I always believed in God. From an early age, I spoke to God, prayed to God, worshiped and thanked God. I grew up a staunch Catholic. I attended Catholic schools for fourteen years until I transferred to a state university to finish my college degree. My father was one of the first deacons with the Catholic church. I attended mass, received the sacraments and made sure my children did the same. I said the rosary. I read books or articles on the saints. I kept the Catholic faith front and center in my life.
Of course, as I grew in age, my perception of God and religion changed and then changed again, but I always remained a believer. I am not, nor have ever been pious. I would use the word spiritual to describe me. I did go through a phase in my early twenties where I thought of becoming a nun. I think so many Catholics think about going into a vocation for a minute or two.
About ten years ago, for reasons not important to get into, I converted to the United Church of Christ, still holding tight to my belief in God and my faith in Her/His teachings. Heck, I even wrote thankful letters to God every Sunday on Facebook. Spirituality, belief, faith all remained a huge part of who I was even if I stopped going int a building every Sunday. God was a part of my definition. The night Peter died, everything changed.
My perception of God was formulated by perhaps well-meaning nuns. Early on, I was taught everything I did or say was recorded in a book God would go over with me after I died. If I put extra money into those lenten cans for a missionary, God would be pleased. If I took out some of the money to buy a Charm sucker, God would be displeased. If I liked a boy and remained coy, God smiled down on me. If I frenched kiss a boy, it was sin, one I would have to atone to in the afterlife.
I was also taught God’s will. It was God’s will if a hamster, a classmate or a parent died. Natural disasters were God’s will. It was God’s will if some were poorer than others. If I didn’t win a speech contest, a softball game, a boy’s attention, it was God’s will. God had his hand in every outcome of my life.
These were the teachings of my informative years and to learn all this, as an already-anxious child, not only placed guilt, loss of control and fear of death into me, but formed my image of God. God was, according to what I got out of my lessons on God, always judging, always keeping a tally, always controlling.
High School and college were much different. The liberal Sisters of St. Josephs who taught me in high school and the open-mindedness of higher education loosened my guilt and softened my view. Yet, there’s something to be said of your informative years. I continued to look toward God as the ultimate controller and the zenith in tally taking in my life, in anyone’s life. Oh sure, I knew it was ridiculous, especially reading and listening to other’s views on God. However, it’s what I kept coming back to and when Peter died so suddenly, I was, am, not only pissed off at God, but mourn the loss of two parts of me – the part Peter held, and my faith.
The biggest question I keep coming back to again and again is why did God take Peter. Why did God take him from my life, from my children’s lives, especially when with my mother’s pleas to leave this world? If God needed to take a life, why not one well-lived and ready to spend eternity with God? Why take the life of a man who still wanted to do so much more? What was God’s purpose in all of this?
I love my mother with my whole heart. I love her so much I want her to be happy, and for my mother, a godly woman who taught me spirituality by her unselfishness and commitment, saying good-bye to this world to join God, is what will make her happy. Peter spent time with me discussing our future. It makes no sense. It wipes away any view I held of God’s love for me, for my kids, for my mother and brings back the questions posed by the teachings of my early years.
In the past few weeks, two people have shared their vision of God. Both have said they see God as a parent. And a parent can’t prevent their child’s pain, only be there when it happens. A parent supports a child through his or her agony. These people have said God is doing that for me right now. God isn’t the ultimate controller. Life is fragile and God can’t help the breaks, only comfort you while you pick up the pieces.
I’d like to get there one day. I like these people’s version of God. I do. I like to think none of this was God’s fault or the will of God. It paints God as more approachable, more part of me and more like me. It erases the angry God, the keeping score God, the guilt-giving God I still kept in me. And yet, I can’t. Not right now. I can’t embrace any version of God.
I am trying to get back to praying. My anger, confusion, sadness is all preventing me. Right now, I am not sure I even believe in any version of God. Maybe it’s good I have this strong feeling. Maybe it proves, if I feel anything about or for God, I still have some sort of belief. So maybe, that part isn’t dead in me, rather in a coma. Or maybe I fear where this all brings me on God’s tally list.
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