Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Caught Mid-Leap

Someone mentioned to me that I don't talk about G-d very much on the blog. The person who brought it up was just making an observation, but I thought I would try to write a post about me and G-d and our rather odd relationship. I've talked about it a couple of times, but not recently. But maybe I will now since, you know, I don't have anything foster care related to talk about out.

Neither of my parents are religious. My father is probably atheist. My mother, well, I don't know what she believes. She took us to a church for a few years after she and my father got divorced. That would have been somewhere in the 3rd-5th grade years for me.

My counselor talked to me once about all the "foster parents" I had had; adults who I recruited to parent me in one way or another. Many of them I found through the church. When I was in high school I started going to a Lutheran church. I fell in love with the liturgy. I went to a Lutheran college and was active with the religious activities there.

So from 14 to 22 I hung out with intellectual, liberal Lutherans. I was one.

After college I went to graduate school and grew increasingly uncomfortable with faith, with the whole G-d thing. I felt like I couldn't answer important questions and that if I couldn't answer them then it was somehow hypocritical for me to be in church.

I missed it though. I tried different things. For a while I went to a silent Quacker service, but when I moved to where I live now that was not an option. I thought about converting to a religion where belief was less important than practice, but I never could bring myself to do that. I have no problem with conversion in itself, but I felt like I couldn't pull it off. I would always be a Christian girl trying to be Jewish or Buddhist or whatever. My relationship with my faith is somewhat like my relationship with my country. I may disagree with it deeply and wholeheartedly. If I felt free to pick any one I wanted, I probably wouldn't pick the one I'm in. I certainly don't think it has a better claim to truth than any of the others. On the other hand, it's mine. Or I am its. I'm allowed to say what parts of it are important and valuable and what parts are silly. I'm allowed to say what I think is purely symbolic. If I jumped ship and joined someone else I would have to be all humble and let other people tell me what was important.

AND I would have to choose one of all the alternatives, and that would be really tough.

So I never converted to anything.

My husband had never stopped attending church. I learned from my sister that he continued going to the Lutheran church because he figured I would want to come back some day and that was where I would want to be. Turns out he was right. When Andrew was four and I was thirty, Andrew was in the Christmas pagent. I went to the service.

I cried. I missed the liturgy, the candles, the hymns so much. It was a deep ache. I wanted to come back. But I wasn't sure I believed in anything.

So G-d and me and a little talk. G-d said, "Come back." I said, "But I don't think I believe in you." And G-d said, "Come back anyway." And I did.

And things have changed little over the years. For a while I wondered if I believed in G-d like I believed in Santa Claus -- as a symbol for something. I have also wondered if I believe in G-d like I believe in my marriage. Maybe G-d is something that exists because we believe; something real but something that wouldn't be real if we didn't believe in it.

I don't know exactly what I do believe. I do know that I do not believe in a being who has everything planned out. I certainly do not believe in a being who has the suffering of children part of a plan for the greater good. If I did believe in such a being I would believe it was my moral obligation to fight it. And if such a being threatened to send me to a fiery torment because I fought, I would take that as confirmation of the being's basic evil nature. So that is one thing that is off the list.

In general though I find both belief and non-belief impossible to quite pull off. Neither position is comfortable. I am stuck half-way in the leap of faith.

But G-d doesn't seem to mind too much. Sometimes, like when we decided to ask to be Carl's parents, I have felt very much like G-d was pushing me to do something.

It's like that sometimes. G-d says, "Yondalla, I want you to do this thing."

And I say, "You know, I don't really believe in you."

And G-d seems to sigh and say, "I know. Do it anyway."


  1. Profound.

    Not what I expected to find tonight, but surprisingly tempting to respond to.

    Out of curiousity, (and no, I don't "argue" religion, but I do enjoy discussing what my friends believe, think, and debate within their own heads) (and yes, at this point, after everything we've discussed, I consider you a friend. Albeit an invisible one. Which perhaps indicates my own need for self-analysis ha ha).

    Anyway, can you explain what you mean by the paragraph that begins "I don't know. I do know that ..."?

  2. I added a clause to make it clearer!

  3. I love the conversation you and G-d had. Come back anyway. What a simple, beautiful, and somehow very deep phrase.
    I had a chat with someone at school about religion, he said, "I don't know if I believe in G-d, I just know there is something wonderful out there." It touched me too. I love the simple statements of belief, they make my heart jump for joy.

  4. You are so Jewish, even though you are Christian.

    I know that comment won't make any sense, but if I didn't know better, I would swear you were a Jew.

  5. Danm this very closely resembles the post I never wrote.. I might now..

  6. I could have written this. Seriously.

  7. I could have written it too but nearly so well which is why I've never written it.

  8. I know this is going to sound really hoaky in writing it,but I'm going to do it anyway.

    I am sitting here at work with chills down my spine from reading these comments.The things you said in your post are so me-- and now I see there are more of us here as well. I have discussed this with a couple of friends in the past and always meant to write about it but never have.

    I beleive but Ihave a hard time believing. I believe in the power of the univers- the something beautiful out there.I believe in God, but I have used your exact word before. I believe in God because I want to believe in him.I also don't know what else to do. I can't totally not believe- even when I have tried. I guess he won't let me out either.

  9. This is a great post. As one of the agnostic / wannabe atheists out there, I also resonate with what you said.

    Except instead of believing, I think I hope there is some universal power.

  10. it's so nice to know that there are so many people living in my computer who believe like i do. i have that same conversation with g-d on a regular basis. somehow, he always wins.

  11. I was struck by your post.

    Then I was struck by the comments to your post.

    I honestly think most of us fall somewhere in the middle. And it is fear that drives us into our very separate corners. But we're not so different. Thich Nhat Hanh said, "We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness." I think he's right. And whether you call the name of God, or Allah, or Jesus, or Buddha, or Mother Earth, or Great Spirit, or Higher Power, or universal force, or god, or G-d, I think we're all reaching out (or in) toward the same source.

    Thank you for your post.

  12. I'm behind in reading, so this post is a little delayed. I feel similarly. I don't know if I believe in God or not. I do know that if I do, then God does not interfere in our lives because if he did, he must be evil to allow the suffering he allows. But, I have been going to church almost every Sunday for the past 9 months after feeling the urge to attend for several years. I don't know if I believe, yet I pray anyway. I don't know if God leads me sometimes, but I act as if he does.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.