I’m pretty sure I had a very late start on my faith journey compared to others of my generation. I know I was baptized in the Catholic Church, I’m sure as an infant as I’ve been told it was important to my father. That was pretty much the extent of church for me as a child. I remember my maternal Grandmother sometimes making a comment about “petit Jesus”. I had a sense that my extended family believed in God and Jesus, but not in the church institution. I vaguely remember comments about the hypocrisy of the priests and the church.
Fast forward to Jr.HS where I met Karen. We became best friends despite her attempts to save me, telling me I was a sinner and would go to Hell after I died if I didn’t believe in Jesus. But her attempts didn’t connect with me and failed. By college she had given up…either she figured I would eventually “see the light” or go to Hell or maybe her faith journey gave her a different view, I don’t know. I guess one could say that I “saw the light”, though not as a result of threats but as a result of being able to ask questions.
So where does that leave me now, about 25 years after my confirmation? Still asking questions. Since I didn’t grow up in a “traditional” Christian home/family/setting, I didn’t grow up memorizing Bible passages, creeds, or other texts as a way of “learning” the right things. I didn’t learn the “right” answers to the questions. I didn’t have to “pass” an exam to make sure I knew the “right” stuff. And since I’m still asking questions, I have trouble simply accepting just because I’m told something. I don’t/can’t take the Bible as black and white inerrant truth. I read it in English, hardly its original language and there have been so many translations from ancient languages and even many English versions. The stories, poems, letters were originally written for such a different audience. Yes, there are universal, timeless truths to be found in it, but I just can’t take it literally.
Today, there are certain Christian views/statements/things(?) that I just can’t wrap my head around. For example, a big one for me is “God’s will”. What exactly does that mean? I hear people say “It’s part of God’s plan” when good or bad things happen. Or “It was God’s will” when someone dies. To me, it means that we have no say, no choice in anything we do. If EVERYTHING happens for a reason and is part of God’s plan, then ALL the evil or tragic things that happen are also the will of God. Which is what we hear coming from fundamentalist churches. And then, if everything is God’s doing, then how can ANY of us be responsible and be given either blame or credit for the things we do? In this view, God is the Grand Puppeteer and whatever we do and whatever happens to us is God’s fault, God’s doing. So that must mean I am completely absolved of my actions. I can’t swallow that. We have brains and moral compasses that let us know if what we are doing is right or wrong, we have the responsibility to use them.
When we had a miscarriage with our second pregnancy, I was told by a relative that it was God’s will. I didn’t say anything, but I should have replied, “No, it’s not God’s will, it’s God’s way.” Meaning, God didn’t want to cause us pain and grief. God didn’t want our unborn child to die. But there must have been something terribly wrong for that child to not continue in its development and I see that miscarriage as God’s WAY of dealing or taking care of whatever was wrong. For whatever reason, that child was not meant to be born, but that’s not because God WILLED the child to die. Does God really want bad things to happen to us? I don’t think so, I think God cries with us in those times.
At this point in life, I don’t need to see God as being in control of everything…or even of anything. It’s not to say that I have control of everything or anything, far from it…and that’s ok too. We humans are an arrogant lot. We like to think that we have everything under control, that we’re so powerful…but in many ways we’re not. I and every other person on the planet go along, trying to do and be the best we can, ok…most other persons, some do seem to be trying to accomplish the opposite.
Man was made in God’s image is the saying. And God breathed life into man. So we look like God and God is in us? If we are made in God’s image and God’s breath is in us, then God is in every living person? The challenge is that we see the face of God in each other. God puts a face on for us in the form of Jesus and shows us how to live out that one all encompassing commandment…love one another as I have loved you…unconditionally. For me, God’s will is that we love one another, that we see God in each other and respond accordingly as in the example set by Jesus; not God is picking who will suffer today and who will succeed. Life is a journey for an active participant trying to bring about that ideal, not as a helpless puppet at the mercy of the puppet master pulling strings to make things happen or not happen.
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