“Free from the torment of sin
all this I’m giving up…”
–The Used, Light with a Sharpened Edge
I feel like I’ve been shedding a lot of old notions about God and humanity over the past several months. I’ve heard before that sometimes our emptiness is God carving us out so he can fill us up again. I can only hope that’s what’s going on with me.
I’ve stopped praying entirely. I’ve been angry with God. I’ve been rebelling, pushing my self-inflicted boundaries, joking about going to hell and rolling my eyes to all the religious symbolism embedded in my town. Days go by and I don’t even think about it. God is not in my life and I don’t cry or fret. I just float.
I’ve never been so far away from God before and I feel like I’ve entered this new state of being. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I’m slowly breaking away from all of it and there’s a part of me that feels tremendously guilty and there’s another part of me that feels nothing at all, the same kind of nothing I felt when I was more religious. When I have God in my life and when I don’t, I still feel jaded. That muted feeling has been my only constant since the mess of my life started.
Despite my anger, I still find myself wanting to defend God against the non-believers, to those who portray God as a fag-hating proponent of ‘Merica. That is not God. God is love. God wants nothing more than to love and cherish all us and have us be happy. It’s that simple. But am I right about that? How do I know who God really is? It certainly isn’t from first-hand experience. I was taught God was one of love but what if he really does discriminate and decimate?
One problem with people’s views on God is that a lot of people pick and choose what they want to believe. That’s why we have denominations. One person didn’t like one aspect of Christianity so they started their own. The other problem is everyone thinks their way is the right way, which seems pretty egotistical to me. I thought the only right way was God’s way. And we can’t choose which parts we want to follow and which parts we want to disobey. At least, not if we want to be good Christians.
Of course, I’d like to believe that God is one that loves and accepts everyone. That doesn’t mean it is true but I hope it is. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of people who believe God is about death and vengeance and punishment. That doesn’t mean it is true but they hope it is.
I admit I don’t know much about God but I feel I have a better grasp on him than the majority of the Christians that live here. They know a textbook God through a pastor chosen to recite the words from the Bible and interpret them based on his opinions. And people come and sit and follow his interpretations, not because it’s what God teaches, but because they agree with the pastor’s opinions. If they can get behind what he says, they treat it as gospel. If not, they simply move to a different church that lines up with their own pre-existing values and morals.
But their version of God doesn’t hold up when applied to a real-world setting. They think it’s about following rules. They believe if they go to church and pray before bed and vote Republican, they’ll get into heaven. Stay away from the gays and lesbians because they’ll turn ya! Don’t mingle with people of other faiths because they could cause you to question your own and we can’t have independent thought! Stay pure until marriage because sex, out of all the sins you can commit, even though they are all supposed to be equal, is the worst! Well, besides being gay.
But the world is filled with gays and atheists and Muslims and the whole lot of them are having sex. You just can’t avoid that stuff and you can’t act better than them because, as Christianity teaches, all of mankind sucks. You’re in the same tuna boat as the lesbians, the same burning building as the terrorists, the same blood-stained bed as the man who beats his wife and the woman who cheats on her husband. We’re all guilty of something and we shouldn’t pretend to be pious because we have the Bible app on our iPhones.
You can’t pray the gay away. You can’t make someone believe in God. You can’t take back your virginity before your wedding night. And sometimes you get cancer and sometimes someone you love dies in a violent car accident because of a drunken driver and sometimes you lose your job right as your wife tells you she’s pregnant and sometimes you can’t get pregnant. And all the while, these Christians say to give it to God but what happens when God does nothing with what you’ve handed him?
They say God will make it better. But then, what if he doesn’t? Then they say that it’s a part of his plan. There’s no accountability. Christians flip flop more than politicians sometimes. God blesses us with the good stuff but is nowhere to be seen once the shit hits the fan. Yes, God blessed her with a new home and him with a promotion. No, God had no hand in her melanoma or his molestation. We can’t sincerely say God will make it better when sometimes he doesn’t.
How do we know when he’s ever involved at all? People talk of free will all the time. God gave us free will and that’s why life sucks. When is it God’s will and when is it free will?
I feel I know enough to realize God sometimes takes a lunch break just as we have our legs broken but I also know that it’s not about the rules. One day, I watched an interview with my favorite band, Showbread. They happen to be Christians and they were talking about why they were a band and what Christianity meant to them. The lead singer, Josh, said it wasn’t about following a set of rules but having a personal relationship with Jesus. That changed the way I viewed Christianity from then on. Until then, I thought it was about following rules, about staying on the straight and narrow, because that’s what I was taught as I grew up in and out of the church and through Christian friends. But I realized rules don’t lead to relationships and so I changed my focus from trying to stay good to trying to get to know God.
In fact, I’ve learned more about Christianity through the band and their lyrics than I have through church or conversations with Christian friends. I’ve come to know God better through the band and have learned that God is acceptance and not alienation. However, who’s to say that the band is right? And who’s to say I’m not just another Christian switching seats until I find one I can go along with? Maybe I’m just as guilty as those who frustrate me. But I suppose the difference is my beliefs don’t demean or discourage anyone else. I don’t think it makes my beliefs more correct or better but at least I know I’m not spreading hatred and I think that counts for something.
Of course, despite feeling like I knew God in a better sense, despite my prayers and attempts at making a personal connection with something I couldn’t see, hear, taste, or touch, nothing got better. I stayed sad. I stayed numb. I stayed hopeless. But I tried to keep the faith.
But eventually the anger surfaced. I was angry at the Christians who spouted on about God without really knowing what God was about. I was angry at God because I couldn’t understand how all these people felt the pull of his love and I begged for it and felt nothing. Why was he so out of reach?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually angry with the God I thought God was supposed to be, the one I learned about in Sunday School, the one splashed across television, radio, and on the lips of the idiotic and patriotic. Maybe I got it all wrong because God was given to me all wrong.
But like I mentioned earlier, how do you get God right?
I tried to figure it out for years. I prayed and read the Bible and went through the motions but no answers came. God did not smile down upon me and I eventually gave up. My faith waned and I felt disconnected to the one thing I had held onto throughout the passing years and the changes to my body and attitude and spirit.
I’ll never know if my God is the right God. In fact, no one will until we die and the great veil is pulled back to reveal a hand or a hatchet, a spacious room or a blank space. And that frustrates me because I’ll always wonder if I’m pondering my version of God or the God that actually exists (assuming he does). It makes me want to push way more because there are so many differing ways to worship, so many differing opinions on who God is that it overwhelms me. If I can’t get it right, why bother at all? Is believing in the wrong God the same as not believing at all?
Sometimes it feels easier to let it all go. God is complex. Too complex for my cranium to comprehend. I’m not saying I am rejecting God or giving up on him but I am giving up on trying to feel something. I’ll always remain open and receptive to God’s love but I’m too exhausted to seek it out at this point in the game. I’ve put so much energy into trying to be a good kid and it’s gotten me nowhere. I’ve put so much energy into trying to figure out who or what or how or when God is that my mind pleads for rest. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been cursed. I’ve been damned.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.