Monday, June 06, 2005

Are you there God?

I've noticed that a lot of my posts have to do with inanimate objects that evoke intense emotions and therefore, prolific blogging (I had to whip out my thesaurus for that sentence...don't expect as much from the rest of this's too much effort). Anyway...I was pondering what I could post about that doesn't involve external props and I think I came up with a good one.

To those who are overly religious, please do not be offended by what follows. This is my own inner struggle and therefore is not intended as a comment on anyone's closely held belief system.

Where is God? Where was he when we needed him the most? Why didn't he answer our prayers? How could he let this happen to sweet innocent little Alex? How could he do this to Steve and Sam and I?

I have heard so many well-intended things over the last three and a half weeks that have honestly left me completely perplexed. One person said, "Well I guess it just wasn't meant to be." Now, after I got over my initial I-could-vomit-on-her-shoes-I'm-that-amazed-she-said-that reaction, I began to analyze the statement. I'm assuming that the "it" she was talking about was my son Alex. Yes, he has a NAME. Yes, he was a PERSON. I'm forever hearing right-to-lifers tell me that a baby in utero is a person.

Now either the person who made this statement isn't a right-to-life advocate, or she's caught in one of those political debates in which she is way over her head. A baby is a baby, unless he is born dead...then IT wasn't meant to be? Or is the "it" she refers to the joy of our family having two living children? It wasn't meant to be. Maybe she simply means happiness. I'm not really sure. But let's move on to the second half of the statement that perplexes me even more.

It wasn't meant to be. Apparently, this means there is some grand plan out there in which all of our lives are predetermined and we're at the whim of some all-powerful God.

If that is the case, I'd love to have the nerve to ask this person how God determines what is and isn't meant to be. Does he roll dice? Draw straws? Flip a coin? Because near as I can tell, there is no rhyme or reason to why people lose babies. One in 71 births results in stillbirth...with no regard to race, religion, or lifestyle. So this master plan that determines what is and isn't meant to be...well...quite sucks. Someone needs to tell God that people who follow the rules are supposed to have healthy and happy babies. And the rules of fair play tell me that NOBODY should have to lose a child...especially like this.

Not meant to be? Why not? Because if you ask me, it is patently unfair and cruel to let a woman get pregnant and carry her child (yes, I said child once again) for months, only to snatch him away instead of sending him home with his mother. What kind of plan is that?!?!

We're not even going to touch on the comment from someone that said that the reason this happened to us is because of sin. oh boy...that one just floored me. had me wondering if I was being punished for something I had done. Had I done something to deserve this? But then I realized, Alex had a spirit and a soul, and there is no God so hateful that he would let one person die in order to teach another a lesson. At least, no God that I believe in.

Another well-intended sentiment I've been given is that God needed another angel. One of my blog friends (I'm sorry I don't have the link handy), summed up perfectly my feelings on this subject. God is, I'm sure, far beyond needing any angels to the point that he would selfishly pluck this child or that child from amongst our midst to satisfy his own needs. Well said.

But this leads me to my own internal analysis. What exactly DO I believe? I have, for a long time, said that I'm more of a free will gal. I think God lets us run around and make mistakes, like any parent would. I think he offers support and guidance when and where he can...where the person is open and willing to receive any parent would. I think God is happy with us and grieves with us when we are happy or we grieve, like any parent does. I think God is an amazing force of love.

But I don't think God is some grand puppet-master pulling all our strings, making us dance for his own pleasure and enjoyment. And I certainly don't think God makes bad things happen so that he can sit back and watch us suffer. For the life of me, I can't imagine why someone would want to believe that kind of a God exists.

But I'm still stuck with my questions. Where is God? Where was he when we needed him the most? Why didn't he answer our prayers? How could he let this happen to sweet innocent little Alex? How could he do this to Steve and Sam and I?

He didn't do anything. Am I willing to admit that he couldn't do anything? That it was beyond his power to stop it from happening? Or do I choose to believe that he could have stopped it from happening and chose not to? Either prospect is scary for me. If I fully believe in the free will model, I have to decide whether I want to believe (1) God has power and doesn't use it; or (2) God doesn't have power.

If God doesn't have power, then what do I do with prayer? Is it a waste of time? Or maybe it's just a ritual that we have taught make us feel better about being completely out of control of certain situations. Are situations where prayers are answered really just happy coincidences?

We're taught from the time we're little, to "thank God for our blessings." What then, are we supposed to do with our disappointments (or whatever the term is for the exact opposite of blessings...disappointment doesn't seem to quite adequately cover the loss of a child).

Maybe there is no God. Maybe he is someone we have conjured up in order to comfort ourselves through all the hardships that we face during our lives. Maybe he is the manifestation of our collective need to find meaning in everything. Maybe he is a myth created to explain how things came to be...when there really was no way to know how things came to be.

I don't find this comforting at all, because I like to believe that I will again someday see the people I've lost during my life. But is it my need to be comforted that is driving my faith? Or is my faith the source of my comfort?

As you can see, I'm no theological scholar. I even have a hard time spelling "theological." But I think about these things during those sad times when I need to make sense of things. I think about whether I'm truly comforted by God, or whether I've created him in my mind as a means to comfort myself.

I ask myself those questions over and over again and wonder if I will ever know the answers. Perhaps there are no answers. For now, I'll still send up prayers. Because regardless of whether God exists or not, I need to believe in something to get through this. I need to feel like I am loved and I am not alone. And I think God can take it if I'm angry at him for now.


Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that someone told you that Alex died because of sin. How utterly appaling. Whose sin? Who got to decide? I totally agree with you that no God worthy of faith would punish a child for someone else's poor choices.

As for God, I still struggle with him/her/it. For a while after the various deaths of loved ones, I definitely believed in God because I needed someone to be angry with because this whole who lives and dies and when thing is totally unfair.

Scientists have found a "god gene" but you can argue that we developed it for survival purposes or that God put it there so that we would look for him/her/it.

One of the times that I struggled with my faith, I happened to take a Religion and Holocaust class. Now that was definitely a group of people wondering whether God has power and chooses not to use it versus not having the power we assume he/she/it has. Some of the reading material really helped me put my thoughts as a Christian in perspective. I can try to find the reading list if you want.

In the end, I think I still believe in a kind a loving God, though that faith is often tested. And if it gives you any comfort, I have experienced many things that make me certain we see our loved ones later when we leave this world. I'm sure you'll see Alex again, but it sucks (and many words stronger than that) that you do not get that joy in this life.


Julie said...

Catherine, I think, once again, that questioning faith is a very normal part of grieving. It's hard to bring the death of a child into perspective and try to make sence of it all. The problem is, it makes NO sence no matter how you try to explain or rationalize it. How can a live be taken before it has really gotten a chance to live? How can people that so desperately want their babies, and would do anything to HAVE their babies and keep them safe have it all ripped away from them while crack heads and abusers continue to have healthy LIVING babies that they can torture? With me, my faith comes and goes, but I HAVE to believe in a heaven and that my son is there, and that at least I have a CHANCE to see him again. I NEED to believe that. I can't bear the thought of never seeing him ever again.

I hate all those "well-meaning" people. I truely do at times. It just makes me crazy that when an older person dies, they at least get the respect of someone saying they are sorry, and when our babies die, they just say "you can have more" or "there must be a reason" or "at least you didn't get to know them" or any countless number of idiotic things. What ever happened to "I'm sorry for your loss"????I wish I could tell you that people at some point get a brain and stop saying stupid things, but they don't. It's yet another part of a grieving parent's life. ((((((hugs))))))

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that people are probably struggling with what to say and they say any dumb thing they think might provide comfort, when there are just no words that will do that.

It doesn't excuse incredibly stupid things said because people should really think about what they are saying. Of course, most of us fail to do that from time to time. I'm sorry you dealing with the brunt of stupidity right now.

Big hugs.

lauralu said...

i have my doubts about whether there is a god, but about six weeks ago i found myself driving down the highway with the sunroof open screaming "give him back!" over and over again - presumably directed at some god that i hoped existed. it was a real low point for me, but i think a necessary one.

that might have been me you paraphrased about god not needing my son for his own purposes and at my expense. or not. but i believe holley is right - people stay utterly stupid things because they don't know what else to do.

i encourage you to correct people when they say stupid things, or at least try to do it if you care about them. i have found that people i love and who love me are almost relieved to understand how it really is. my husband's grandmother, for example, felt better after she realized that god didn't cause hans's death for his own selfish reasons.