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Monday, October 12, 2015

That Person Is Me

A few friends posted a quote on Facebook last week:

We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches & holds & heals our wounds like we long to be held. ~Ann Voskamp

It struck me as something I once would have said and felt. Once, it would've stirred up the proper emotions in my heart and comforted me, like it was designed to do.
I used to believe this. With all my heart. It was comforting. No matter what happened, from the time I was about 14 until 8 years ago, I held on to this "promise" with my life. It got me through some very difficult things. 
Until the god I thought saw me and cared for me, stopped. Or maybe I just stopped being able to bullshit myself.
I can look back and see that the beginning of the end was when we lost our home to a fire 8 years ago, on October 22nd. God didn't save what little we had worked so hard for. He didn't help me find my wedding ring though I begged him, believed on faith he would help me find them, and dug through the ashes for a week. He let my babies' teddy bears and clothing and toys burn up; everything from the first 5 years of our lives together was gone. I praised him when our church got together and donated enough money for me to replace household goods and when they came with hammers to help us turn our garage into a home. 
But god didn't do those things, people did. Good people, who probably would've done it even without god (some of them weren't even Christians, just neighbors, good human beings).
That was the day my belief in a loving god who heals my wounds began to die, even against my will because I tried so hard to keep believing. It's symbolic how the ashes of my home became the ashes of my faith, me digging, trying to find something to salvage. Eventually, as things got worse for us, all the cliches about why god was saying "no" and why bad things happen to us even when we obey him and have faith and work hard, didn't work for me anymore. 
I sat thinking one day "what am I saying? I am bullshitting myself. This doesn't even make sense." And then I felt guilty because god hears your thoughts and he heard my lack of faith and maybe something bad would happen because of it. 
And then I got mad because how stupid is it to worry about god punishing you for being human? I had so much internal conflict, as reason and honestly looking at what was happening in our life started breaking through the cliches and the religious bullshit. It didn't add up.
I tried, prayed, cried, had faith, claimed god's promises, read the scriptures, forced myself to believe that he had a plan and it was good and he loved me, for 5 more years after that. 5 years of struggling and depression and loneliness and barely surviving and paying the bills. Through family betrayal. Through losing my best friend. Through foreclosure on the new house we'd worked so hard on. Through old wounds being ripped open. Through packing everything we had left into a truck and trailer and moving 2 states away just to get a job. Through being alone with 2 toddlers and a new baby for weeks on end. 
A little light came when we found a church with good people and they made us one of them and I had friends again and was leading worship again and loving it. Then the rejection after 2 years of throwing my life into these people, all because I believed the wrong things, like that gay people aren't sinners and god used evolution to create the world and women are equal to men. That was the end. I tried half-heartedly to visit other churches, but just couldn't do it. When my husband said he was done, no more church, I was relieved. I was tired of pretending that any of it mattered, or that I mattered to any all-seeing being who seemed unable to see me.
I wish sometimes I could still believe this and be comforted again. But I can no longer do make-believe fairy tales, no matter how good they sound. There is no deity out there who sees my heart or heals my wounds or cares about me personally. You know who does that? People. People like my husband, who has walked this road with me for 13 years now; people like many of you who read here, who though we've most of us never met, you still care about others on the other side of the computer screen; people like the new friend I'm making who hates religion and likes me; people like the various therapists who have shows empathy and understanding. 
People like me. I care. That person who cares about me and sees me....that person is me.
Some would be horrified at this, but to me, it's a relief. I don't have to go through mental gymnastics trying to figure out why shit happens, trying to convince myself that god has a plan for this shit, that it's divine shit, that I should be grateful for it, that god still loves me even though he's slinging shit at me (or allowing shit to be slung, depending on your theology). Shit just happens. There's no reason, usually. I didn't do anything wrong, I'm not the target of Satan, God isn't testing my faith, I don't have to pretend or try to convince myself of these illogical things anymore. These ridiculous cliches that people use to protest against doubt when, really, the doubt is right. 

And that's a huge relief. I alone am responsible for taking that shit and slinging it back at the universe. For forging meaning and making love and being resilient and rising from the ashes. That's on me. I am not at the mercy of the whims of a god I've never met that I'm supposed to just trust cares about me, even when everything in my life says otherwise. I can take control and make my own way and not look for someone to blame or someone to trust when life doesn't work. 

I write my story. I decide where to go from here. That is, perhaps, the most comforting and freeing thing I've discovered so far.

                                                                      (photo credit)


  1. > I can take control and make my own way and not look for someone to blame or someone to trust when life doesn't work.

    That trust/blame dichotomy hits the nail on the head.

    1. It was always so confusing which one it was supposed to be.

  2. One of the most profound lines I read recently (in a book by Steven Pinker), is that "A great principle of moral advancement, on par with ‘Love thy neighbor’ and ‘All men are created equal,’ is the one on the bumper sticker: ‘Shit happens.’”

    When we are attributing every chance happening to a deity, benevolent or malevolent, there is always the temptation to find a "reason." If that "reason" turns out to be others (like, say, gays), then there is the temptation to appease the deity by the sacrifice of others.

    I'm a theist, but I too have been uncomfortable by the constant attribution of everything to God, as if He interferes with everything all the time, rather than (to a significant degree), expecting us to deal with the randomness of the world ourselves.

    Anyway, good post. Blessings/good thoughts on your journey, wherever it takes you.

  3. Love this so much. It's funny to me that faith was supposed to bring me peace, but it's the lack of it that has finally allowed me to breathe easy, to not be afraid, to truly be at peace. xo

  4. Newsflash. We are all sinners. Not just gays. We all mess up. We all make mistakes. We all are far from perfect. True, some sins are worse than other sin that they hurt people more deeply or cause more long lasting pain and affliction upon those who are sinned against. But there is forgiveness and love and hope.

    1. I reject the religious notion of "sin". It is meaningless to me.

    2. Okay, call it what you will. Evil. Wrong-doing. Darkness.
      We all make mistakes regardless of what you call it. And sometimes we have to ask forgiveness because of these wrong-doings. The best thing of all though is that my Heavenly Father always forgives and is there to love me.

  5. After a quick count, I find it interesting that the word " I" ( me, myself) appears 83 times in this post alone. I wonder if someone like, say, Corrie ten Boom were to write a similar length essay, someone who was afflicted with "shit" in life were to be similarly self focused - would her faith in God be shattered as yours has been. She didn't get what she wanted from God, either, whether the loss of family members or a house, like you. Whether torture in her case, or parental verbal abuse in yours. Less "I" makes a big difference, I can't help but observe, when it comes to our perception of personal suffering and injustice. Your post was very thought provoking and reinforces my notion that it's not about " me".

    1. This is a post about me, so, naturally, I would use first person pronouns a lot. I reject the ridiculous notion that using the word "I" an (arbitrarily) too many times is like a magical spell wherein the speaker is turned into a selfish monster and bestows the listener with magical qualities of judgment over the speaker.

      In other words, I really don't care what words I used that you don't like. The assumption that using *I* too much is somehow bad is one of the more absurd things I've heard (and I've heard plenty). You might as well have told me "I find it interesting the word 'the' appears 86 times" then proceeded to tell me my character flaws like you're reading cards and telling me my future. That's a neat trick. But I'm not into magic tricks.

  6. Very defensive reply. Again, interesting to note. Your deflection that the "word" I signifies you are a self focused person rather than the use of it indicating your state of mind does not throw me off my conclusion that personal hardships are conquered through a selfless attitude. Your outlook is what I was getting out as evidenced by the self focused "I's" all over the place. No magic tricks needed, it is obvious to a simpleton what a self focused perception you have and increases my admiration of those who have gone through hard times and conquered them differently.

  7. You missed the part where I don't give a fuck what you think or what your ridiculous and very odd internet psycho-analysis might be. Actually, I've been sharing your comments with my friends who have been laughing with me over the absurdity and ignorance and self-righteous assholery that you're pulling out of your holy butt crack. Thank you, it's provided us some much-needed humor and relief to know we aren't part of your awful religion anymore. Every comment you make just confirms I'm so much better off where I'm at. Cheers!

    Oh and my tolerance for ignorant,self-righteous asses is pretty low these days, so any more comments like that won't be allowed to stay. :)

  8. God let your house burn down? God let my three babies die. And I still believe in God, love God, serve God. Crazy huh?
    Because as cliche as it sounds and as hurtful as it was to hear after my babies died 'everything happens for a reason.' Thing is, we can't see the whole picture of our lives until the afterlife. There everything will make sense. Already I have had 'aha moments'(as Oprah would say) about f-ed up sh** that happened in my past and how God allowed good to come out of it.

    1. Nope, not crazy. I still believed in god after many tragedies. It's a choice we make. I decided to stop making it because it didn't make sense anymore. I'm sorry for your loss.