Alright my darlings. It’s been a while. I actually did write half a story but sort of got stuck with it. You know how it goes; when it’s there, it’s there. When it’s not, well it obviously takes a while to finish. Writing doesn’t just happen, not even when it comes to a simple blog.
So while struggling to end the other story I ran into an episode of my life where I was faced with the utter question of Faith in God. Attention: in God, not religion or church. I know for a lot of people these may seem as one and the same, but for me they’re not. Not entirely. God. Religion. Church. They go that way in terms of importance when it comes to me. I got so fired up about this and so mad and feel so misunderstood that I just need to take it out somehow.
Nonetheless, it’s such a delicate subject and so tangled even in my own head that I don’t really know how to tackle or where to start with this issue. I am sure I have mentioned this before; I am not your usual Christian, or faithful person in general. Do I believe in God and that He exists and performs all sort of miracles and so on? Yes. Yes to all of the above. Do I believe He writes our destinies to a certain extent? Yes again. So then you wonder, where is the problem? Well the problem is in the way I treat my relationship with God. Or so it seems…
I will make this one comment in the beginning to clear the situation right from the start. This is about God and I, not the Church and I. I do not pretend under no circumstance that I have read the Bible or that I am extremely literate in religious writings and so on, but, there is no way anyone can convince me that most of the stuff I see in churches (traditions, superstitions etc) come from the original teachings of God or Jesus. I will not and cannot understand a woman being kept at the door of the church (or simply in the back) while her baby is being baptized (despite being submitted to “cleansing” sermons before the actual baptism) because of being considered “impure” due to giving birth. While the father, most likely a “living saint” (sorry gents, some of you really don’t deserve it, as neither some women, but this is general talk alright!) gets to sit upfront and witness this incredible moment in his child’s life. I don’t understand why women cannot be priests; I don’t understand why not wearing something on my head is in any way outrageous when I go to church as if my faith in God and my respect or gratitude to Him rested in my head being covered. It’s not like I’m coming there spilling my boobs out and showing my ass, smudging the icons with my shameless red lipstick. I am as decent as any other person so what’s the fuss with the scarf on my head? I don’t understand why a woman is not allowed to go into church during her period. Without her period she cannot bear children and as far as I know, children are considered the miracle of God, so why does that make me impure and banishes me from church. Eva right? Why do I have to bare her sin a million generations later? I thought we were supposed to be judged for who we are, not through the deeds of others. Example: it’s like I got a Roma (gypsy) guy for a boyfriend and even though his family is great people and he, himself is a beautiful person, he would be judged through his keen not through whom he is. So this kind of judgment is considered bad in terms of morality, tolerance and acceptance according to divine and human regulations, right? But a woman being judged based on Eva’s apple episode is not? This is not unjust, unkind and intolerant in any way. It is the way things are and we don’t have to question it. Forget it. I’m not going to go into these kind of details anymore. The point is, church is one thing and God another. Sadly, the way we preach religion, people’s perception of it and the lack of priests who can actually make you understand why some things happen the way they do, instead of quoting from the Bible endlessly and telling you “this is how it has to be done” only manages to draw people like me away, not closer.
Because yes. Some people are questioning due to reason and logic. Some people are built like this and I surely didn’t build myself this way. I guess that makes me a bit of Judah doesn’t it? The one who never really believed unless he saw for himself; the one who betrays God and turns his face from Him. Well no. None of that. My face is as straight forward as it can be and looking with bright eyes right at God. God is my friend, He is a father figure. Yes, He is an entity out there, a supreme being, much stronger, all knowing and better/perfect than I am, which is perfectly fine. No, I do not have a problem with authority in not considering Him a mighty power that I must bow to and plead for help. He is an authority and I do not question it, but He is my friend. Now how would I act with a friend? How would I act with a Father?
I figured from my chat with friends and my mom included (very religious person by the way), that my problem is in the way I pray and approach God. For years I kept being told you have to pray to God constantly, not just when you need Him to help you with something. I used to pray all the time when I was very young. I do come from a religious church going family. Then when I was about 10 years old something happened to me (a guy tried to rape me) that got me really mad at Him. I acknowledge to the day that He somehow didn’t eventually allow the guy to finish the job, but then again I was left with shit to deal with for the rest of my life. And my question to Him was, why? Pretty classic right? I was a kid! I didn’t even curse. Less be a villain in any way to deserve something like that. My mom would immediately say, you should just be grateful he did save you and the entire thing didn’t eventually happen. True. But then God is supposed to love me and protect me. Why would He ever allow me to end up in a situation like that in the first place? I assume you realize at 10 years of age I wasn’t making passes on to a guy to allure him with my sexual looks. It’s painfully hilarious to even think about it, considering I spent days afterwards rubbing the skin off me because that guy made me feel so dirty by even trying. So why would He hurt me so much, for what? I would never do that to my kid. Or to my friend!
Now, I say. Mom is my earthly authority. She is divine to me for giving me life, for putting every single effort into raising me and so on. God is my Father figure. So. I told mom. You don’t expect me to say thank you, every day, for everything you did for me: giving birth to me, looking after me, calling me, buying a flower for me, keeping me healthy and so on. Because you know I am. You know I love you without me saying it morning till evening. Still, when it really pains me and I turn to you for help, you don’t go “I’m sorry, you didn’t state your love, appreciation and gratitude to me all the time so now you can’t expect me to just help you, right?” Same with God. Mom says, you need to be grateful for the small things. That you’re alive, that you’re healthy, that you have a job. That you have your family here and so on. Alright. I am grateful for all that. God wanted that for me, He gave all that to me, He gave me life, He gave me health and a suitcase full of talents when I was born. But this was my default package, just like with mom. He gave me this ‘cause He wanted me here. He wanted me to be born and I don’t think he expects me to thank Him for every breath I take. So He gave me health. I think I am showing my appreciation for this gift by working on maintaining myself in good shape, by not doing drugs or God knows what else. So he gave me a job. I worked for that job, I studied and I still learn as I go using all those gifts He gave me in the first place. That is gratitude. Is like my mom is proud of me seeing whom I’ve become and that her education paid off. So that is me thanking Him for this. As for my family, I am grateful for them being here and being healthy. And I have thanked Him in words and by taking care of them myself in as much as possible.
So, all this considered, I am allowed to get mad at my “dad” just like I get mad at my mom sometimes. And feel like He’s not listening to me, not helping me when it matters most. I lead a simple life. I don’t want money, never wanted it. I don’t want fame and fortune, I never asked for any of that. He knows just how little I want but how incredibly important that thing I want is for me. Of course, one would say, you may think it’s little, maybe it’s huge actually. Mom says: it’s selfish to get mad at Him (first of all she thinks I can’t get mad at God because it’s not proper to get mad at such a powerful being). People say: God is beyond and above you, you mustn’t treat Him as your equal. But with humility and love and appreciation. I can’t do that. God is sitting right next to me and sees how I feel. How I suffer, how I laugh. And sometimes we laugh together. I believe He has set a course for me that I have done my best to follow, sometimes falling onto back alley roads leading to a dead end but luckily I am a strong believer in my senses and my instinct and I always got back on track. But other than that, I think he allows life to unfold. What I call, free will. He gave me the power to make decisions. If I make the wrong decisions in life, it’s not His fault. But when I do make the right calls and I struggle and I fight and I see other people, really going the wrong way towards the same destination, yet they get there and I don’t, it gets me really mad. So I sit down and ask Him, how does this work for you?!?! I know you’re having fun with me watching how creative I can be sometimes, finding ways, one year after another, just to make my dreams happen and you let me because you’re amused with what else I can come up with. But at some point I could use just a tiny bit of luck. Or divine intervention, because some things depend on me, but some don’t.
People say, you have to ask God in words for what you want. I don’t think so. When we went to the Prislop Monastery to see the grave of Saint Arsenie Boca, I went more because of mom. She didn’t tell me much about him, so I really didn’t know what to make of the whole experience. I sat in a long queue for like an hour and a half and when I got to the cross this nun hurried me to move on because there are people waiting. “You should have prayed on the way here” she said. I was like… what? Other than the fact that mom gave me a push saying “pray!” like I had it all recorded in my mind and all I had to do was press a button, now this woman was forcing me to be deep and emotional on command. What do you mean “pray on the way?” I came here to see this man, to spend a moment with him, otherwise I could have just stayed home and face the direction towards his grave and start praying. Why bother come all this way. But hey, forget me. I am an ignorant and an "atheist” for most people’s understanding of my belief. There were hundreds of people in wheel chairs, sick and with really important problems that have come and waited in the rain for hours. You can’t tell them to hurry! But that’s the church again, turning into a business. Pisses me off. Anyway. When mom said “go” I ended up in front of this cross, with little knowledge about this man and I’m supposed to believe he will do some miracle or help me in any way. I didn’t even know what to do or say. I just put my hand on the cross and thought “you know what I want.” I can’t be anymore honest than that. I only want one thing and one thing alone, more and beyond and above anything else in life. And I want it so bad I think you can see it with the naked eye, it’s coming out through my pores. You don’t even have to be God to see it. My human earthly close friends here do without having unnatural powers.
But no, I have to sit down and pray and ask God for what I want. In words. He knows. He knows it better than anyone. Why do I have to say it in words? I think the best friendships I have are those when sometimes I am so overwhelmed with pain and sorrow and worry that I can just meet my friend and share the same room with her/him and not say a word. Because sometimes silence is the perfect treatment and she/he will know that something is going on and will let me (selfleslly!!!) feed on their positive energy to recharge. Without a word. If they can, surely God can too.
Well, I am sure I can go on bubbling about this for ages. The thing is I feel judged, misunderstood and blamed for the way I believe. People who simply have faith cannot understand my way of believing. I cannot simply believe if I don’t understand. That doesn’t make me unfaithful. In the least, it is in my human nature to be imperfect, to question and to ask. The same brain I use to do good and to improve my life and the lives of those around me (in as much as I can), is also asking these questions. I have not found a priest to the day to sit down with me and be a mortal just like me and be honest with me and truly reveal the teachings of God through our understanding, instead of just giving me quotes and asking me to just believe. I can’t even decide something at work if I don’t understand the circumstances.
I believe religion has to adapt to the world now. To understand that perhaps believing in God is taking new forms and new meaning in the context we live now. That we are touching extremes in many chapters of our lives and that people are more scared, more hurt, less sensitive and more prone to depression than before. Because we have learnt much more than 2,000 years ago, because we are greedier for more, in every sense that goes and yet, we still need to believe in something. We still need and want to believe in Him. But by imposing rules, traditions with no common sense explanations when we barely have time to understand our own lives and children is simply not the way anymore, as long as I am concerned. Perhaps I don’t make sense. Let me exemplify.
The sermon for a wedding here, in our Orthodox church is sitting in there, 1 to 3 hours reading from the Bible and from other books. On going. And following some teachings in those books. That’s it. From witnessing weddings in other religions and in other countries, I see this is not the case. They do read from the Bible just like us, they do say what God has to say about the union between a man and a woman. But then they discuss family and what family means today. This is the essence of all things. And then they discuss about the newly formed couple introducing them to their family and friends, strengthening this bond between them as a new cell in society and a new family body within their own keen. You learn who they are, how they came to be together, what they are looking for in life. Does this approach guarantee that the marriage will last? No. But neither does reading 2 hours from the Bible. But at least it’s meaningful, clear and easy to digest. It makes you feel like you are really part of this world now and God is up to date with us constantly changing. If church is truly becoming a business in some parts, then they should know that image risk is the worst case scenario and by not knowing how to portray God properly, by explaining to the “unfaithful’ what He is truly all about from their own experience as messengers of the divine, then they push idiots like me away. And I am sure God loves me just as much as His usual followers and He’d like me to understand what religion and faith is all about.
I am not sure I am getting my point across. It is much clearer in my head, but I am so hurt, enraged and disappointed with feeling misunderstood. It’s like, I already have my own quarrels with God, I don’t need the world to judge me for the way I handle my relationship with Him. Especially when it would be so easy for me to judge everyone else. So easily.
So here it is. My improper way of praying.
PS: I intend to go see Arsenie Boca again. Meanwhile I have read so much more of him and understand who he was and is so much better. So now I am excited to go back and have a chat. And despite (hopefully not!) the aggressive nun, I will go around the fence and sit down in the woods next to his grave and have my talk with him. God’s like: “Oops. I’m off the hook. He’s turn now to struggle with the insane.”