Sometimes it feels like God has just up and checked out...
I think more of us feel this way than are willing to admit it, and for reasons that are as numerous as the stars. And if I'm to be honest, I think I started feeling this way a looong time ago, right around the time my former youth minister suggested the possibility of my being a pedophile. Or maybe it was the first time I realized I was a Baptist boy who got hardons for other boys. It might have been as early as when my mom said the letter I'd received from my bio-dad was actually written by his at-the-time girlfriend. I can't honestly say. But everytime I saw a friend or family member or complete stranger going through crisis or facing tragedy talking about God being near, present, comforting, inside I felt myself coughing "bullshit."
I'm married to a practicing pagan. I have friends (and/or know people) who are Christian, Jewish, atheist (should this be capitalized), Buddhist, Mormon, or something else entirely. When I told some friends I was going to seminary, they shared concern that doing so would "take my Jesus away." I thought they were full of it. Now, in my last semester, I'm not so sure. I still think Christianity as a tradition offers guidelines on a good way to live, but I don't think it has a monopoly on Truth. Nor do I think it completely explains God, God's character, or God's activity or workings in the world. There are some questions, some riddles, to which we don't have answers.
But still. Still bless me anyway. I want more life. I can't help myself. I do. I've lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they're more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they're burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children - they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don't know if that's just the animal. I don't know if it's not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that's it, that's the best I can do. It's so much not enough. It's so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life. And if he comes back, take him to court. He walked out on us, he oughta pay.
Anyone who knows me knows my love for the movie "Angels in America." Early on in the movie (read: spoilers), we learn that heaven is basically San Francisco perfected, and God has left. Disappeared. Checked out. Prior Walter (one of the main characters) is handpicked to be the prophet of the new age, but there's a catch: he's dying with AIDS. He's loaded on the late 80's version of anti-retroviral cocktails, which often send him into these dream states. The above quote is his request of the council of angels, and honestly, I think he has a point.
During my internship this summer, I had the chance to spend time with a terminal patient. We had a lot of great conversations, and I became really close with their family members. But one Friday, I saw something that shook my own faith more than anything ever has. The patient had surgery to relieve cranial pressure, and upon waking up, they began trembling and screaming in excruciating pain. In my head, I had my own screaming going on:
God, where the hell are you?!?!?!
I'd asked this before, in my own times of heartache or depression, but in that moment, seeing and hearing the pain of my patient and their family members, I truly questioned whether or not God even gave two shits. It spawned a conversation with my therapist about the notion of God being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. What if these were traits we imposed on God for the sake of our own comfort and sanity, but not really traits that actually defined God? I'd had atheist friends ask me the same question, friends who seemed far too heavily influenced by the ideas of Freud, and I'd blown them off. Now, not so much. Now, these are questions I face in my own faith. And let me tell you: they're scary, and there aren't any easy answers.
I can't say what I think right now, not about God at least. But I will say that in times when one feels so broken, so beyond repair, questions like these, well, they're normal. We live in a world where true connection is becoming increasingly more difficult, and that's with people we can have tangible interaction with. It makes even more sense that if we can't feel connected to other humans, connection to the invisible divine would be all the more challenging.
For now, whether or not God exists or is active in the world, we have each other. Sometimes that has to be enough...