“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky.
I believe that what people call God is something in all of us.
I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha
and all the rest said was right.
It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
~ John Lennon
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
~ Psalm 46:10
Pushing through the double doors exiting the CICU of Lee Memorial Hospital, I walked past the elevator bank, toward the waiting area. Handbag over my shoulder, cell phone in my right hand, I looked up, threw my arms out saying, “Well, what’s next? What do You want me to do next?” Wait. My worst nightmare, the one thing I’d been most afraid of was now reality — Boomer was dying. He entered the emergency room the night before; during the night he took another hard, rapid, declining turn and was now sedated and intubated. I was called in before dawn as it was happening. I knew the situation was dire, moving too rapidly for me to keep up. There were calls to make, but I didn’t have answers. There were decisions to make, but I didn’t have all the information. Wait. I’m a doer, not a waiter. When crisis hits, I am all-hands-on-deck. Wait. Waiting is another nightmare for me. God was telling me to wait.
“If we can learn ways to touch the peace, joy and happiness that are already there
we will become healthy and strong, and a resource for others.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ
Six months earlier, I laid in bed, staring out the window, desperation consuming me: lonesome, hopeless, helpless, terrified, fed-up and done with the whole thing. It was the time – the only time – I contemplated leaving. Leaving Boomer. Leaving the marriage. I didn’t have answers. I didn’t have solutions. Just thoughts. One thought and it scared me. It’s not my nature to leave. A phantom whisper interrupted the thought: Stay. Wait. Don’t leave. I need you. Boomer needs you.
I’d been doing the very best I could, studying, listening and learning of the suggestions being offered in the rooms of 12-step recovery, Al-Anon specifically, make no major changes to your life for at least 6 months, focus on your recovery, work the 12-steps for you. I had been at it for eight months when the thought of leaving surfaced and the whisper found its way to me.
Growing up, I knew God to be anything other than a friend and only as someone you visited on holidays, like your Aunt Louise. God as I understood was to be feared. God was judge, jury, punisher, rule maker, also like Aunt Louise. God was also a misogynist, sexist, and later, child molester. If I told lies, God would get me. If I didn’t confess my sins in a dark room on my knees, God would get me. If I was married more than once, or had sex out-of-wedlock, God would get me. If I didn’t follow the genuflecting workout exercises during a mass, God would get me. If I ate a juicy burger (or even a dry one) on Fridays or that candy bar during Lent, God would get me. If I didn’t hand over 10% of all my income to the church, God would get me. If I didn’t follow the “rules” — which I could barely comprehend anyway — God would get me. God as I knew “Him”, was a do as I say, but not as I do dictatant. I developed a real pessimism for God, kind of like the one He evidently already had for me. God was good. Really? If He’s so all that then why are my parents divorced? Why was I beaten as a kid? Why did the biological father of my daughter cut and run? Why is everyone’s else’s life so much better than mine? God is good? Bullshit. God sucks. Still I towed the line, followed the rules, did my time of a living penance and shuffled my daughter along through the dogmatic system until she finished 8th grade, because that’s what good parents do. But when internal secrets broke loose of children being molested by priests…Bastard! Fuck you, I’m outta here. I didn’t go back.
God schmod. Good riddance. That’s were I left Him. God couldn’t be trusted. God was a liar. The whole God thing was a sham. I was through with all of it. So I switched gears, by way of lexicon. No more God. I’ll take The Universe, for $1,000 Alex. Oooooh, The Universe. Trendy. Mystical, magical, cosmic, and an ideal approach for wayward agnostics and newborn atheists like me to set up spirit camp, divorced from the doctrine of Roman Catholic Christianity, all Christianity for that matter. Yet, deep down in the caverns of my heart and soul I knew something did exist — beyond me, greater than me, and wildly incomprehensible to me. Because I had some proof — direct personal proof –to back it up.
Pregnant at 17, something inside me knew. I knew, I would be raising my daughter as a solo-parent. It’s not the way I wanted it and in my still-a-baby-myself, immature 17-year-old ways I tried all I could to force a different outcome. But way down, deep down, I knew, all along, it would be The All SMO Parenting Show. I regularly had these quiet private secret moments, I couldn’t call them prayer, but that is what it was. I regularly asked the Air up there, the Air over there, the Air anywhere, for my baby to be a girl, a healthy girl. I’m going to be doing this thing on my own and I need the support of relatability in order to succeed as the good, loving parent I want to be. I’m a girl; I can relate. I want to be the kind of parent my own parents were not. Please give us both a fighting chance here, let this baby be a girl, that will help me out a lot. Anytime, day or night, whenever I was overcome with fear, shame, guilt, or hopelessness about my situation, I asked the Air for my baby to be a girl. When I gave birth, the doctor handed the baby to me, laying the tiny body on my chest at an angle that prohibited my ability to physically identify gender. “What is it?” I exhaustively asked. A girl, a healthy girl.
In my humanness, I keep wanting to make God this 3-dimensional entity of flesh and bone — tangible and opaquely visible in accessibility to me at all times, 24/7/365, and 366 on leap year. Nope. Not so. Religion confuses this for me. Religion keeps trying to tell me that there’s one guy, and only one guy, the carrier of a single message. No. What I continue to experience, study, embrace and be fully dazzled by time-and-again that the proof is the prize for faith, for asking, without knowing certainty. Ask. Believe. Receive. And sometimes I have to wait too. There are many carriers of a message, whatever the message is that I uniquely and specifically need to hear.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
~ Hebrews 11:1
Back to that dire morning at Lee Memorial. Over the course of three hours, God delivered everything I needed to know, needed to say, needed to do and used fellow humans: doctors, nurses, friends — near and far — to communicate to me those instructions. First point of proof was the doctor. He sat me down in front of a computer monitor and walked through Boomer’s stats, what they meant and the seriousness of the situation. He spoke to me in simple, calm, easy-to-understand terms. “Do you have calls to make?” Yes, I do. “OK, here’s what you say…” It was amazing, God, through the doctor, gave me the script word-for-word to make those phone calls; the hardest, saddest, scariest phone calls I’ve ever had to make. While I was on the phone, a nurse walked over and handed me printouts with highlighted areas specifically describing what Boomer had, what was likely to happen, that enabled me to have those conversations, to answer the naturally impending questions. Nurses brought me coffee and sliced apples to help keep my energy level up. I wasn’t alone. Nor was I alone, when I had my daughter. God needed me and so did Boomer. God gave me what I needed to be there for them both. I stayed. I asked. I waited. I listened. I followed the whispered instruction. That’s all God wants.
I’ve come to acknowledge that I am a deeply spiritual being having one helluva a wicked human experience. I’ve struggled readopting use of the term God. I tried on Universe, Higher Power, Source, Spirit, Energy, all the others. I heard writer Anne Lamott say, she sometimes refers to God as Phil, for her favorite scripture quote from Philippians. I like God. God works. It’s simple. It’s one syllable, 3 letters and I like simple. I once heard an acronym for God: Good Orderly Direction. That’s good too, God is my internal GPS. What I didn’t always know or willingly admit was I’ve always had that internal GPS, that guide for good, the nudge I get in the center of my gut. It’s a navigational alarm of what is good, or not, and I often sense it before my brain grabs hold to dismantle and manipulate it into something different, often denial, and always troublesome in one way or another. I just didn’t understand that nudge is always for good; my good, and the good of those I interact with. An invitation to dialog, ask for what I need, what I want, like a healthy baby girl or the right words to communicate terrible news.
I awoke to God in my despair — a Gift of Desperation. God is ecstatic with me that I have finally chosen to be active in our dialog together, welcoming the friendship. The grief counselor I spent 22 months with after Boomer died, said to me once, “God has been pursuing you.” Heavy and true. Though it took difficulties and tragedies and trauma to get it, accept it, God has been a patient friend, waiting for me.
Ironic how God is, has been, so patient with me, yet I do not easily reciprocate that patience. That’s how we are different. God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I am not. God loves when I get it, when I mess up and try again, and even when I get mad. I do not. I pray for guidance, direction, support and protection. Then I wait. The whole patience thing is something I struggle with daily. God is also a prankster with me, making me wait little longer, like when I ask for patience and then all I get are red lights when I’m in a hurry, or the slowest line in the grocery store. In prayer, I ask God for the help. Then I wait. In meditation, I listen for information or answers. They come, though rarely on my timeline, always on God’s. I can never project, I just get to piece it together later. I live life forward, understand it backward, that’s how God rolls with me. It’s how I’ve see God’s answers: Yes, No, or I have something better in mind.
God keeps reminding me I’m not in charge, of my life or someone else’s. Whaaaat? Trust me, the shit that’s gone down in my life, I did not want it — none of it. I never said, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to be married to a drunk who dies? I never said as a little girl, I bet it might be fun to be pulled down a flight of stairs by my long brown hair. No, and yet that crap happened anyway. War and peace. Love and hate. Life and death. Health and sickness. Where is God? Right there, orchestrating it — ALL of it. Since the dawn of time, ask Adam and Eve, or their kids, Cain and Abel; talk to Job, he’s got stories too. It’s divine design this God thing. To open my heart, have faith, sometimes that means waiting, often with uncertainty and confusion.
It was only a few months ago, I came to terms with the possibility that God takes loved ones, when we perceive it to be too soon, because God knows they won’t get better; God uses them to be teachers for the rest of us. God uses us, to help carry that message — whatever it uniquely is for us. Like in Boomer’s case, he was so incredibly sick, with a disease that is destined to kill, God intervened and took him. God said it was enough, enough suffering for all of us. And as a result, turned me into an advocate of recovery, and addiction awareness. Who’da thunk?
Organized religion doesn’t fit me, it never has. God showed me that and said it’s a-ok, because I came to believe in my own way at my own time; or was it God’s? Ah the mystery of life. Today, I study all faiths, I practice the principles of Buddhism – peace, love, and compassion for all living beings, along with the 12-steps, one day at a time.
I woke one morning, a voice whispering in my ear, and tears running down my right cheek. Everything was necessary, the voice said, absolutely necessary to get you where you are today and to get those who are around you today here too. Absolutely necessary. It still baffles my mind, but I roll with it anyway. Faith — find answers in the heart — is where God is for me.
God didn’t give up on me. What a terrific friend. Thanks for Your patience. It’s good to be with You.