Faith Matters

The night I learned to take chances

We stood along the highway in a blizzard, trying to hitchhike. We started reciting Bible verses to pass the time.

My father was a preacher who believed it was important to memorize verses of the Bible. On Mondays he’d give my older brother and me a verse written out on a little white card. We were expected to recite it from memory by dinner at the end of the week when our father would point to one of us and say something like “Romans 8:28.” If we didn’t start chirping away with “For all things work together for good for those who love God,” we’d have to leave the table.

By the time I was a teenager I had memorized a lot of the Bible, not out of love for the sacred text but because I didn’t want to be dismissed from Saturday evening dinner. I never paid attention to the words. But they were still in me.

When I was not quite 17, my parents’ marriage broke apart. My mother left our home on Long Island and went to live with her sister in Dallas. My father left the church he had started and just disappeared. My big brother dropped out of college, got a construction job, and helped me finish high school. I got an after-school job at a gas station. Together we got by.