“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid
This world has teeth and will bite you. Grab a few drinks with five friends and ask each one if they’ve experienced pain in the past. Behind the veneer of competency and assuredness, you’ll find buried wounds of violence, sexual abuse, and broken parenting. Maybe breadcrumbs of healing have taken place, but often the trauma has been duct-taped like a bad plumbing job.
One of the biggest challenges we face in life is to believe in a God who gives a shit about the divergent plots in our lives. In my journey, I vacillated between a God of my creation as sort of a holy executive assistant, or does God exist at all? There’s so much outright evil that goes unpunished, that I became numb and thought, “Hay-ell no! He’s not involved.” If so, Elvis has left the building with what looks like a big ol’ middle finger to the fine folks trying to make sense of the carnage.
A minimum of three days a week I shake my head in disbelief at our fucked-up world. A recent example involved a friend opening up about her childhood. The courage it took to describe her family history astounded me. She was adopted and raised by an abusive mother. She’s let me include her story below:
I would watch her at Bible study, on the couch with my dad, and praising Jesus and talking about how the Holy Ghost moves through his flock at church. It burned me up. Maybe my head was still hurting from her dragging me down the hall and through the living room by my hair, down from their bedroom at the back of the house, where I had failed to dust a bedside table. Then from dragging me to the front of the house where the dust cloths were, while she raged at me for being so lazy and useless and craned my neck to smash my face into the cleaning bin. Or maybe I was still hot with shame after the scrubbing she gave me years earlier in the scalding bathtub, tears streaming down my face as she rubbed the washcloth angrily between my legs while telling me I was so filthy, and didn't know how to clean myself, and maybe that's why some man had messed with me.
The year before I attempted suicide, there were two things that kept me from the deed: One, it would crush my father, and two, I would go to hell. By the time I finally gave in to the need to end my life, the desperation and hopelessness was so great, the darkness was so thick, even those massive weights weren't enough to hold me where I was. I needed relief more than I needed to be good or redeemed.
I suffered this broken but SAVED woman and tried so hard to earn her love. Through our secrets and my shame I tried to make sense of her love of Christ and complete hatred of me. I knew I was not good; obviously I wasn't. But I also had some sense of the fact that I would treat any animal more kindly. That I knew. I understood that I was unlovable, but I struggled with where the fuck was this Holy Ghost, because I wouldn't kick a dog the way she kicked me. Shouldn't he at least intervene sometime to keep a child's body safe? Shouldn't there be some evidence of his love in the people who had asked him in? I was giving blowjobs in a shower when I was three. Now I was here in a new, "safe Christian family," and it was no safer, no kinder. This Jesus, this Holy Ghost, he was NOWHERE that I could see.
God, where were you in her story!?
A visceral punch to the gut. I grapple with belief because of the struggles I hear from my dear friend above or read about daily in the news. It's a constant battle of, "What the fuck, God!? Why!? Why!? Why!?" I readily admit that knowing how the universe works is 1000x above my paygrade. A saccharine thank you to all the Christians who explain it away with, “Well, it’s a broken world.” Yep, got it, and I have read how all the heavyweights of theology through the ages have reconciled this cosmic tragedy. But the bigger frustration is directed at God as he asks me to go out into the world and sell people on a bunnies-and-sunshine fairytale of a personal relationship with this Jesus character. Too many days I throw up my hands and say, "No thanks. I don't have the faintest clue of your love language!" In practical terms, you might be thinking it’s like if I had a wife who I claimed to love more than she can fathom… and then punched her in the nose and said, "Trust me, I know it doesn't make sense, but this is how I show love, it's good for you." How long would the relationship last? Or maybe you’re thinking, "Hey, God, I'm drowning here! I'm going underwater and can't breathe!" His response: "Don't worry, I'm right here beside you… while you drown." Uh, gee, thanks, I hope you had a good seat! Why not send a shark for more giggles?
Trust me, I feel ya. The whole premise sounds like bullshit. Let’s see if this book helps clean it off your shoes.
1) What pain or challenges have you experienced in the world that make it difficult for you to believe there’s anything more than a big, cold universe? Family history? Hypocrisy of people who claim religion or faith as a foundation?
2) What is your anchor in life that helps you navigate the daily battles that beat you down?