(The song I listened to while writing.)
Why do I believe what I believe? Where does this faith come from? Richard Dawkins tells me it comes from a value passed on from my ancestors. Some people are programmed to believe in God, some are not. I won the faith lottery. Maybe. I guess anything is possible.
I look at my friends struggling with the God of the bible and Christ, and I don’t know how to struggle with them. I don’t think my faith is ignorant, but it is strong.
I have been thinking about why I believe, why I love. And the story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. A man is bloodied on the side of the road and several people pass him. But the Good Samaritan stops and helps him and takes care of him. I wonder if that Good Samaritan was a wife beater or a murderer. I wonder if the beaten man would care, if anyone could ever talk him into believing the Good Samaritan wasn’t that good after all.
God, are you Good? I feel that you are, I think that you are. How do I ever know anything? Why do I believe at all?
I think God is my Good Samaritan. It doesn’t matter what other people tell me of Him/Her. He saved my life and I can feel Her love and so I’m here.
There is one memory that comes to mind when I think of why I love God. I hate going back to it. Those memories feel infectious, oscillating. Like there is something in them - then, that wants to be with me -now. The last time I wrote about it I caught a sickness. But I will go back now.
I am curled up on my bed, in my mothers art studio in New York. It is in the middle of the night, and I am awake, shaking. My stomach hurts and there is a new thing growing in me. The scale in my mothers bathroom tells secrets of hard work. It is the only thing about myself I am proud of. Every pound I lose is the equivalent of a year in jail, or like the slashes on my friends arm. And I want to pay my debt to the broken society I left behind. I will take my punishment and even though I do not have a razor or a jumpsuit, I have my thoughts, or Someone Elses thoughts, I don’t know. My eyes are wide awake in the dark and I am screaming: I am a Fuck Up. I am Going Insane. I am a Bad Friend, a Terrible Christian. I am Guilty. I am Ashamed. I am Disgusting. I Am Just Like My Mother.
My body aches and there is an inexplicable pain in my heart that deafens me, like a screaming mob in a cathedral and I can’t feel anything else. I can’t hear anything else. My breath comes in faster and the room is still dark but it is not empty. Time is suffocating me, it is dragging me along and the present is a murderer. Faces flash through my mind and I try to swallow all of their pain. It is the only thing I want to eat and it settles in my stomach. I put a hand over my mouth so I won’t scream it out. The room is dark but it is not empty.
This can’t be just me. My life stretches before me in minutes and years all the things that Could Happen and it burns and I don’t think I can bear it. I know that I am going somewhere dangerous. I think of my mother and how she felt before she pulled the trigger. Did she think these thoughts, too? My stepmother told me once that she killed herself because she had pain all over her body. The doctors could never find a reason for it and nothing worked and she couldn’t stand it. I didn’t think much of it then but now I wonder whose heart my mother broke. Or who hurt hers. I feel pain all over my body, too.
I sit up and the air feels viscous, it is weighing me down. This room is dangerous but I have nowhere to run. My heart is pounding, terrified. Maybe this was how my aunt felt, when she took a rope and went into the basement. Maybe she was wild with fear and just wanted to be done with it. I realize that it is not just death that connects me to the women in my life, but the very thoughts that bring us all there. But not me, not yet.
I close my eyes and pound my heart so it will shut up, shut up, shut up. And I feel like a child running around in the dark. There must be somewhere I can go, there must be some way to stop this. And so I run and pound on the only door I can think of.
I beg God to love me, to change me and fix me and to getmethefuckoutofhere. And he does. The accusations fade as the Spirit mumbles scripture. Beautiful moments slide behind my eyes: praying in a tree when I was seventeen; laughing with Jenna; listening to Tina sing…. The cathedral empties and it is just me and this ridiculous God. And all the philosophy in the world could not make me love Him less. He is Good to me and I am so sorry if He is not Good to you.
Are you my imaginary God? Why can’t you comfort my friends?
This story has repeated itself dozens of times in the past few months. In my own bedroom, in cars and at church, coffee shops and downtown lakes and grocery stores.
Am I tricking myself? Is this all just mental self help that I brand with the name of God? If so, I am stronger and stupider than I could ever imagine.
I don’t like hell. I don’t like absolutes or most Christians. I don’t like reading Joshua or 1 Timothy. But there are always things I don’t like about the people I love. I guess the same applies to God. And goddamn, I love this God I only know as a terrible mix of Wrath and Love. A God of just Wrath would approve of my mothers scale and my friends arm. A God of just Love, the one that so many people wax on about; the God of Passivity and Keeping it Cool. Like my friends father who let her smoke weed and have boyfriends sleep over when she was 13 and he was such a Cool Father and she Loved him for it. That is the God most people want, but that God broke my friend and I don’t think I trust him.
So I have a God of wrath and love. A God like Jenna who hurts me with truth because it will heal me later.
I only know this God by a pastor taking my hand at sixteen and telling me to pull away. I could not, and I started to panic and then he told me that this was like God. That He would never let me go and it terrified me and enraptured me. The idea of not being alone anymore was both blade and soft skin.
Maybe I just believe this lie because I don’t want to be alone. I can’t bear to believe I am totally, utterly alone. But that doesn’t make sense, I push Him away so often…
I only know the point of prayer because the friends I fought with I mostly kept, those I never argued and cried with I lost.
I only know intimacy when I am singing before God and it feels like the prelude to a kiss and I am still and breathless.
I only know naivety when I look at the world’s cruelties and really believe that it would be different if more Christians believed the words of Christ. But most days I cannot so I try to give the world a break.
I only know redemption by going into prayer ashamed and terrified of what I may find there. And every time, I find grace and a tender whisper and sometimes that is harder to hear than wrath.
Am I tricking myself? Telling myself words I don’t believe but I know subconsciously will help me? The voice of God is just my tender logic? But my logic is never warm. How can I slash at myself and then heal myself the next second? I guess I could…
But I only know grace through the last words of Christ. Why can’t those be my only words?
I only believe in the cross because I know forgiveness is not free. It is rarely easy, it is never a simple shrug or an effortless thought. Forgiveness is swallowing someone elses sin and it will kill you sometimes, like it killed Him.
I only know wisdom through Jordan telling me not to jump while waiting for the subway. He must have had good reasons.
I only know hope when I look at Jen and Tom and Guilherme and see those who will restore works of art, who will work with Christ to wipe the shit off of saints faces.
The language of Christ when speaking of the Holy Spirit: I leave with you a great counselor. Well, good. Because we are really fucked down here, God.
I only know faith because I woke up this morning and knew nothing could hurt me worse than myself. I kissed the mirror and my mothers picture, told my father I loved him and Christ that He did not die for nothing, in case He needed to hear it today and I know love.
I can’t be making all of this up. I love you, I love you, I love you. Oh God, please be Good.