Thursday, April 19, 2007

questions of a spiritual/metaphysical nature

There is something that I need to get out of my head and try to sort through, because it has been circling around inside my mind for a very long time...and rather than making any progress towards clarity I think I'm just getting more confused.

The problem is that I don't have much hope that I can articulate it at all.

But I want to try. It is worth the attempt.

Where to start? Since my thoughts are so tangled-up I'm not sure where a good entry point might be. Hmmm...ok, if I am going to do this then I better just go stream of consciousness and not second-guess, because otherwise I will certainly continue to be stuck.

I've always had what I would describe as a strong faith, a deep spiritual connection to God. I don't believe that any one religion or faith has claim on God--nor do I believe that God has a preference for any one faith. I was raised as a Christian in a fairly liberal home, and I realize that my views/beliefs aren't shared by some people who consider themselves to be Christian. I don't really want to get into all of that, though.

While I realize that some people experience personal tragedy or loss and it reinforces their faith, this is not what has happened in my case. My faith has been shattered. It is important to clarify that by faith I don't necessarily mean belief. My belief in the existence of God remains pretty much intact. Any amount of *doubt* is no greater than prior to losing William. I am referring to faith in a way that is synonymous to trust. I used to have a strong trust in God, and now I have no idea if that concept is even possible.

Here is where I start to get all tangled-up:
I have never believed in pre-determination, that our lives are playing out as they were "meant to be." I believe that each choice we make determines the course of our lives, and even our thoughts and attitudes have the power to change that course--for better or for worse. In this same vein, I do not believe God is some puppet-master up in the heavens looking down on us and controlling outcomes. Yet I would pray. I would pray a lot. I would have conversations with God. I would do so at night as I was falling asleep. I would do so in the morning as I started my day...in the car as I drove, at different times througout the day. Not formal prayers, no kneeling or anything...and I haven't attended church regularly (or really at all, besides every few years at Christmas) since I was in high school. But I was always *in contact* with God. Mostly they were prayers of gratitude. Or if I was trying to sort something out or come to a decision. I was never really asking for things, as though God were Santa Claus or someone who could run an errand for me. Rather than making prayers of request I would pray about what I thought I wanted and ask God to show me what would be best, for me and anyone else involved.

But then I started to go into labor with William and I knew that if we couldn't stop it that he wouldn't make it. And boy did I pray hard that things wold turn around. And for a little while there it looked like those prayers would be answered. They were doing one last ultrasound as they took me down for surgery when my water broke. And I knew immediately, in that instant, that praying wouldn't change the outcome. That was it. I haven't prayed since. I've started to, but it is hollow and false. The nice man at the cemetary (which is Catholic, although we are not) gave me a pamphlet titled something like "Making Peace with God after a Baby Dies." Mr. C saw it and said something to me about it...he clearly wasn't mad at God and found the idea of it hard to comprehend. I told him that I was indeed mad at God, but worse--that I didn't trust him anymore. It is worse than that, though. You see, I realize the inconsistency of this all--how contradictory to my reaction is to what I say I believe. If God isn't pulling the strings then I cannot blame him for losing William. This I can handle. I actually prefer it, how awful to think otherwise. What I am having trouble with, I guess this is where the lack of faith/trust comes in, is the flip-side--if God isn't responsible for the bad things then (he) isn't responsible for the good things either. So God is not there to express gratitude to, or to consult for guidance, or to share my deepest desires with in hopes for some sense of direction toward pursuing them. But is this true? If so, then what is God?

I don't know.

And I'm not so sure that I even expressed mself very clearly. But at least it's a start.

7 comments:

Joleen said...

Wow, you just totally summed up exactly how i feel about God. I have never known anyone whose beliefs were so similar to mine. I completely understand your conflicting feelings on this issue, and I feel that way myself. I believe that yes we do have control over our own lives, and that free will is a very big deal! It's human nature to want to blame someone for the loss of a loved one, but I honestly think it is just one of those things. I think that nobody is responsible for this...
I think that as a parent of children that can be so naughty and that do things that put themselves in danger at times, that I believe that God is just like me trying to parent my children, with only a limited amount of control. Just like I do my best to protect them from harm and teach them right or wrong, I believe so does God. I know that this is probably even blashpemous to some to assert that God is not all powerful, but it just seems pointless to me the idea that our lives on earth are pre-determined...
Well I'm just rambling now, but I wanted to share my thoughts with you and to reassure you that how you are feeling is normal! I think that you should try talking to God again, tell him your thoughts and feelings on this. I think it helped me.

Sara said...

Beautifully put. I think I've said on my blog that losing Natan didn't shake my faith, and I thought that was true. In the weeks and now months following his death, rituals and ritual prayer in my Jewish tradition helped me to find strength. Knowing that I could be angry and question G-d helped me get through it all. But as I go into this next pregnancy, I suddenly can't pray. I'm thinking as I try, what am I doing? What am I going to do when these prayers aren't answered either? What is the point of asking for anything, when I have no trust that G-d will make it happen?

The mother of one of my closest friends died a few weeks before Natan died, and she told me how ritual helped her get through the first few weeks, but then when my mom called her to tell her about me, she was lost, unable to see the point of it all.

I have no words of wisdom, only sad agreement.

Sara said...

Oh, I hope you don't mind if I add something. I don't believe anything is predetermined, but rather that time for G-d is non-linear, meaning we make our own choices, but G-d already knows what they are going to be because he lives outside of our time.

niobe said...

You've articulated it perfectly.

That's exactly why I decided (though "decided" is probably too strong a word to capture my nebulous thought process), once it was clear that things had started to go wrong, that I wasn't going to pray.

I wasn't going to ask G-d for what I wanted, because I was pretty sure that the answer would be "no."

Catherine said...

I don't claim to have any answers. But something I've been thinking about lately is maybe that praying isn't about asking for what I want and expecting to get it. Maybe praying is more about opening your heart to God and remaining in contact...just feeling that connection...keeping the communication line open. Despite what some people have told me, I think there CAN be angry prayers...prayers of disappointment...prayers of sadness. I think God can handle all that we have to say to Him. As long as we keep talking and believing.

I'm not sure that makes any sense, and I'm sorry. I'm trying to sort things out for myself and it's just all a big jumble in my head.

Lori said...

I think you actually articulated yourself beautifully. And, I think you may be a lot closer to the heart of faith than you realize. Not that I pretend to know what that is, but what I believe it to be.

I agree with Joleen that perhaps one of our best earthly examples is that of a loving parent for his/her child. I can guide my children, I can have some influence on their choices, I can do my best to protect them, but there are limits to my power. God's power is limited not because he is impotent, but because he has chosen to limit his power in this life. That's my viewpoint.

Prayer is hard. It might make you feel better to know that prayer has been a stumbling block for some of the most renowned theologians through the centuries. In the end I think it is about relationship, and communication. God desires a relationship with us, and that is hard to have without talking. But I do understand how you feel. I said for quite awhile after Molly and Joseph died that God and I were not on speaking terms.

The way I found my way back to "speaking" to God was to rely on what I call fall-back prayers. These can either be rote, ritualistic prayers (ie. the Lord's Prayer) that can be uttered without much thought, or simple one or two word prayers like, "Help me." By just opening the door with these simple prayers, eventually I found my way back to longer conversations with God. One of my most reliable fall back prayers is, "Whatever happens God... don't leave me." For some reason, uttering those words always makes me feel a little better.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. You'll be in my prayers.

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