I’m not as poignant as Anne Lamott and as much as I’d like to be her when I grow up, I know I will not be writing wonderful, powerful thoughts on God and faith and my fucked up life and making a best seller. For starters, I’m not that fucked up. And also, I’m not so sure about God. So, pretty much, there goes that book.
I know God is a hot topic. I hate hot topics. No, wait, actually I love hot topics because why can?t we all just agree to have a lovely conversation and say what we think in a nice way and know we?ll never come to terms and agree and that’s ok? Why can’t we just be honest about stuff like how much we pay in taxes or why are we embarrassed to admit our new mortgage on the condo is more than half our income and that after losing one job I?m up all night, most nights, playing with numbers? Why can’t we just SAY, “Hi! I’m Leslie. I like yummy martinis, blogging, and I fed my child with a bottle. ALSO, I stay at home but I want to work from home because I just think I’m that damn good to have my cake and eat it, too. Bring it on, Internet. No! WAIT! I also caved and let her keep her a binki. So take THAT.”
So, God, Yes. See, I used to believe. I believed and believed in my heart and I said the right things and I prayed the prayers and I went to bed knowing I was “saved”. Then I found out Santa was fake, the Easter bunny was fake and all these other religions had their own god and everyone else thought they were right and HOW would we know? Maybe there is one God, the ONE God but everyone drives a different car there? Maybe he (or she) has different names like Buddha, Allah, Macintosh (for us nerds and I?m totally kidding here. See? Sarcasm! It’s fun. Try it.) Anyway, my point being, why is it that one person is more right than the other if we’re all preaching love and kindness and Jesus-ish stuff? Oh, right. We’re not.
So then the conflict starts because SO-AND-SO thinks this and SO-AND-SO says that. And we’re more right and you?re more wrong. And you’re going to hell because you don’t have a star on your belly like these sneetches and we?re going to heaven because we do. And I got so confused that I quit the race, got married to the person I loved for who he is, not what he did or did not believe, and had a child.
Then I got fuckedup.
See, Anne Lamott says, in her book Operating Instructions, upon considering how much she suddenly stood to lose, now that she had a son to lose, she wrote, “Now I’m fucked unto the Lord.? I couldn’t say it better. So I won’t.
I started praying again because I was pregnant and what could I do? The chord could wrap around her little neck. I could die in delivery. She could stop living in my uterus and I?d be helpless. So I prayed. And I prayed after she was born because she was so tiny and so small and I was so helpless and overwhelmed.
I seem to pray only when I feel helpless and overwhelmed and I know what kind of a friend that is: A needy, snotty, shitty friend. “Hi God! Sorry about your issues. See, I’m having this hard time…” So I stopped doing that because who wants to be called only when there’s a problem?
And then there was a problem.
So I tried God again and prayed because I was pregnant again and I needed work and how the hell was it supposed to work out? Isn’t that the thing about god? This big master plan? Well, if he (or she) has a master plan and I’d like in on it, I figure I better pick up the phone again ‘cause ain’t nobody shelling out information without asking. So I asked. And I thought I had an answer. “Hi, Leslie. This is God. I heard your request and you’re in. YEA BABY! You’re IN! You got it all, hon. The baby. The working from home. That’s right. Who’s your daddy? Uhhu.” And me and God smacked some high fivers and smoked a joint. Ok, we didn’t inhale. Still. We celebrated. And I prayed for truth. And I prayed in earnest. And I believed again.
Then I pissed him off. I’m not sure where I went wrong. But I think it was the “tell the Universe thanks” because if there’s one thing the bible is clear about is that God doesn’t like it when you go messin’ on someone else’s turf. He?s all in to lettin’ people know who’s behind the scenes. Like the credits on a movie, only the ONLY credit should read, scrolling… “Main Contributor….................... GOD.”
Then he (or she) goes in and takes it all away. Because I’m an ungrateful little bitch? Because there’s even ANOTHER plan? Because I only call when I need something? I dunno. Or maybe he (or she) didn’t take it all away because there is nobody there pulling strings to take things away or put them back and we’re natural human beings with a body built to keep procreating when it?s time and to terminate it when it’s not. And the job thing? Well. Shit happens.
But I’m not in to that, either. So what am I? I’m nothing. I’m nowhere. I’m not blaming and I’m not praying. I?m just. Not. I’d like to have faith, but honestly? I don’t think this is the kind of “building of character” shit that I’m in to. And I’m not really big in to “letting go” because I really REALLY like to be in charge. I know. I have issues. But also? I’m so freakishly paranoid? That if he (or she) can take away this, what’s to stop him (or her) from taking away everything? My husband. My daughter. My family. His job. Our financial future. Everything? Where’s the rug when it’s being tugged? How far is the well if you trip?
God, I hope I don’t have to find out. And now? I just don’t know.
Wow, I’m not even sure I wanted to touch this one, but I guess I need to. Maybe it’s just the counselor in me. Anyway. No matter what you belive, I believe or anyone else: you are a good person. How can any God, (your’s, mine or there’s) ask for anything more? Keep doing the things you believe to be right and the rest will fall into place. Eventually. I know that doesn’t really help for ‘I need answers NOW!’ but its the best I’ve got. Hang in there and you remain in my prayers.
By erika on 2006 08 31
Yeah. Even though God complains in the Bible a lot about how he hates it when we’re fickle and leave him out in the cold when things are going “fine” in our lives, he talks a lot more about how pissed off he gets when we get hurt and how he intends to take vengeance for every one of our wounds.
I like that. And I have every confidence that we are going to see vengeance taken on your behalf and that there is going to be beauty and triumph in your life. And soon, too. Not just in some rosy far-off distance that never seems to arrive. Soon.
And maybe a pretty new Macbook, because Jesus is a Mac user, after all. And he loves you.
By Laura on 2006 08 31
Here’s my take, for what it is worth, though you won’t find any Anne Lamott wisdom here, either:
I don’t like the picture of the big guy in the sky, moving around us mortals in a complicated game of chess. It’s too, I dunno, Greek? With Zeus and Mt. Vesuvius and the like.
Instead, I model my relationship with God on that of a friend. A really nice friend, who doesn’t care how often I call or whether I remember his birthday (though in Christianity that’s pretty hard to fuck-up). Who I can ask for help and get it, though sometimes in the weirdest WTF ways ever. When I celebrate, so does God. And when I’m suffering, God suffers with me.
God doesn’t put the smack down, play around with my emotions, and fuck me over just to teach some bigger lesson. Life does that. S/he is the loving parent that holds me up and looks me in the eye and says, “I love you.” No matter what.
By Sitting Still on 2006 08 31
Those are some big questions. I have to agree with you that Anne Lamott puts things in a way better than I ever could. I know it’s rough right now, but most likely it will get better.
It sounds like you are having a hard time with what you’re being dealt right now, and I know that we all wish we could help. Just know that we’re out here rooting for you.
By Jessie on 2006 08 31
Okay, my first inclination is to just say… WOW. I think we really are soul sisters. I’m not sure I can add anything brilliant to what you said, except that for me, faith is something quite apart from religion. Like you, I was a devout little religious girl (Episcopalian—“Catholic Lite” if you prefer). But then I started doubting the rhetoric. I started thinking independently (which is strictly forbidden in most religions). I started realizing that I LIKED BEING IN CHARGE and didn’t need other people, or a priest, to intervene and tell me what to believe, or how to talk to the “G-Man”.
And then came the startling realization that religion was nothing more than a measuring stick. And that’s when I took the Agnostic high ground. See, I believe there IS a higher power out there (a concept much like The Force in Star Wars… how much of a geek am I?), but I’m not willing to put a name on it, or a title, or a way of thinking that leads me to want to kill those who believe differently, or, at the very least, call them sinners and hate them. I mean, does it really make sense to anyone that “God” would be so mean, jealous and hateful that he would create humans and then punish them if they don’t believe JUST RIGHT? If we are made in his image, God mustn’t like himself too much. I mean, we fuck up all the time y’all.
So, anyway. I believe. I believe there is an energy in all things and that upon which you focus grows. Each of us only has to follow our own path and that will enlighten others. It’s not about praying the “right” way, or following some rules MANKIND made up. Just be responsible for yourself, help those around you, don’t take their stuff or hurt them, and try to learn from your mistakes. As Oprah likes to say “When you know better, you do better.”
And then you get into all the bullshit about religion and how people kill for it (can YOU think of any wars or conflicts that weren’t ultimately about religion?), and then you start mixing in religion with politics and THEN you toss it into the education system and… well, don’t even get me started on the whole Evolution vs. Creationism thing (oh, sorry… INTELLIGENT DESIGN… snorfle).
So, that’s my 2 cents. Or maybe more like a buck-fitty. You owe me $1.48.
By Katie Kat on 2006 08 31
I just started reading Anne Lammott and really enjoy her. Point one.
Point Two: Two weeks ago when my husband was about to be sued for thousands upon thousands of dollars and were thinking bankruptcy…I read the Psalms. The Psalmists can get pretty pissed off God like I do sometimes. Thankfully, we only a lost a couple grand to a lawyer who helped us settle out of court.
Oh and when I read the Psalms I kept remembering that Christ prayed the Psalms too. That it is actually Christ praying with us and that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and that no matter how much shit the devil throws at me on this Earth he can’t take away the fact the Christ forgave our sins on the cross.
By Sarah on 2006 08 31
I’m there with you. I believe in God. But can he quit with the character building crap, because I’m done. I have no character. What I have is an empty shell with not enough emotions. But yet I still believe. I just don’t pray any more because I don’t feel like I was being listened to.
By dizzymizzy on 2006 08 31
Amazing post Mrs. F. I feel the same way about the whole “God’s will” thing. I guess I don’t believe that everything is random, but I feel that if there really is someone/thing out there directing all this, then they have a really crap sense of direction and purpose.
By Plain Jane Mom on 2006 08 31
Whoa. I know I don’t have the right words and I can tell from the comments that there are so very bitter people, who religion has obviously hurt badly. For me and what I’ve studied (CS Lewis is a good one) there is a God. My experiences with Him have affirmed my faith that He loves me, He’s always there for me, we’re screwed up as individuals because He gave us the freedom of choice, and while He doesn’t always answer prayers the way I’d like, He always listens. He’s also not into the vengance game, at least, He’s not punishing you for anything. If He was into that, there’s a lot of truly evil-acting people out there like child molesters, who He’d be zotting instead. Satan piles the crap up on you, because his goal is to destroy you & your faith - he’s not the loveable south park guy. I think He can work through the bad stuff in our lives, to bring us closer to Him, to comfort us but like any relationship, you’ve got to put something into it. This past year, I’ve struggled with something that’s totally out of my control, that was devastating. And I cried out but He felt so far away. And intellectually, I kept telling myself that I should pray but I really didn’t feel like it. Things are getting better now and I know that He never left but it was hard for me to really feel close to Him and trust in Him, especially since I’d let our relationship slide while things were going good. What this long, semi-coherent ramble is trying to say is that I believe, I don’t want to force my faith on anyone else but at the same time God has helped me so much and I would like you to have that comfort and peace. And I do totally agree that this whole ‘growing as a person’ or ‘trials that burn away the dross’ is incredibly painful & sucky.
By Christy on 2006 08 31
Delurking to say that, scary as it is, there is nothing that will keep any of us from losing those things we hold most dear at any time. We can hedge our bets, we can work to give ourselves financial security, we can try to have the safest cars, the strongest relationships. But in the end, a piano could fall out of the sky and squash your nearest and dearest.
That’s why we have to cherish and relish and wallow in the good when it comes to us. Because we don’t know when things will shift out of our favor, and in times of want, we need to know that when the best times came, we experienced and appreciated them to the fullest. We didn’t miss a drop of the nectar.
It sounds to me, though, like that’s what you do already. You know joy when you have it, and you celebrate the hell out of it. In the end, that’s the best you can do.
By Sallyacious on 2006 08 31
I mainly have a problem with the whole, if God is in charge and God loves us then why does he let little tiny two year olds get raped and murdered? How is that for the good of anyone? Putting an innocent through torture and then by extension the parents and family, and then we are supposed to thank God? It’s difficult. Don’t even get me started on the trinity, I am still trying unsucessfully to wrap my mind around that one. It’s not that I don’t believe in God because I pray a lot but damn, it’s impossible to believe it all, especially when the bad shit hits the fan.
By texasbelle on 2006 08 31
I think Christy brings up a good point in her comment, and something that we forget all too often:
“Satan piles the crap up on you, because his goal is to destroy you & your faith.”
In every hero story, there is a villain who tries to thwart every good thing coming to you. In this life and on this earth, that is what is happening on a spiritual level as well.
Seeing it this way alleviates (for me, at least) the necessity of figuring out “just the right words to pray” or how to appease a capricious deity.
It’s not like that.
There is ultimate Good, which is on my side because I have given my life to pursuing it.
And there is ultimate Evil, which is pulling out the stops to fuck things up for me.
No matter what happens, I have to keep choosing the Good. Because honestly, what kind of a crap existence would it be not to, regardless of any religious ideas of rewards in the afterlife?
True Life starts here and now, not when you get your fancy white robe and harp and wings. (Oh, and if that is what heaven is like, I’m going to shoot myself; but you know take my meaning!)
Like Sallyacious said so eloquently: “Know joy when you have it, and you celebrate the hell out of it.”
By Laura on 2006 08 31
Satan, God. These are concepts to me not people or rulers or omniscent forces. I believe in Human Nature. I believe in Mother Nature. I believe in hope, love, timing, descency, questioning, communication, Macbooks, you, myself, hardwork, peace, love, annoyance, freedomand control…. These are things that I can define. These are things that are universal. These things transcend language, culture, spiritual and religious beliefs. And these are real.
Leslie, your post speaks volumes and I understand.
By KristinaB on 2006 08 31
I myself am of the only-in-a-crisis school of faith. I do like to think, though, that if there is a God manipulating my life, he would not be the cruel and petty guy or girl that would make me suffer just because I wasn’t 100% enamored of him and her. That’s just me.
I believe in the randomness of human biology, and the amazing complexity of the entire reproductive process. It is such a miracle when it works, but it often doesn’t. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t work, as random and haphazard as it is, we feel it deeply and it can alter our life circumstances and our perception in powerful ways. The chromosomes that got muddled up in the cell division process don’t feel any pain for their errors, but we certainly do.
Again, I am sorry you are having to go through this.
By Sara on 2006 08 31
I don’t think you’re going through this because of anything you have done or not done. Bad and good things happen to bad AND good people. (I’m not saying you are bad- Just that life happens to everybody!)
That said, I think God uses things in our life, for whatever reason. A wake up call… To reaffirm that we can’t do this alone or what have you. When I look at my life and what has happened/ not happened, I can only come to the conclusion that there IS a God… and if there isn’t, life is pretty pointless. I know I would be a mess if He wasn’t there.
It saddens me beyond belief when I think about where you are now. I wish there was something I could do or say to make everything alright, but I know that I can’t. Jason likened it to the Ape Caves… you are going through a dark tunnel and there seems like no end in sight… it is pitch black, blacker than anything ever, yet there is an end and an opening eventually, then you are in the light again. And at the end you’ll have the strength and wisdom to be a comfort to others.
As to what religion is right, look at what they have to offer you… Jesus can give you hope, strength, love and care, all without you having to do anything but accept it. (See Luke!) What can Buddha offer you? Allah?
I can understand your feelings about what if He takes away your family, financial future, etc… It is scary to think about all the accidents and bad things that happen to people everyday, and wonder and worry about if it could happen to us. Just remember it is not God who is doing that… even with Job (who had everything taken away, excepting his nagging wife and friends) it wasn’t God who was doing it to him. He allowed it to happen, but that is a different thing altogether. It still worries me, but it helps to have Someone to give it to, you know?
I didn’t want to write a book, so I better end this! Hang in there, Leslie! I am still praying for you. Much Love, Holly
By Holly on 2006 08 31
I love the way Christy expressed her feelings, I feel much the same way, although I did find it very hard to keep faith when I had such a hard time getting pregnant the second time. Then, in church one Sunday (I think my mind had began to wander) my pastor’s words suddenly caught my attention: (I paraphrase) Never doubt that God hears each and every one of our prayers. Just because he might not anwer them in the exact way you want doesn’t mean He’s not there for you.
One major fault that I have is that I seem more inclined to ask for specific results, instead of asking that God’s will be done for what’s best for me and my family.It’s a hard habit to overcome, but I’m working on it.
By Charla on 2006 08 31
Hey Mrs. F. I just wrote this whole comment that was quite lengthy and PROFOUND, if I do say so myself and went to preview and lost the whole thing.
I guess the gist was that through my own experiences I have found my way to peace with some of the bad things that have happened to me over the years. God plays a large part of that, and deep knowledge of self plays another large part. I would be happy to talk with you sometime about it.
The other part of my comment was about changing OBs - due to lack of humanity from the nurse and also b/c the OB is letting this string out. Why do they keep letting you go for a natural miscarriage? Is this your choice? I don’t really understand. I guess when I had my miscarriage, they did a D&E (one step after a D&C) the day after I found out I would be miscarrying and then I got on to the next step of physically and emotionally healing. If I were you, I would do some research on my option! IMHO.
By Sarey on 2006 08 31
Oh, yeah, and take a drink. It certainly won’t hurt things at this point!
By Sarey on 2006 08 31
We’ve had a rough patch in our lives the past few years - from our son’s medical drama to the loss of Ryan’s brother and a whole slew of illnesses including Mom’s cancer, etc. After a very easy, not-dramatic first 28 years or so, it really has been interesting to work through the spiritual side.
I loathe platitudes. On the other hand, sometimes I personally need a simple saying to anchor myself to…and to avoid the whole “why would a loving god do this to me?” debate, I think about this. It’s cheesy, and you can flip me the bird for sounding like a half-witted Hallmark card:
God doesn’t guarantee that our lives will be pain-free because we’re good people. God just promises to be there with us, no matter what.
I’ve long since stopped praying for specific outcomes. With my mom and my son, a lot of my prayer was for comfort - for them and for me. I don’t actually buy into the idea that God intervenes because of the prayers of the righteous. People die, and nice people experience crappy pain. Evil happens to innocents. Nature happens - from hurricanes to tsunamis. So my prayers today are about the well-being of others and for strength for myself. And good hair.
I don’t believe God punishes. I don’t believe God rewards. Gahd, I sound like a true hippie here, but I believe God just “is”...a sustaining energy to tap into. That doesn’t stop me from making a sign of the cross when an ambulance passes, but in reality, I believe that what happens, just happens. And we can use that energy to help us cope (or not)
Holy cheesiness, I think I need to check what was in the brownies I just ate.
Of course, deep thoughts about God aren’t what get us through every crisis. It’s usually chocolate and being busy.
Les, this is a hard time, no doubts there (an area with perfect clarity!)...I’m thinking of you.
By Mari on 2006 08 31
the bad news: took me a long time to read those 20+ comments.
the good news: i got enough doctrine to make me feel okay about missing church this weekend.
i don’t know what i could add. what an amazing post and reactions to it.
By christine on 2006 09 01