-shirts, and still had money for socks and a baseball cap.

We started home, and only got lost twice before finding the way back to Route 22.

We can’t know everything. No one knows God except God Godself. But haven’t you sometimes prayed and felt a Somebody reaching back? Has that Somebody ever been angry? Has that Somebody ever been petty? Has that Somebody been the type of Person to toss a traumatized soul into hell? Haven’t you always known, deep down inside, that the terror and cruelty and selfishness of Steubenville and the Charismatic Renewal are the opposite of God? Isn’t that why they offend you so much– because they’re doing it in the name of a God Who is the opposite? No, you can’t be certain that that Somebody isn’t just your imagination. You can’t be certain you’ll wind up in Heaven if you die right here on the road. Certainty is for cultists and you are not in that cult anymore. You are a person of faith. Faith is different that certainty. Live in faith. 

I got back with no trouble. I even made it over the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, safely through the construction zone with nothing going wrong, when I realized I’d been in the wrong lane to get back on Route Two and go to Market Street. Nothing went wrong with Serendipity. She’s still doing perfectly fine.

Adrienne went right upstairs to shower and dye her pixie cut and put on her new things. She has become a truly beautiful and courageous young woman who doesn’t share my neuroses at all.

I think I can live in faith now, instead of certainty.

That’s what I did this weekend. I went to Robinson, in Serendipity, and found faith.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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