Choose Joy – Some Thoughts About Faith

The faith-based infertility and adoption conference I attended this past weekend was such a positive experience. I’ve already posted about how wonderful it was to feel a sense of community and have an ability to share more openly about infertility and our first steps into adoption.

I honestly expected to struggle more with the whole faith-based thing during the event. Instead, I had a peaceful weekend. There was lots of food for thought, but nothing particularly challenging or agonizing.

I want to explain why.

Six years ago, two years into infertility, I hit a wall with the whole notion of God and my faith of 20+ years. I could not reconcile the things that were happening to us with the God I was so familiar with. I was also beginning to recognize that I was in the throes of a significant grieving process. The loss of my faith wasn’t something that I had the ability to grapple with right then. So I “put a pin in it” with the understanding that I’d come back to it later.

Some people hit rock bottom and their faith in God is deepened. I hit rock bottom and God was not there. I couldn’t deal with both rock bottom and the absence of God. So I triaged. I told myself, “Deal with rock bottom first, the God thing will still be there when you are ready.”

And it was.

Strong at the broken places... | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Two to three years ago I started to unpack “the God thing.” I gave it a lot of thought, I read, I studied, I analyzed. I was open (kind of hopeful, actually) to a different, better understanding of the Christian God I had grown up with. I was actively searching for a place to plant my feet, the “solid foundation” I spent most of my life hearing about.

What I eventually came to was that the things I “knew” about God, and had learned about God, and continued to hear about God – these things are incompatible with what we have been through.

It’s a 1+3=2 situation.

There are so many ways to talk about unexplained loss. But no matter how Christians conceptualize it, it’s still a 1+3=2 equation. I’ve heard it said that this is the foundation of belief – trusting that one plus three really does equal two because God – and I can allow for that. I think that a God of Everything can probably handle that kind of math. But whether God can handle it is not enough for me to accept the dogma of Christianity and live my life according to a Christian framework.

What I’ve been through and what I knew about the Christian God – those things don’t jive. They just don’t. I grappled with the whole framework: the dogma, the tenets, the teachings, the practice of Christianity. What I hit on, about a year ago, is that I have serious questions about the basics. I simply cannot get over the 1+3=2 problem. And the answers of the Christian Church are not sufficient for me.

I realized that if God exists I’ve had it wrong for a long time.

Initially, I really didn’t like this. For several years I sort of hoped for some divine revelation that would make the 1+3=2 thing work. I like having something to believe in. I like the idea of a Plan, of something controlling or orchestrating the events of my life. I took comfort in the notion that our pain was not a wasted thing – that it meant something. But no matter how I looked at it, thought about it, prayed about it… the equation just did not work.

If I can't change a situation, I am challenged to change myself. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

At this point I am a lot less sure about anything than I ever was. I believe that any God that might exist is way bigger and more complex than how we conceptualize It. What I believe these days is pretty much a rejection of Christian dogma as a whole. I believe in the possibility of God… and that’s about it.

What’s interesting is that, for the very first time in my life, I have peace about my “walk” with God. I don’t feel like I’m missing something. I don’t feel like I should be doing something I’m not. I don’t agonize over it, I don’t feel gypped or wronged, I don’t feel like an idiot, and I don’t feel guilty. I just have peace. It seems ironic – Peace is something Christians talk about a lot in relation to God.

Back to the reason all of this was not much of a struggle this past weekend – I had fixed on some things after much work. And I had fixed on them well before my trip to the faith-based conference. I didn’t have a hard time because I believe that each person’s understanding of God is fundamentally limited. They were speaking what they know, just like I speak what I know.

This is not Facts; this is Belief. I can extend graciousness and possibility to anyone in terms of their Beliefs.

Here’s what I believe:

I doubt God exists. If God does exist, God is very different from the way Christians talk about God.

God will not punish me for thinking this way.

I’m the master of my fate – God is not a conductor orchestrating my every moment toward some grand, yet unknown crescendo.

Infertility is a biological event, not a consequence of Original Sin or a side effect of Free Will.

Adoption is not a calling, a ministry, or a way to “do your duty” or “glorify” God.

Suffering is not divine.

I believe that if any God exists, it’s a big God, a huge God, a God way past my ability to understand, comprehend, correct, or even argue with. I don’t have to get it right, because the kind of God I believe in is fully aware of how tiny and limited I am in relation to It and just how ridiculously difficult something like 1+3=2 is for something like me.

And what if I’m wrong?

God can handle it.

I hit rock bottom and God was not there. | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

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Sunday: Where’s God, B?

god by blakeI’ve been thinking about God a lot lately. I have a few friends who don’t do religion at all. I have many who dabble. And there are several who are hardcore.

I used to be hardcore. I grew up hardcore. I still know more Bible verses and stories than almost anyone I know. Once, I was a Bible-Quizzing champ. I worshiped hard, and prayed harder. The evangelical movement was made for me. Jumping up and down: check. Hands in the air all the time. Sang my heart out.

Then I hit my teen years, and I wanted rules. I wanted something solid. The evangelical movement FEELS amazing, but so many of the leaders are banking on the feelings and not the reasons behind them. One whole half of my extended family is Catholic, and I knew Mass from years of religious osmosis. I also understood the dogma. What’s more, as a “troubled” teen, the age and structure of the Catholic Church (compared with the youth and free-loving spirit of the fundamentalist evangelical movement) appealed to me something fierce. So I became Catholic.

(Catholics say “once a Catholic always a Catholic” so I guess I still am one. They’re kinda like the Marines.)

Then the bomb of my adult life: infertility. Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, all celebrate fertility. Many encourage large families. Catholicism in particular considers having and raising children THE goal for marriage. And nearly all branches of Christianity have some level of a “God is in control” belief. universe observed

When you throw unexplained infertility in the mix, something doesn’t jive. And for the longest time, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with the disparity between “loving God,” “omnipotent God,” the family prerogative, and my personal situation. So I put it all on the back burner.

Now I’m taking it out and dusting it off. Upon close inspection I can say without a doubt that things have changed. My understanding of “God” is different. My “relationship” with God is also different. (Completely different.) I don’t know that I will ever recover a feeling of connection and purpose that I used to have about God.

Something is there, though. It’s nebulous and vague, and it might always remain so, but it’s present. That’s what matters, I think. At least for now.