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Faith Family Life
Marlan D. Cannon
To my father for showing me how to be an honorable and faithful man and demonstrating the strength needed to conquer all obstacles of life.
To my mother for showering us with love, teaching us the word of God, and devoting everything that she had to sustaining our wonderful family.
To Parker for being our protector and making sure that we made good decisions.
To Monte for always working hard and making sure that everyone in the family has what they need.
To Maliek for having an open mind and lending his ear when things were troubling me.
To Aise for being earnest in reaching her goals and ensuring that we are all meeting our potential as well.
To Cade for never being judgmental, but being there for me when I needed him.
To Akeri for being my best friend for so many years and now watching over us from above.
To Akemi for being the backbone of our family and making sure that all of our personal and business needs are met.
To Caleb for looking up to me and causing me to want to be a better man so I could make him proud to call me his big brother.
I have often tried to imagine what my life would have been like under different circumstances. What would I be if my family structure were different? What would I be if my parents were different people? What kind of life would I have had if I were wealthy? What would my life be if I had grown up not knowing God?
If you knew me personally, you would know that my family is my favorite topic of discussion. I was born into a family of nine siblings. My father is a teacher, and my mother has been a housewife since I can remember. I am the second from the youngest in my family. As with any large group of people, there are many different personalities and ideas in a big family. Since most of my siblings are older than me, I spent most of my young life watching their experiences. We have all taken different paths to arrive at the places we are now. Collectively, we have seen it all and experienced it all. Now when I look at all of us, I see the differences that make us all individuals, but I also see the common factors that make us family.
One of the identifying features of my family is that we were always in church. Growing up in church is a unique experience. I was not a pastor’s child, but my parents were very dedicated to church, so we had to be just as dedicated. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Bible studies, prayer meetings, choir rehearsals, and whatever else came up, we were there. In my family, it did not matter what was going on or how we were feeling. If no one else showed up, we had to show up. If the lights were on at the church, we would be there. It seemed that we were at church more than we were at home. Other children teased us because we were always in church and because we were not allowed to do everything that other kids did. Being in church all the time made us outsiders.
Other than the teasing for being church kids, we were also teased because we did not have much money. We could not afford brand-name clothing. We were on welfare. We could not afford to go to the barbershop, so my mother cut our hair. We had to share clothes and sometimes had to wear clothes that were ripped or torn. Our cars were always breaking down, and we could not afford many of the things in school like yearbooks or school pictures. It was difficult having to endure all the teasing and name-calling from the other children. I did my best to ignore it, but it was still difficult. I always watched over my older sisters and my little brother because I did not want anyone to mess with them. Even though I was young, I was aware of my family’s financial situation, and I knew that there was nothing that I could do to change it. I knew that my parents were doing the best that they could so I just dealt with it the best that I knew how.
Dealing with this caused me to distance myself from others as a youth. I was not withdrawn or isolated, but I did not make much of an effort to fit in with other children. The truth was that I did not fit in. I did not feel like others could relate to or understand me, so I became a loner. I had a few friends, but they were friends from church, and they did not attend the same schools that I attended nor did they live close, so I just became comfortable being by myself. My siblings were my best friends. I had the best times of my life with them. I knew that they loved me for who I was, and that they understood me. Even when we were at school, we stuck together. Having such a close bond with all of them made me feel normal and like I had something special in life, so the teasing and the ridicule did not affect me much. I knew that I had much love around me, so that helped me make it through the toughest times of my life.
Being alone most of the time forced me to observe everything around me. I began to notice traits and behaviors. I noticed differences among people. I analyzed people’s conversations and interactions. I observed most of that in church since most of my young life was spent there. I interacted with many different types of people from different backgrounds. I was blessed to have met so many wonderful people in church. These people gave so much of themselves and were a blessing to myself and my family. They helped us through some very difficult times. They were always praying for others and helping those in need. They truly showed the love of God.
Despite the good that I noticed in church, I also saw a lot of negative things there. Unfortunately, everything that happens in church is not godly. Everyone in church is not righteous. There are people in church that are not there to serve God. They come to cause confusion and strife. They do not have the love of God in their hearts, and it is apparent in their actions. Understanding that gave me a different perspective on everything around me. I began to understand myself more physically and spiritually. I also learned more about other people and how they behave and interact with one another. The things that I saw in church are a major reason why I developed a great interest in psychology and theology.
My wonderful family was the best gift I had to help me figure my way through all that was going on with me. My five brothers and three sisters are the best siblings that one could ask for. I am one of the youngest in the family, so I looked up to most of my siblings growing up. My older brothers are hardworking men, and they are dedicated to their families. They always looked out for the rest of us and helped us through difficult times. All of my sisters are older than me, and they always took care of us. Even today they would do anything for the rest of us, and they love us unconditionally. Having a younger brother also gave me a great sense of responsibility because I knew that I had to look out for him and be a good example.
I have also been blessed to have both my mother and my father in my life. They are the most spiritual and righteous people that I know. They not only went to church faithfully, but they live their righteousness out every single day. Everything that was taught in church was taught to us at home. We were not allowed to participate in everything that other families participated in. We could not watch everything on television. We could only listen to certain types of music. We had to read our Bibles and pray regularly. We had family prayer and devotion each night before we went to sleep. My father had scriptures posted all over the house. My parents never used foul language nor did they allow it from us. They would give their all for anyone, and they made sure that we were taken care of above all else. They were the greatest role models that I could ever ask for. Being a part of this great family taught me about the things that I would encounter that the church, school nor anything else could prepare me for. They taught me about the most important things: Faith, Family, and Life.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines faith as “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” When I think about that definition, I think about everyday happenings that require faith. We do not see the air that we breathe, but we know that we cannot live without it. We do not see our hearts pumping blood through our veins, but we know that if it stopped, we would die. There are so many things that we cannot see and prove, but we believe that they exist and that they are working in our lives.
Discovering faith is a lifelong journey. There are so many factors that affect our ideas of faith, and we have to understand what our faith is to build and strengthen it. My family afforded me a great spiritual foundation and family structure. With the love that surrounded me and the wisdom that I gained, I developed the strength to handle the things that I would experience on my own. I did not always make the best decisions, and I did not always come out on top, but I could make it through all of my struggles. The things that I experienced caused me to understand what faith is and how it works in my life.
I came to understand that faith is not simply believing in God. Many people say that they believe in God but what does that mean? How does that acknowledgment of God affect your life? I believe that air exists, but if I am not able to breath it in, I would still die. The mere knowledge of it profits me nothing. It is the same concept with God. Knowing Him is wonderful but if there is not a deeper connection with Him that knowledge of Him is in vain.
For me, faith is living my life with the belief that God is always present and that His grace and love is abounding in my life and in those that believe in Him. Through this, I can live in peace knowing that God will provide. I also understand that my purpose will be fulfilled through the good and the bad. Through this, I know that all things will work together for my good. My faith tells me that everything will be all right.
I have built this faith through many of the lessons that I was taught growing up and my personal experiences. The principles that I have learned have allowed me to see how God is working in my life and His purposes for everything that we experience. My faith tells me that no matter what happens God is in control, and He will always see me through.
These are the lessons that I learned from my upbringing in faith.
The Power of Prayer
The earliest memories that I have were of church. I learned about God probably before I could spell my name. My parents were very faithful church members. They were not pastors or ministers. They were not leaders of any kind. They were just members of the congregation who believed very firmly in being in church. If we did not do anything else during the week, we were going to be at church. Church was the first public place that I went after I was born. I was told that it was in church when I took my first steps.
My earliest memory of church was going to the morning prayer meetings with my mother. I did not quite understand what was going on or what the point was at the time. All I knew was that afterward, my mother would take me to get a snack, so that kept me excited. I would listen to them during those prayer meetings and try to make sense of what was going on. I would hear some of them moaning, crying, singing, or shouting. Some were loud, and others were soft. Some were on their knees or lying down while others were walking around or sitting down. Regardless of how they prayed, every person in the building prayed during that time.
Mostly, it was the same group of people at every meeting. Whatever it took, these people were going to make it to those prayer meetings. They not only came to the prayer meetings, but they were the most faithful members of the church. When the weather was bad, or there was a big event many people would miss church but not these people. Most of them did not necessarily have a position or a title in the ministry, but they were always there. These were the people that my parents would call for prayer when we were experiencing a crisis, and the pastor would call on whenever there was something going on in the church. They were always available and willing to pray for anyone and any situation.
After everyone had his or her personal time of prayer, someone would say a prayer to conclude the prayer time. Then someone else would give a short devotion, and we would pray once again before we left. Everyone would gather in a circle around the altar and hold hands. They would put a small box in the middle of the circle. If anyone had a particular request that he wanted to be mentioned in prayer, he would write it out on a piece of paper and place it in that box. Then, someone would say a closing prayer. Sometimes this prayer was just as long as the time of individual prayer at the beginning of the meeting. Once the prayer was concluded everyone would clap hands, and we would go our separate ways.
We had our family prayer every evening before bed time. My mother would gather us together, say a prayer, and go through a time of devotion. My father would say a closing prayer. This was a very serious time in our household. It did not matter what we were doing or where we were. My mother would find us and get us to her room for prayer time. On weekends and holidays when we were out of school, we had to spend some time reading the Bible and praying on our own before we could go outside and play or watch television. It was nothing that we could rush through. My mother would make us come to her and tell her what we read and how it applied to our lives. Once she was satisfied, we could go on our way. If she was not satisfied, we had to read some more and come back to her with our updated reading. She did not want us to read just because we were told. She wanted us to truly understand the Bible and what it means for us. She also wanted us to truly learn how to pray for ourselves.
We went through many trials when I was younger, and the only way that my parents knew to get through them was prayer. My mother prayed all day long. Every morning we would wake up and hear her singing and praying as she made us breakfast or cleaned the house. Whenever we were in a vehicle, they would say a prayer. My father had prayers and scriptures posted all around the house. He would recite Psalms 91 every morning before he left for work. He still does that today. He would wake up and say a prayer, and once he got home in the evening, he would eat and pray with us. Then he would go to the living room and pray some more.
I remember being in school and getting sick. We would have to call our parents to pick us up and take us home. That is usually what would happen when the other children called home. When we called our mother, she would tell us to place our hands on the area that is hurting us, and she would make us repeat after her a prayer for whatever was bothering us. It was embarrassing, but her logic was that prayer would fix anything. We did not always have dependable transportation and sometimes even if my mother wanted to come and get us from school, she did not have transportation to make it to the school. We also did not have money to pay for a hospital visit so if it was bad enough my mother would rely on some old remedy that her family passed down to help us feel better. So we had to handle our sickness to the best of our ability and make it through the day. My parents did what they could, but we did not have the luxury of depending on medicines and doctors so all that my parents knew to do was to pray for us and have faith that God would keep us in good health.
Once we all got older and started leaving home, we would have a time of prayer at church where the pastor and the congregation would pray for us before we left home. My parents would also spend some time with us and talk with us about our plans and our next steps. They would spend time with us in prayer, and they would also spend time individually in prayer for each of us. My father would recite Psalms 91 every morning for us while we were there and away. For those of us that joined the military my father would say a special prayer for us every day of our basic training and on each day that we were deployed overseas. Even now, in the mornings before we have to leave their house to return to our homes, my father anoints our heads with oil and says a prayer over us.
Once I became an adult, I had to figure out what all of this meant. How does prayer affect my life? I think about all the struggles that we have endured. We never had enough to go around. There was always a shortage of something. My parents were stressed most of the time. They were also sick all the time. My father suffered from terrible migraine headaches, and my mother had numerous health conditions. Our vehicles were never reliable. Something was always going wrong for us. That became a part of our family culture. We were so used to cars breaking down and bills not getting paid. We were so used to finances drying up and disappointments that we did not even flinch when something went wrong. It was normal for us.
I realized though that, through it all, we survived. We always had food to eat and clothes to wear. We always had a roof over our heads. It may not have been the best, but we always had what we needed. We were never hospitalized, and we were never in trouble with the law. My parents did the best that they could to provide for us. When that was not enough, they just prayed. They did not know what else to do. They did not have another source of income. There was no one to fall back on. My older brothers helped with what they could, but they had their families and responsibilities, and they could not take care of us as well. We had to rely on our prayers and the faith that God listened to them when we cried out to Him.
Once I began to sort out my prayer life, I began to understand how truly important it is in our lives. It was hard growing up with all the trials that we dealt with but day after day and night after I night I witnessed my father on his knees praying and my mother spending most of her days in prayer. It may not have been apparent then, but God was looking on them with favor, and He was answering their prayers. We did not see it at the time, and it did not seem like anything was working out for us, but God was still in our midst.