Beginner’s Faith


Sometimes sitting in Valiant B class is about as interesting as washing woodwork for Mom. But last Sunday was a real surprise. In a way, I guess I was responsible. It all began before class started, when I put my gum on a piece of paper on my chair and went out into the hall to get a drink.

While I was still out in the hall, I heard this awful howl coming from the classroom. I raced back just in time to see Eileen Cameron pulling strings of gum off her dress.

“Who put that gum there?” demanded Sister Higgins.

The guys looked at me as I started backing out into the hall.

“Mark!” Her voice carried a warning.

Reluctantly I turned around. “It was an accident, Sister Higgins. Honest. I just put it there a minute while I went for a drink.”

“I see,” she said, unconvinced. “We’ll talk about it after class. Eileen, you may go to the rest room to see what you can do about removing that gum. The rest of you settle down so we can start.”

We tried to settle down, but it was difficult. Sister Higgins had her eye on me and the other boys. Finally she made us sit boy-girl-boy-girl so we wouldn’t giggle anymore.

“Mark,” Sister Higgins began again when the class had quieted down, “I want you to offer the opening prayer. And please ask Heavenly Father to help all of us to be reverent today.”

The prayer was going OK until I tried to say reverent. I just couldn’t seem to say it right. Someone giggled, and I ended with a quick amen and sat down fast.

I could tell that Sister Higgins wasn’t pleased with me. She pulled out some pictures and told us several stories about faith and about how you need to have faith when you pray. She had us write “Faith without works is dead” on a piece of paper, then split us into groups to make up skits showing how faith helps prayers to be answered.

Those skits were really fun! I guess we laughed every other minute. And even though Sister Higgins gave me a lecture after class, the lesson on faith was one we all enjoyed.

When I got home, my dog, Stubbs, started jumping all over me. I knew Mom would be mad if I got my Sunday clothes dirty, so I told him to quit it. I’d just changed out of my church clothes and started to play with him, when Mom called. She was giving everyone jobs to help get dinner ready. My job was to make the fruit salad, which was fun.

After dinner, I thought about Sister Higgins’s lesson. I couldn’t figure out if I really had faith or not. Last Christmas I’d prayed for a bike, but I didn’t get it. Maybe I just hadn’t exercised enough faith. So I decided I’d try again. I wasn’t doing very well in math, and I wondered if faith would help me get better grades. I decided to pray for a score of one hundred on my math quiz the next day.

Then I went outside and rolled in the grass with Stubbs. He was the craziest dog I had ever known. He’d had us all in stitches last family night when he kept hiding behind Dad’s chair and popping out to bark every time someone got up to do his part.

The next day at school, when I received a score of only seventy-two on my math quiz, I knew that I must not have enough faith. I decided that faith must be something only grown-ups have.

Just a couple of days later Stubbs and I were playing ball. I cracked a good one with my bat, and the ball sailed over the fence. Old Stubbs bounded through the open gate after the ball.

Suddenly I heard car brakes screeching and a yelp from Stubbs. I shot through the gate like lightning just in time to see a man getting out of his car. Stubbs was lying still in the street.

“Stubbs!” I cried. I ran over to him and felt sick to my stomach when I saw the blood.

“I’m sorry,” said the motorist. “I tried to stop. Have you a blanket? I’ll be glad to take you and your dog to a veterinarian.”

I nodded and ran home, sobbing and yelling “Mom” all at the same time. She grabbed a blanket and ran outside right behind me.

We put Stubbs on the blanket and carefully carried him to the man’s car. While we rode to the animal hospital, I gently stroked Stubb’s head.

It seemed like hours later when the doctor finally came out and told us that Stubbs was still alive. He had stitched him up, but Stubbs had lost a lot of blood.

“Can I take him home?” I asked. I was really scared that if I left the animal hospital without him, I’d never see him again.

The veterinarian talked to Mom a minute, then disappeared and came back carrying Stubbs, who lay very still in his arms. “You take good care of him, and call me if there’s any change.”

That night I told Dad that I wanted to sleep next to Stubbs and take care of him during the night. I filled Stubbs’s bowl with water, in case he woke up and was thirsty. Then I got a blanket and lay down next to him.

Dad came to say good night, and then he said gently, “Mark, Stubbs is pretty sick. I want you to prepare yourself in case he doesn’t make it.”

“Dad, can we please say a prayer.”

“Of course, Mark. We can pray and exercise our faith in Heavenly Father’s goodness and in His ability to heal Stubbs.”

“Dad, … how do we do it? I’m not sure I have any faith to exercise.”

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Mark, we exercise our faith by believing that God loves us. We tell Him our problems, then have faith that whatever happens is really for the best.”

“You just let Him decide?” I asked. It didn’t seem quite enough.

“Well,” Dad answered, “we have to do our part. We have to do everything possible to help.” Dad gave me a kiss and then put his arm around me as he said a prayer for Stubbs.

I squeezed my eyes shut and pleaded with God to help Stubbs get better.

After Dad left, I thought about what he’d said concerning faith. I wished I’d listened better to Sister Higgins’s lesson. I needed to know all I could about faith, because Stubbs needed all the help I could give. I did remember writing “Faith without works is dead” on my paper in Primary. So I thought about that each time I patted Stubbs and checked to see if he’d changed at all. Maybe if I did the “works” part really well, it might make up for the faith part a little.

I spent the night checking Stubbs—talking quietly into his ear, patting him, and praying over and over.

The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes to the morning sun. My hand was holding Stubb’s paw. I squeezed my eyes closed one more time and pleaded with Heavenly Father to please help Stubbs get better. That was when I felt something wet on my fingers. I raised up and stared at Stubbs. One eye looked up at me, and his tongue licked my hand again.

“Dad! Mom!” I yelled. I didn’t care if it was 6:00 A.M. “Stubbs is better!”

I think now that I must have had beginner’s faith—you know, like beginner’s luck, when you first learn how to do something. Heavenly Father must have helped Stubbs get better. Maybe I helped a little too. The veterinarian said that I had a miracle dog.

The next Sunday in Primary I wanted to listen to Sister Higgins’s lesson, in case she had something else to say about faith. When she asked for a volunteer to say the prayer, I raised my hand. I prayed real hard that we’d all be reverent, and I even said it right. And when some of the guys started messing around, I figured my prayer of faith needed some works to go with it. So I stood up and told them to pipe down because I wanted to hear the lesson. I told them about Stubbs and said they’d better listen to the lesson, too, in case they ever needed some faith. They listened.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ron Stucki