Not just because I believe in ghosts, aliens, astronomy, numerology, crystals, voodoo, and some degree of reincarnation, but just because some of the most fundamental requirements of believing don’t make sense.
- I’m not sure how I have the freewill to make my own choices, but God has ordered my steps and planned my whole life.
- I’m not sure how evil exists on the level that it does but God rules over everything and everyone including the devil.
- I’m not sure how I can let go and let God, but God only helps those that help themselves.
- I don’t know how I can possibly be forgiven for everything, but any small bad deed I do can distract God from hearing my prayers. (and if he’s God, how could he possibly be distracted?)
One day some years ago, I did something really bad. Really bad. And it’s been with me ever since. It wasn’t the first or last or even worst truly horrible thing I ever did, but it’s high in my top 10 list of reasons why if there’s a heaven, I won’t likely be going.
I never talk about it. Still can’t. Not starting today either.
But one night about a year after everything blew over I was spending the weekend with my sister and her boyfriend. They had all these pets, including two cats, sisters from the same litter named Christian and Casey. Casey was sweet and playful. Christian was not.
If you called her or tried to engage her in a game of fetch, she would look at you like, “you talkin’ to me?” and then walk away. If you tried to pet her, she would hiss at you, swing her paw at you and then flip over and do rabbit kicks at you. This cat was the meanest, least affectionate, surliest pet on the planet. She hated people and barely tolerated our presence. Lousy cat.
On this night, she hung out in the corner of my sister’s apartment and gave me one last dirty look that warned me not to disturb her before she turned her back on me and settled in for some sleep.
My sister and her boyfriend were upstairs in her room with the door closed. Casey was enjoying a bedtime snack.
I was saying my prayers and asking for forgiveness. Again. Pleading for it.
I remember sitting on the floor having one of those ugly crying- so- hard- you- can’t- breathe- cries, praying, praying, praying. I remember asking out loud for a sign that I could really be forgiven. I needed something big and obvious, because that's how great my pain was: big and obvious. I remember saying that I would go away and never try again if there was no hope for me. I just needed to know. I was sobbing hard on the floor. “I need a sign. Now. I need it now.”
When nothing happened, I folded myself up and fell over on my side crying.
Then Christian piped up in the corner. Hopped down from her kitty bed and ran over to me with a long meow that almost sounded like a siren. She ran right up to me, put her two front paws on either side of my face and licked my forehead. She stopped and looked me in the eyes, then she licked my forehead again. And she let me hug her while I cried and said “thank you.” She stayed with me for the rest of the night, too.
True story. And even the most hardcore so-called bible-toting, scripture-quoting God squad believer looks at me in disbelief when I tell them that story. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t think God would reveal Himself in that manner, or just that he would never reveal Himself to me. (and not them).
And I guess on some level it’s because in spite of their rhetoric, they don’t know if they believe in God either. If my story proves that God exists in some capacity, then that either screws up what they know, or tears down what they aren’t sure of it. Maybe both.
Every one of us that was raised to believe was told to turn to Him in your deepest darkest hour, pray with all your heart and if you are sincere He will answer. But what if he doesn’t?
So what? One day a mean cat licks my face, and that’s supposed to cancel out all of the other times I’ve cried for help and didn’t get an answer?
I wasn’t praying for things like candy and new toys, I was praying for lives and safety. I was praying for sanity. I was praying for help.
None of my prayers were answered.
When I was a kid, God was a cloud. Literally, when you look up in the sky, some of those things are gases, but one of them is God. That’s how he was everywhere all the time.
As I got older, God kind of turned into Augustus Hill on Oz. He has all this wisdom and acts as sort of a narrator in the theater of life, but when it comes to the big show, he kind of rolls around in the background watching bad shit happen.
Sometimes I think the great lesson in life is there isn’t one. There is nothing to learn. Nothing to gain. We’re not even here. We’re all soul explorers traveling from one land to the next in native costume.
There is no magic feather, Dumbo, you’re doing it all on your own.
There is no God and he has no servants.
You can scream all you want, as long as you want, as loud as you want, and no one is going to hear you.The only good people are the ones that don’t give a shit, know they don’t give a shit, and act like they don’t give a shit. And everyone else is full of shit.
Pretending to care, and pretending to help when really they’re just setting you up to knock you down later. There has never been a time where I asked for help and got it unconditionally. I always ended up paying for that help in ways I didn’t want to. So I try to look out for me and do things for myself. No friends, no favors. Just shrug off whatever you think you want (since things only possess you) and focus squarely on the things you need.
So every once in a great while, I fall down and hurt myself and instinctively yell for help. Then I feel stupid, get up, limp away and hope no one heard me. The good news is they usually didn’t.
But old habits die hard and I find myself still in prayer sometimes in spite of myself.
Partially because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t pray. And partially because of what I’m hoping will happen if I do pray.
Somewhere inside one day a small and quiet voice told me: Prayer isn’t really a question in need of a reply. Prayer is a space in need of time. It’s how we learn to wait.
We have such a get up and go world, and everyone is about the hustle, and getting more done, and “don’t just sit there- do something!” All the time, we rush, rush, but sometimes I wonder if it’s the rushing around to “do” making us feel like, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done!”
Maybe it’s like those movies where the person avoids danger just by dropping down and laying flat, or tensing up into a rigid straight pose. The train, truck, bus, or airplane speeds over them and they pop up unharmed. It’s also like when you see someone run to get away from something, only to run into something else; usually something bigger and much worse.
Not suggesting that “freezing” works all the time, obviously, they’re movies and the real world doesn’t come with such cool special effects, but maybe we can still learn to see the value in being still. I know that waiting is the hard part, but I also know that the good things almost always follow those things that are not so good if we can just be patient. Kind of a dirty trick, isn’t it? But life is like that sometimes.
It turns out that being still is, in fact, an action.
I don’t know God.
I don’t know why he doesn’t answer me whenever I try to talk to him.
But if a prayer is just a thought, what wrong can there be in praying for someone’s good health, their safety, or their general well being? I’d like to think that someone somewhere is thinking of me warmly. And I’m not going to stop thinking warmly of the people that I know and love, care about and share part of my life with.
So maybe the little kid me deserves credit for recognizing God as a cloud.
Clouds sometimes block the sun. Sometimes they bring rain. But rain helps the flowers grow; it cleanses things, and makes everything fresh and new.
And before you know it, the sun shines again. You just have to wait for it.
The original draft of this was much crankier before I heard this song ("Inside of Clouds") on the Nothing CD. I am ever grateful for music.