My last post was very self-centered and egocentric, which is actually a pretty accurate representation of my mind-state during the last few days. I’m telling myself — and I honestly believe — that self-reflection and -examination is an inherently selfish process. Yep, that’s me letting myself off the hook.
This weekend has been incredibly difficult. It’s so much easier to be simple, to keep thoughts on the surface. And anger is much easier than understanding… and I’ve been angry for much of the last two years. I’m not apologizing for being angry — it’s an honest human emotion, and I think that it’s too often glossed over by social niceties and expectations. But it can’t be the way I live. I can’t stay here, in this angry, pissed-off bubble of loss and grief and missing what I don’t have. God has been the easy target — I mean, He’s all-powerful, so doesn’t that kinda make everything His fault by default? But that’s an easy, mindless way out, and I no longer give myself permission to stew in self-pity and anger without question.
I’ve been mulling over the question: How can God be both all-powerful and loving?
The fact that I’m even asking this question is a deviation from where I’ve been during the last few years. I’ve been unwilling to even entertain the idea that God is loving — hell, all you’ve gotta do is look around, watch the news, go up and take a gander at my mother’s headstone, to know that God’s not loving and, more directly, He doesn’t give a damn.
I thought my anger & bitterness toward God was a result of only events of both personal & “big picture” suffering and unfairness. But I was wrong. It was also a result of a foundation that was laid years ago, something that I had no control over, and that I’m only now acknowledging. As a child, I was introduced to a mean & scary God — a God who would punish if you broke the rules, who sent you to hell if you didn’t worship in a very specific way, and who was just generally temperamental and frightening. This God was a carbon-copy of my father. I realize this now. There was no love any where in the picture — only fear and buried resentment.
I’ve spent hours on the Facebook group for the church kids I grew up with, feeling a wide gamut of emotions. Anger at perceived scorns, relief that I’m not alone, respect for the adults that those scared kids have become, and finally, *mostly* humility at how far some have come and how far I have to go. I feel changed, touched at my deepest part. I feel a longing that I’ve never experienced — a yearning for the peace that some of them have with themselves, their God, their spirituality, and their path. There’s one in particular named Anna. She’s come through addictions to alcohol & drugs, and every word she writes touches me. She’s so full of calmness and wisdom and peace and understanding, yet humble in her acknowledgment that she has much more to learn. I feel cornered — backed against a wall by my childhood, my predispositions, my narrow perspective, my inability to open myself and just. let. go. I kill feelings with thoughts, butcher longing with reason, overpower that small inner voice with logic and the simple fundamentalism of anger.
I need, I want my own relationship with God — NOT the God of my childhood, the God of my father, the God who hands down mandates and strikes down those who dare to question — but this new God, who’s apparently not new at all, the God that Anna knows.
I know that God is bigger than I can even begin to comprehend. I don’t know if He should even by referred to as a “He.” A good friend recently suggested that “we ascribe human-like characteristics to God” because we can’t get our egos and intellect out of the way. Based on this thought, I am trying to understand that God is unknowable, indiscernible, unfathomable to us, and that when I say that I want a “personal relationship” with God, that I may be promoting myself far above “my pay grade,” asking for something that just won’t/can’t happen because God doesn’t micro-manage human affairs.
Another good friend wrote the following words:
I no longer ask how God allows suffering, but I instead feel like God is asking “How do you humans allow such suffering? How do you create such suffering?”
We need so little to live and thrive, yet we continually overextend ourselves financially, physically, intellectually, environmentally — in every way that excess can be done, we’ve done it. God created a world and gave us stewardship and we’ve just pretty much fucked it up. This place that we’ve created is one huge, gargantuan disaster… how could bad stuff NOT happen?
I, as a rule, avoid anything that I deem “overly religious”. There’s really no list of characteristics — I know many disagree with me, but Beth Moore is pretty much a prime example of everything that repels me. My aunt gave me a book entitled “Get Out of That Pit” by Moore for Christmas… once I stopped laughing over the implication of receiving a book with that particular title (what are you saying, Auntie dear? You wouldn’t be implying that I’m a pit-dweller, wouldja? Huh? Huh?), I read some. I made it through a couple of chapters before putting it down permanently.
Anyway, I said all that to say this. I recently came across a blog written by a girl who lost her baby girl only a few days after birth. She has incredible faith, and manages to be honest about her loss and anger without letting it overflow into an outright rebuke of God. I admire her mightily, and this following paragraph has been circling in my head since I read it days ago:
So am I mad? Sometimes. If God didn’t ordain Copeland’s sickness, if it wasn’t His design, why in the world did she have it? Because I live here. It’s like asking why I have a Southern accent. It comes free, courtesy of my locale. She wasn’t sick because I needed to learn a lesson. She wasn’t sick because I didn’t do enough things right – or too many things wrong. She was sick because we live in a broken, fallen world and until Jesus comes back, things are just going to keep going wrong. Not all the time – that’s when the glimpses of Heaven come in. But quite frequently. Life is truly one long dysfunction. Only by God’s grace – getting what we don’t deserve – do we ever see any good at all. I bargain with God a lot. I tell Him that this was it, this was my quota of “bad stuff.” And I mean it. But the reality is that as long as I’m here, the bad stuff’s going to keep on coming. (Click here for full entry.)
Rather than asking why God doesn’t fix the bad, I should be grateful for the good. I’ve had a sense of entitlement, one that I’ve even fully acknowledged at times. I KNOW that I should be grateful for the 29 years I was given with my mother, but I want more, damn it! Why do other people get to keep their mothers and I don’t get to keep mine? IT ISN’T FAIR!!! [insert foot stomp here].
But it’s bigger than my infinitesimal, insignificant slice of the world.. it’s bigger than me, my mother, than breast cancer, or even disease in general. It’s understanding that bad shit is going happen as long as we’re here… it’s part of the human condition. God doesn’t cause it, He doesn’t allow it. Although He is all-powerful, he can’t/shouldn’t interfere with the course of the world. But because He does love us, He gives us brief glimpses of heaven, of goodness and purity and well-being that could only be from a Higher power — when a healthy baby is born or even something as small as a giant meadow of wildflowers that are seemingly unintentional, those things don’t happen because I’m entitled to them or because I deserve them, but because He loves me like the sky is big or the sun is warm. In a way that I can not comprehend.