This post was originally shared on September 26, 2014.
I pinky promise not to regale the story of my first visit from "Aunt Flo" as I pay homage to the Judy Blume classic that bears (beets, battlestar galactica) my name. Instead, I'd like to openly discuss my relationship with the man upstairs and I'm not talking about the neighbor I'm convinced sits above my bed and tap-dances right when I'm trying to fall asleep.
If you're already like "Whoah Marge, I'm not ready for this blog-ish thing to get that real. Religion is one of those things people get preachy about and I'm not sure I have enough Carlo deRossi Merlot for this," I promise not to make this uncomfortable. Plus, you know me by now. You've read about how I lost my virginity to Ryan Gossling before he became famous... duh, so strap in, grab a cocktail, and enjoy!
Are you there, God? It's me, Marge. I want to make sure you hear this sitting way up there in a lazyboy, sippin a PBR in front of a 72" plasma LCD screen with a live birds eye view, The Sims style, screen shot of our lives. Because, why not? As far as I've been told, this picturesque view of God could be just as accurate as the man with a beard and a staff, judging from a cloud. And honestly, I don't think my view of him would change if I arrived in heaven and he looked different. You show up and say "hmm, ya know God, You are a lot taller in person!" I don't think so.
So in my case, for this moment, I'd like to picture him sitting in that lazyboy he picked up from a Bob's Discount Furniture with $0 down and no interest for a lifetime. That deal is crucial! God's role in my life hasn't really changed since I was a child, a one-sided conversation of truth and honesty, reflecting on the answers I knew from the beginning. Attending a small Episcopal parish in my town every Sunday morning for "early church" as I would call it, was just part of the routine. I enjoyed Sunday School, and specialty services, even serving as an acolyte in my teen years and singing every Christmas Eve, never thinking much of how it would effect my life. Quick check-in's during a prayer or quiet moment in church, were focused more on thanking God for family, friends and the life I lead that week and would strive to continue the next week. I followed in my parents footsteps and never looked back.
Not always looking for answers, my biggest "Are you there, God?" moments always seemed to come in times of weakness or struggle. From a series of family illness and death at a young age, I can bring back vivid memories of evenings in nursing homes, uncomfortable funerals, and the sheer terror of saying goodbye to my unrecognizable grandmother in her last days. God seemed like a distant warrior forcing me to feel a series of unknown emotions I wasn't prepared for and couldn't handle. Was he there? Was this all part of the "plan"?
As I grew, and more importantly watched others grow, I saw how their relationships with God changed. Many of my school friends either lost all religion and found their peace elsewhere, or left their faith unsaid. I saw several spiral into depression, even self-mutilation and suicide attempts. There was some freedom in the release of their pain, but would I find that release too? Was this what God wanted? Was this the right thing?
The world around me began to change. Terror struck close to home and wars broke out. Boys I'd known my whole childhood then graduated high school with, stepped up and went off to fight for our freedom. Most to never come back the same boy again, if at all. Was this the world my God wanted us to live in? A world filled with terror and pain and the loss of innocent men, women and children for power and envy? The thought that my God, the great and omnipotent ruler of the world who wants us to live our best lives, would allow for such terrible things to happen to me and to others, seemed unfathomable.
Why do we live in a world of hatred, disease, and harm?
Why are people taken from our lives years before they are ready?
Why are young children fighting for breath when there are killers and evil-doers continuing to torment?
After several elective religion courses with a Princeton Professor in college, I studied the similarities and differences between major faiths of the world and how it could then translate into my own life and my faith. With a focus on in class discussions exploring faith, I noticed that many had the same questions as I did, but with no solid answer. We can say that things happen for a reason, to keep the world in order, or that God takes those suffering into a new Heaven of peace and no pain, but again, we don't have the answers. The "why God?" would still be unanswered.
But here's where I cling on to some sense of balance. We can question the bad, evil and desperation, as long as we remain grateful for the good, joyful and wonderful. With every death, there is a new life being welcomed into the world, families expanding by birth or marriage. Job promotions, new friendships, great meals, even the blessing to wake up in the morning and choose what we do that day, all gifts. In a recent sermon at the church I've been worshiping at in my community, the topic of gratitude came up, how we should express gratitude for every moment, every blessing that we had during the day. Even if there is a day where things haven't gone the way we'd like, or even completely opposite, we need to be grateful we awoke that morning. In times of struggle, we need to find the gratitude for each breath we take to continue the fight, even if the breath is staggered.
I find most of my blogs focus around finding the happy within the life I've been given. It sounds like a lot of bull when I hear it now. It's a helluvah lot easier said than done but I promise I'm not a cliche. It's been a journey just to get this far but I've learned that it all depends on how I choose to approach it. I find myself questioning God less and more thanking him for what I do have. I don't have the answers. I don't know why bad things happen to good people or why there is evil in world. I can't solve these issues. I can however, look to him with the questions I can't answer and know that one day, things get just a bit easier. With close family, friends and others around, burdens seem easier to carry and life gets that much lighter. We can't prevent the inevitable, I don't even believe God has total control over everything we do, but if we focus on being the best individuals we can be, those struggles become manageable. I will continue to ask "Are you there, God? It's me, Marge" because sometimes we just need to know there is someone who will listen and love us unconditionally to our truest self. Try it sometime, you may be surprised with what answers you'll find within.