I am not a regular parishioner at church. I am not an atheist either, but when I attend church, I do not feel His presence around me. I find church very boring and mundane. I know most prayers by heart, ingrained in me since church nursery school at age five, six and seven. I remember liking church then, because I got to show off a new dress, shoes, and my Sunday school class ate Graham Crackers at snacktime. But I didn’t understand why I was there. I never once felt God in my presence, or that He could ever be hovering around the chapel like a ghost. punishment for lies committed, or the bitter laps of hellfire at my feet.
In middle school, I was more regular at Youth Group than at church. My family, all of us christened Protestant, floated around various denominations depending on my mother’s esprit de vie at certain times of her life, which was also mine. She made friends well, but didn’t always keep them for long, due to her opinionated conversations. Anyway, sometimes I was Protestant, sometimes I was Methodist, and sometimes I was Presbyterian. The Presbyterian gig didn’t last long, as my mother liked wine so much, she had trouble swallowing her wafer during their dry communion.
In high school, I volunteered to be a Sunday school teacher rather than sit and take confirmation class. I liked babies and little kids. I even liked teaching but only one hour a week. I wasn’t meant to be a teacher; only a mother, which would come later in life.
My paternal grandmother died before my parents married. My maternal grandfather died at age 62, not long after I was born. I have no memory of him. My maternal grandmother died at age 62, and though I loved her, I was more concerned about her library book debt than the fact I’d never see her again. I was only 6, and had no grasp of death and its permanence.
When my husband and I had been married a year, we took confirmation classes together. We discussed faith, and how God died for our sins, and the real meaning of the wafer and the wine. Our church still used the Book of Common Prayer and the Old Testament. I do not like the New Testament. Church had more meaning for me after Confirmation.
My father died suddenly following a 6 week illness, at age 62. He was not the kind of man to loll about in bed. Due to his prominence in the medical community, to some, he was bigger than life. He would live forever! Rather than be sickly and weak, though, he gave up on medicine that might work or might make him worse. I did not reach out to God to assist me in my grief. I prayed before he died that God would grant him mercy, and let him live, but God did not seem to hear my prayers. I stayed by my father’s bedside as he hallucinated, a 24 hour nurse silently praying in Trinidadian. My mother could not stand to watch her husband die, nor could my sister. My father had only been home from hospital two days, when sometime just before dawn on the third day, he wildly opened his eyes as if God had come to earth personally to greet him, and lead the way.
I ran crying from the room, but with great coaxing, the nurse convinced me to come back and pay last respects. The sight of the shell of my father, my kind, handsome, generous father was all I had to remember him by. What kind of trick was God playing to take away a man so young? Surely my father deserved better, a devoted parishioner himself, and chalicist. What sort of anger was God displaying to not grant my father the mercy of extended life?
Right after my father passed, my mother was diagnosed with Type IV Endometrial and Ovarian Cancer. On the aside, her doctor told me there was only a 25% chance she would survive treatment. My mother was not a devoted church goer, and I am unsure what she felt, or believed, when or if she prayed. Yet, she recovered and lived another 18 years before dying from old age at 81. She spoke often of looking to her deceased parents for strength and courage, and when, in my 40’s I opted to have a hysterectomy to avoid similar Cancer like hers, I too turned to my mother for faith and courage.
Maybe that is how faith really works. We are brought into this world through the actions of our parents, and they try to pass faith into us through teachings and worship. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, because I do believe in Heaven and Hell. When I reach out to my mother, it’s really God who gives me strength and conviction. I have never let go of my need for her; daughters will always be daughters, and sons will always be sons. How or when in one’s life do we suddenly believe in a higher being? I pray to God but sometimes it’s hard not to sound like I’m wishing versus praying. Even, whining.
My husband and I have gone through a year of bad times, one thing after another after another. He has reached out to God on a weekly basis by attending church, bowing down in humility, his knees creaking with age. My husband is a former veteran and he found God while going through Basic Camp on his way to Viet Nam. Many times in my topsy turvy life, I have reached out to God through prayer, through tears, and through desperation, but still do not feel a complete connection to Him. And yet today, me of all people, discussed God with my son. I offered: “I believe God is there for you, just not when you think He should be, giving you what you need, not what you want when you want it.” Do I really believe that, or did I only want to,bolster my son’s self confidence?
Looking back on our lives when we were younger, we all feel blessed at what life had to offer us. We led a purposeful life, one steeped in the teachings of right and wrong, good and bad, the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed. In addition, dancing lessons and drama camp taught our young son elocution, SAT classes starting at age 13, prepared him in how to take a test. The goal of most parents is to pass down what they have learned to their offspring. God is not an assumption. Belief in God cannot be forced upon anyone. I believe faith in God is a lifetime learning experience. Little kids say they believe in God just like they believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny.
As we go to church to celebrate Jesus’s birth day, I wish there were a better ending to this bitter story of our savior’s life and death. That the Jews came to their senses and let Jesus live. Would we be at peace worldwide now, or would nothing have changed, good or bad?
With or without the presence of God at my side, I still believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ, evil and good, and the fires of Hell. I don’ t believe in God in the sense that He can save lives or turn evil people in to good, but I do believe that if we have trust in Him, our individual lives will not be inconsequential. When I hear of children who have died at the angry hands of their mother’s boyfriends, it’s easy to blame God for their suffering. But it is not He who caused it; through death one can only pray that the child is safe from pain snd suffering, like Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. The world changes on a dime, confusing and bewildering even the smartest of scholars. I am not one of them, but I also believe it is better to have some faith in a higher being than none at all.