Let’s Talk Jeebus

I don’t talk too much about religion up in here, but particularly in the last few years, it’s been on my mind a lot. I’m trying desperately to get it sorted out in some meaningful way because the limbo is agitating. I’m so jealous of people who have unassailable faith, like my Dad. In all frankness, some really shitty stuff has happened to him throughout his life but his faith is as strong as ever. It’s fun to talk with him about religion and spirituality – he lights up and gets excited in that way people do when they truly love something (…like when I talk about peanut butter.)

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad is a Presbyterian minister so of course, I went to church a lot growing up. Fortunately both of my parents are very liberal and open-minded, so overall my experience with religion was warm and accepting. Still I have not emerged with unscathed faith. I’m not fussed with having an exact definition of God. Him, her, the wind, crystals – it’s all good. As I discover what God means to me, I’ve learned to loosen my grip on that need for a concrete definition. In fact the more I think about it, the more I’m confronted with my inability to verbalize the sum of my spirituality. But that’s Ok.

The stumbling blocks for me are these mind-bendingly tragic events, like the story I read over the weekend. Some nutbar whose license had been suspended 20 times plowed into 7-months-pregnant Donnette Sanz when she was crossing the street. She was knocked into the path of a bus, which ran over and pinned her until 30 people managed to pull it off. She was rushed to the hospital, where her baby was delivered by C section. She died an hour later and her infant son died a week later.

The only part of that story that even calls God to mind for me is the thought of the 30 strangers who some how summoned the strength to pull a 5-ton bus off another stranger. Beyond that, I can’t fathom if there is a God, how he/she/it could possibly let something so horrendous happen. “This is in God’s plan.” “Everything happens for a reason.” Blah blah blah. Senseless tragedies cannot be reduced to tidy life lessons about looking both ways before you cross the street.

I only mention this because I’m curious if you believe in a God, how you account for things like this. In my search for answers, I’ve started reading When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The gist I’ve gotten so far is the possibility that God does incredible things but there’s this element of chaos that he/she/it can’t control. That really challenges traditional notions of God though. What, he can cure the sick but chooses not to some times? I’m not sure how to sort all that out.

I was chatting with a friend about all this recently, how I’ve been praying and journaling and waiting for the ubiquitous come-to-Jesus moment when everything will make sense and I’ll have “found God.” Exasperated she said, “You don’t have to find God. God is in you.” Thoughts?

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7 Responses to “Let’s Talk Jeebus”

  1. Amelia Says:

    I’d like to know all the answers, too. I’d like to know why God doesn’t keep babies from dying and why He lets good people live in pain. Churches with good preaching and fun music tend to take the Bible literally and hate gay people (in love, of course) and churches that remember to love all of God’s children sometimes forget about God Himself.

  2. SweetBasta Says:

    There is no easy answer. If there was an exact definition of God then there would be no confusion as to which religion, or flavor of religion is the correct one. Many of the religions start at the same place(Jewish, Chirstian, Muslim others) buy end up seperated based on how the different groups interpret what God has done, or what they believe God has said. The faith part of it is hard. If someone could really show you proof that God is there, would you be able to recognize it, or even comprehend it? If we cannot comprehend what God is, how could we ever comprehend why he/she/it allows things to happen. If you believe that God created all there is and gave each of us life, we could also ask why did he do that? There is a great scene in the movie Contact in which Jody Foster’s character asks the Matthew McConaughey character to proove there is a God.

    [Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God]
    Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
    Ellie Arroway: What?
    Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
    Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
    Palmer Joss: Prove it.

    Love is there, we know it is, but how can you prove it. There are symptoms of love, and actions we do because of love, but the actual love is intangable. Some people believe that science and God don’t go together because of the differences in Genesis and the science of evolution. It may just be that we can’t comprehend things in the scale God does and thus the early parts of Genisis which for many many years were just passed down by word of mouth were told in ways that people could understand. 7 days to create everything with the last day being rest. How long is a day to God? 24 hours, 20 years, 500 years, 500 million years?

    Then there is the whole thing with free will. Most religions agree that God gave us the free will to believe in him or not. If God wanted full control over our lives then we wouldn’t have this free will.

    I am a Christian. I try to live my life based on the teachings that the Bible accounts that he gave. I have some issues with parts of the Bible that were written by men interpreting what they believe God wanted to tell us. I also end up having problems with religious groups that try to preach that they are the only ones that are right and to question what they say is going against God. Learning from others is great, but following someone blindly because they claim to have the right answer for everyone is a little crazy. Just as those that follow a political party or candidate without really looking into what they stand for and what they have done, is a little crazy as well. I personally feel that God wants us to question, and explore why and how he did what he did and does what he does. There hasn’t been anyone that I know of that has come back from the dead and been able to say what God is and why he does what he does. We just have to wait until it is our turn to find out.

    OK, you got me rambling today.

  3. amy bell Says:

    well, i have not commented on here before, but this post got me thinking. wow. you are really pondering a big question. bad things do happen to good people. really bad things. life is not fair, not even in the least bit. and, things do are not what they seem. these lessons i have learned well. however, God is good. what? i believe that God did not want us to go through all of this junk…it was never His perfect plan. but, because he gave us freewill, we chose to sin. even if adam and eve had not messed things up, i know i would have….we are human and we are not perfect.

    all religions don’t start at the same place…you see, there is no other religion in which we cannot reach or attain God or god-like status. in Christianity, we do not aspire to be god…but, to worship our Creator.

    God is perfect and therefore we have a problem. how can we get to God when we are sinners? Jesus. Jesus is the path through which we can access God and spend eternity with Him. but, it is not just “fire insurance”…serve Jesus and you get a mansion! this is where the church has failed. it is a journey…a relationship with a living God. God is love and His heart breaks when ours does….He desires for us to live in relationship with Him…will it make awful things go away? nope. sometimes it even is harder. but, we have a peace and a promise. we have a peace in knowing that God will walk with us…we are not alone and we have the promise that He will never walk away. He does not quit us. He pursues us…..
    the Bible says that all scripture is God-breathed…all scripture is from the Holy Spirit…so, it is our map through this journey…

    yeah….life is sometimes really, really crappy. but, we who have trusted Christ have a promise. even if we lose our lives, we see the bigger picture. life here is fragile…but a journey without Christ is the real loss.

    in short, i don’t believe God is in you…a relationship with Christ is a journey..a give and take…and, it does not start until we make the decision to surrender our lives…

    thanks for a thought-provoking post…i have been a reader for a while and appreciate your honesty.

    amy bell

  4. Kris Says:

    I really struggle with this, too. All the evil and sickness in the world. What kind of a compassionate God can allow so much pain and suffering?

    I’m a lapsed Catholic, and there are so many issues in their version of religion that I don’t agree with. For me, God isn’t confined to a church I have to attend every Sunday. He’s trying to help guide me; and sometimes I screw it up really, really badly. But sometimes, I get it right. And it’s in those quiet moments that I honestly believe God has a watchful eye and a guiding hand on my heart.

    I hope you find what you’re looking for, Mymsie. I really do. Somewhere along the line, I lost my faith – not just in God, but in myself and everyone else, too. Now, I’m happy to believe in something. My new son is proof that there is a God, and I hope he can show you the same miracles he’s shown me.

  5. A-frame Says:

    Mymsie, you are a journalist, a sniffer, a questioner (and to be sure a guffawer when guffawing is required). You approach the world and its happenings empirically, with a researcher’s eye for data. You collect data and observe it from a million angles until a replicable, *explicable* pattern emerges. This is why you quest for proof of God, and why your faith buckles in the face of evidence of sickness, sadness, tragedy, and overwhelming loss. I write from a position of pure sympathy with you. I don’t get that “why” either. I look for evidence of God in the way “he” was always presented to me, and for years I have come up short. Are we doubting Thomases? Yes, I guess so. What spirituality I possess has emerged from shifting my definition of the Divine away from anthropomorphic constructs of Perfect Dudes with Beards and toward my personal sources of emotional ecstasy: music, nature, and the magic produced by yoga practice. What does that mean for my sense of faith? No idea. Yet. My journey continues. Yours will too – on your own terms.

  6. Bumpster Says:

    The Sunday school class that my wife and I attend just finished up a video lecture by the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I’ll just say that his points about the “why” are quite interesting. I won’t give any spoilers just in case you haven’t finished the book. Just keep reading. I think you might begin to understand a little more.

    The subject about free will was given here and I know some people struggle with the question why did God give us free will? After all, God’s perfect plan went south after he gave us free will and we chose sin rather than living in harmony with our Creator. Someone shared this analogy with me one time on their interpretation of the reason for free will. Think about someone who loves you very much. You treasure and value the love that they give you. Now, what if instead of them chosing to love you; you had the ability to force them to love you. What kind of value would that love be to you? Worthless? The same is true with God. If God didn’t grant us free will and forced us to love and worship him, what kind of value do you think God would have on that kind of love and adoration? None. It’s when we chose God, to love, worship and follow his will, then there is a great value placed upon that kind of action in our lives.

    Free will is given to us for a very good reason. But it’s also because of that free will that bad things do happen in life. People make bad choices and there are consequences for those kind of choices. Unfortunately, it does mean “good people” are going to get hurt. However, depending on how we’ve lived our lives determines what’s going to happen to us after we die. In the Christian sense, living God’s will means surrendering your life to Jesus and living a Christ-like life. So, saying someone has gone to a better place if they’ve lived according to God’s will is a better response than “it was part of God’s plan”. God never planned for any of us to die, but if we live our lives right we do have the opportunity to get back with him after we do.

  7. jeanamarie Says:

    hi – i’m here via flickr. (thanks for your comment by the way!). I think to ask the questions you are asking is a good thing – and there are a lot of flog- off answers out there, so i’m not going to try to give you one, i agree with some of the previous comments. i haven’t read that book, but i’ve seen it, will be curious what you think of it. it is a really hard concept to reconcile, it think – i’d encourage you to keep asking god to show you. – i believe he will.

    thank you for sharing what you’re thinking about – it gave me a lot to think about today too 🙂

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