A Matter of (not so) Great Faith

I am a Doubting Thomas.

Well, that could be an understatement. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, when Jesus arose from the dead, one of his disciples (Thomas) insisted on seeing the nail holes in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side.  So history refers to him as Doubting Thomas.  Well, let’s put it this way–I would have probably asked Jesus for two forms of ID as well.

Being raised by a Baptist minister means I have quite an impressive body of religious knowledge.  The Grandfather has a very cut and dry view of things, religious or otherwise.  It is how it is (in his mind) and everything else is wrong.  He has great faith and little doubt.  He believes in God’s plan.

Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that there are two things you don’t discuss with your friends–religion and politics.  You are just asking for an argument.  There is no doubt that some people will be offended by my view (or lack thereof) of all things religious.  But it’s been on my mind lately, and since I never have learned to keep my opinions to myself, I figure I might as well get it over with.

Is every single little thing we do controlled by a higher power?  Some people may not realize this, but I am very open-minded person.  I always try to consider all points of view, to the point of being paralyzed at times.  I also always try to think of things with common sense and logic, and I can’t help being a little doubtful that God really cares who wins a football game, or a NASCAR race (hail Mary fulla grace……) If you believe in God, and that He created us, then you know He gave us a brain, and the ability to make choices.  Why is that?  If everything was laid out on a path that we cannot deviate from, then why aren’t we just a bunch of puppets on strings?  It even says in the Bible that if you “honor your father and mother,” your days will be long on the earth.  Doesn’t that imply that we have a choice about how we are going to live our lives, and if we can lengthen our days, can’t we perhaps shorten them as well? Food for thought……

I go through religious extremes.  Sometimes, I think it would be easier not to believe in God at all.  I see my sister, and my daughter, and others like them, and I can’t help but ask, “What’s the point?”  This summer within a few days of each other, three people under the age of thirty lost their lives in two different car accidents.  Three families devastated and changed forever.  When I think of my daughter, sometimes I wonder if maybe I did something bad that sort of trickled down on her.  To quote Stephen King, “….if you put your ear to that door, you could hear the winds of madness blowing inside.”  In other words, I don’t even want to know.  Yeah, it would be easier not to believe in God, because the alternative is just too damn depressing.

Then, at times, I go to the other extreme.  Dave Barry (one of my favorite humor writers) says he believes in practicing as many religions as possible, “just in case.”  I think this is a sound theory.  I’ve always been fascinated by Catholicism.  I don’t think a priest can abolish your sins, but it sure would be nice if he could.  I just like the formality of it, plus I think it’s cool that they believe so much in things that others view as “superstitious.”  Also, the bingo and drinking thing is pretty awesome.  Baptists have to drink in secret and confine their activities to pot luck dinners and baptisms.  Let’s face it, once you’ve seen one person get dunked in the water, you’ve seen them all (I’m going straight to hell, aren’t I?)  The only other major hobby of Baptists is getting mad and splitting off to form another church.  Eventually, each Baptist will attend church alone, in their own building (now popularly being called a “worship center.”)  But I digress. 

Anyway, religion is a tricky subject.  I want to be one of these faithful, highly confident people who don’t fear the future, or question the present, or wonder if God even exists at all, but I’m not. I don’t know how to be.  Sometimes I wonder if He created our universe, and then turned us loose.  Then sometimes I wonder if we drove Him away, or disbelieved Him right out of existence.  It’s a circular thought process that never ends for me.  I’d hate to find out God doesn’t exist, but I’d doubly hate to find out He does, and that He’s pissed at me for doubting Him for most of my adult life. 

All I can do is hang out here and ride my fence, I guess, and try to cover all of my bases.  I’ve got to go.  I don’t want to be late for Mass……or Temple.

 

A Letter From Juliet

     I guess maybe it’s about time I expanded a little on the title of my blog. It has a very important meaning to me, rooted in part by a letter written to me by a dear friend of mine in Alabama.

     Obviously, her name is Juliet. She also has a daughter with special needs, along with two “regular” sons. I met her in Philadelphia several years ago at a very cool place called The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. I won’t go into all of that here, except to say it is a wonderful place where miracles happen every day–for some people. They use alternatives to main stream therapy to help dramatically improve the condition of many brain injured kids. Parents can attend a seminar of sorts to learn this methodology and apply it to their own lives.   As usual, Evelyn didn’t feel compelled to cooperate with any of my attempts to cure her, and it didn’t work out for us. However, it is an excellent program and Juliet was at the seminar as well.

     Alow me a very brief aside to say that while we were at this seminar, we received a nice little narrative about how God and the angels were looking through a list of prospective parents and assigning them to the children which were soon to be on the way. It told how the parents of special needs children were extra special. What was it called? The Special Mother. 

     Back to the point. Juliet is a fantastic person. As with nearly all of the people I tend to gravitate towards, she is a very plain-spoken, honest person. She’s not obnoxious about it, but if you ask her a question, she will tell you the truth. Period. She is a caring mother, and she likes to laugh. All qualities that are way up on my list.

     She is also a person of great faith. In this area, I am particularly lacking, and she is a comfort to me. We have had some in-depth conversations about our kids, but there is one occasion (the point of this post, actually) that stood out then and now. Evelyn had her first seizure in May of 2006. I was still in my own head back then (well, even more than usual, if you can imagine) and was still trying to cope with life in general, and the seizure did not do much to help  my mental state. I wrote Juliet a letter that I suppose was basically just an exercise in self-pity. Poor me. Why now? Boo, hoo, hoo.

     Well, instead of writing me back and telling me to get over myself, which she would have been absolutely correct to do, she  wrote me back and provided me with what would eventually be the foundation of my life’s philosophy. I’ll give you a summary of what she said. These are MY words. I don’t want her to sue me or anything.

     Juliet told me that while neat little poems about special needs kids being given to special parents were very nice, they were essentially crap. (My words, folks, my words.) Special needs kids are given to horrible parents all the time. She said God never promised us everything would be easy for us, just that He would guide us if would ask Him. Also, she said that if you truly believed in an eternal God and therefore an eternal soul, then she felt that the eternal viewpoint would be VERY different from our viewpoint in this life–similar to the difference between an adult and a child. We, as adults, can look back on the things that we thought were truly horrible when we were children–things that we thought were literally the end of our worlds–and we can laugh about them. We can see how they really weren’t that big of a deal at all. Juliet told me that she believed it would be the same–in eternity, the struggles of this life would be insignificant.

     Now, I am not particularly religious, and my faith is somewhat watery. I am Thomas. I probably would have asked Jesus for two forms of I.D. as well. However, her answer to me meant more to me than any church service ever had. She believed what she said, and she said it in kindness and sympathy, and even with humor. I will never forget it.

     I had to do a lot of growing up and a lot of letting go to finally be able to accept the fact that our life is what it is. I am NOT a special mother. I am just a regular mother, better than some, maybe, but undoubtedly worse than others.  Doubt lingers, faith comes and goes, but still I plug along. Lots of people are not so fortunate as me, even though some days I feel anything but fortunate. Like I said, most days I feel (not so) special.

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