I have been a long-time tippy-toer of all things spirituality. I tend to over-think things so on one hand I’m not a fan of ideas that I can’t make sense out of and on the other hand I’m simply amazed by how we all got here and at times I would desperately like to believe that the people I love who have passed away are waiting for me somewhere. But I find myself caught in a bit of grey area where logic and sensibility trump life’s little coincidences and convenient theories.
I would much prefer (most of the time) to just deal with a cold hard truth, like when we’re gone we’re just gone. It gives me the motivation to live my life to the fullest because when it’s over there isn’t anything else. I can’t just settle in this life because I’m looking forward to something else after life. I’m not making a judgement on how those who do believe in a life after death live their lives, I am only speaking for myself and about myself. I just feel that if I knew with certainty that I was going to rejoin all of my beloved friends and family behind some pearly gates in the clouds I personally would not care as much about being here on Earth. And if I did believe that, I daresay there may have been a time in my life I was so devastated by loss that I would have been willing to join them right then. Don’t worry, I went to therapy.
I have been grieving the loss of a dear friend this week. Grieving any loss will bring up previous losses so I find myself re-feeling those as well. And it’s tough. It’s SO tough.
I want to believe that she is in a better place (although regardless of one’s faith I would say we’re all on the same page that she is at peace for which I am completely thankful). I want to believe that her spirit is watching over me as my guardian angel. I want to believe that I will see her again one day. I want to believe that when I have dreams of her and I talking over coffee that’s divine intervention allowing us to reconnect for a brief time. But, my head can’t buy into any of those beliefs. They are just comforting stories that might help some get through this awful thing that is loss, but I’m here struggling with a cold hard truth.
Let’s come back to all that I want to believe stuff. Ever since I was very little, my parents took me to church. Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I still remember the smell of the candles, the pipe organ, the red carpet and green hymnals and every room and hallway. I went to Sunday school and Vacation bible school and most of my friends were from there. I sang in the choir and played in the bell choir. I loved it. I wanted to fit in with all of that so badly. I was taught scripture and the stories of Jesus. I could recite the Nicene Creed by memory (if you give me the first bar I probably still can). I was baptized. I took communion. I had a sit-down with my then 6 year old brother and told him through tears that if he didn’t accept Jesus as his Savior he would go to hell so pleeeeease do it…
You know how little kids ask why all the time? Why is the sky blue? Why is the number 2 shaped like that? After telling my poor little brother he would go to hell otherwise he asked why. All of his Sunday school songs were Jesus loves me. And I had no answer. Yes… WHY. Does Jesus love you only if you love him? And then all of that good intention that I had and put towards wanting so badly to believe all of the things I was taught came crashing down and I admitted to myself that none of it had ever made any sense to me at all. The bowing heads and whispering prayers… to whom? A supernatural being who takes a personal interest in the lives of each and every living thing on Earth? The good things that happened to me didn’t happen because I prayed for it, they happened because I did it for myself, because I worked hard. The bad things that happened to me didn’t happen because it’s God’s will and I’m being made stronger for it, that’s just life– we simply don’t get everything we want- and it’s my choice whether I learn something from it or not. I spent the next two years continuing to go to church and listening intently to the pastor and the readings and what all of the adults and my friends said. Trying to make sense out of it. But it never happened. And I finally got up the guts at 13 years old to tell my parents that I didn’t believe in God and I didn’t want to go church anymore. And they respected my choice. Ironic, no?
Since then, I have moved on to a place where I completely respect and understand the place of religion in peoples lives. I understand the draw, and the good lessons kids learn from Sunday school, the moral values the teachings instill. And right now, as I grieve loss in my life, I understand more than ever the comfort one can take in believing in something bigger than themselves. And I still have that desire that I felt when I was very young to believe because that would be so much easier than dealing with the cold hard truth. I’m not one of those atheists who mock religion and think that everyone who believes in God is foolish. I do frown on fundamentalism and its inflexibility towards tolerance. I do question how so many people of many different religions can all believe in something (relatively the same thing) that makes no sense at all to me. But if it makes them happier and a better person then I am glad for it. And in the case of the friend I just lost, as well as the friend I lost when I was 21, I am happy they both very much believed and took comfort that they were on their way to heaven and that their loved ones were waiting for them there. I wonder if, in the face of death, I could convince myself of the same just to help me cope.
There are so many things we don’t know. There are so many truths to be had. So instead of looking at it as one theory versus another, we should all find and own our own truths. Live in a way that is authentic to us as individuals. Be good people. Be kind to one another. Because if we all do that, then the system from which our goodness stems is irrelevant. The higher power isn’t someone or something telling us what to do, it’s us, collectively making compassionate choices every day and loving every person you have the fortune to encounter.
My higher power isn’t the arms of a God I cannot see or feel, it is the many friends who hold me up and are here with me to help me cope and continue on.