“And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget, that history puts a Saint in every room”
— Tom Waits, “Time”
Rob Bell says that “doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse”. I take this to mean that a person must experience some sort of faith in order for doubt to exist in the first place. And by extension, a persons faith wouldn’t end up meaning much without doubt to challenge its merits. Never is this more evident then when a child or a parent is sick, or in some sort of danger.
This is very clear to me at my current stage of life. I’ve got young children and old parents. So it’s not surprising to me that while exploring my spiritual path I’m routinely struck by the concept of God as a parent. In the scheme of things, since the beginning of time, God has been the loving parent of billions and billions of disgruntled teenagers. Don’t believe me? Okay, stop me if this sounds familiar…
Someone you will love without condition until the end of time takes you for granted and treats you like you don’t exist… until they forget the Netflix password, and all of a sudden it’s “Hey, Dad! Been a while, I know, but…”
The worlds grumpiest Atheist will get down on his knees with a quickness, weeping all sorts of prayers to anyone from Allah to Buddha the second he hears his little girl has been taken to the hospital, and THAT I can tell you for a FACT. So what does that tell us? More importantly, what do you think that tells God?
God, Allah, Elohim, Jehova, Emmanuel, Yahweh (whichever)… If God loves as a parent, which any creator of a breathing and evolving organism would, God is not going to waste a lot of time shaming us for getting it wrong every now and then. God isn’t up in a cloud some place going “Oohhh NOW all of a sudden I’m real and you ‘need’ something? Oh, oh, let me guess… you’ll never do it again, and you’ll go to church every Sunday, you promise, blah blah blah, how much do you need this time? What is it, drugs? If you’re on the pot, so help me…” No way. As unreal as God may seem sometimes, the idea of a God who treats children that way is… well, that’s just dumb as hell. I know that for two very real reasons.
1. I am a parent.
2. My parents… are also parents.
Now, I realize that I am quite lucky to have grown up with loving parents, and it is not lost on me that there is a very real possibility God as a concept only exists because humans were starving for unconditional love and a safe place to put childhood trauma. But the point is… if God IS anything, God IS first and foremost a parent. God gave us breath, some stuff to eat, the ability to communicate, and the desire to understand what it all means. God gave us the ability to tell stories, and with it the Heroes Journey. And we LOVE our heroes, don’t we? Who do we look up to most, even if we do so with curses on our tongues and our middle fingers in the air? Our parents.
I started trying to see my challenges from different angles during an uncharacteristically positive time in my life. I didn’t have an agenda. I was having a dialogue with my own idea of God, and coming to understand God in an unconditional way. I wasn’t asking God for anything, because I understood the answers were already there. I just had to be open to what they were trying to tell me. That’s where God met me… during a rare moment of clarity, contentment, and desire for purpose. I started understanding my role as a child in this universe and then my Dad got hurt and I stopped talking to my cosmic parental unit.
Super weird, right? Isn’t that when people typically START to pray? Yeah… it is. But you see, the God I started getting to know wanted me to take some time off. God wasn’t going anywhere, and clearly the same couldn’t be said for the people I love in my life. This is what I learned from that understanding:
God was cool with me dropping out for a while… so I could be a good son to my father, a good brother to my sister, a good husband to my wife, a good parent to my children, and a good person to myself. God was not asking me to prove anything because… well, what could I possibly “prove” to God? That a banana mojito is a terrible idea? God most likely hasn’t tried one of those, because if they do exist they would be exclusively consumed at services for the Church of Satan, but I bet he’d take Ozzy’s word for it. Sorry, that’s ridiculous, but that’s also my point.
For the first time in my life I knew the God I put away in the hard to reach corners of my laptop bag would be there when I came back. That’s what good parents do.
You can get all banged up and bent out of shape about proving your worth, maybe feel a little guilty for doubting things you’ve been told all your life. That’s fair. Sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re an active participant in your own history. It’s gonna get messy, man! But you gotta know, at the end of the day… you’re the hero. And somebody somewhere is very proud of you. Yes, you.
Go do something graceful.