Liz Zivanov (on the HOBD listserv) discussed a dialogical sermon about “Where was God in the earthquake in Peru?” She asked some questions that are relevant to my thinking lately, and I’ve adapted them as a follow-up to my letter to Mom.
What is the motivation for the original question?
Well, that’s a bummer. I have to figure out why I’m feeling this way about Mom – not just because I actually felt that way then and allowed my perception of her messages to continue even though she’s dead. I have to figure out my motivation for writing and the source of the pain right now. Why am I thinking about her manipulation of me so many years ago? Why does that make me feel bad? Am I reliving the pain? In the retelling, do I let a little bit of go that doesn’t return? My motivation is to stop the pain – that’s also why I overeat and go on binge buying sprees (not big ones and usually in thrift shops). I want to stop hearing the messages that I internalized over the years. I want to close the gap between the way Mom acted and what she said. That’s part of the “hole in me”.
Are we talking about God’s justice or is there something else that’s going on (like, “That’s not fair.”)
Ooooooh, I wonder how long I’ve been blaming God for letting her make me feel lowly. Yeah, I realize that I can change some of that as an adult – letting her continue to make me feel lowly is not a choice, but I can do things to mitigate that. But, where is God in all this? Where was God when she made me listen to Daddy drunkenly rant and rave so that she could get things done? I don’t like the answer. I want to blame it all on Mom and God. But, the truth is that I know God was right there with all of us. God felt my horror; God cried in her dishpan with her; God sat on Dad’s shoulder and grieved for/with the addict. No, life isn’t fair. Humans have free will that is not always God’s will, and we can make life hell for one another – most especially those we love.
What are our expectations of God’s intervention in the world?
I do believe that God intervenes in the world, but I don’t know how or why or when. I don’t know how prayer affects God’s intervention if at all. I know there were times when I expected God to strike Dad dead for the harm he did to us. But, naw, didn’t happen that way. Pretty messy way Dad died, but not God’s fault – just the result of being drunk. My expectations of God’s intervention have decreased substantially over the years though I am still amazed when my prayers are answered. Even little ones like finding my keys or the directions to where I’m supposed to be.
Is God responsible for what happened?
Is my tragedy worse because it was me?
It’s my tragedy and the pain of it is mine. Someone else may have more pain, different pain, less pain, extended pain, but it’s not my pain. My pain is real, was real all through my life and is reborn when certain events happen to trigger my memories. Don’t demean my pain because you think some else’s pain is worse. Don’t tell me about someone who had no feet if I have no shoes. That doesn’t put shoes on my feet. Wash my feet and massage them, and give me shoes if you can. Then go to the one with no feet and do whatever needs to be done, but don’t dismiss me and my pain because someone else’s may be worse.
Is there a difference between an Act of God and a natural disaster and God’s will?
I’m not sure how to define an Act of God, everyday miracles maybe, but disasters? I don’t think so. I don’t believe that God wills bad things to happen to anyone. I don’t know why we have natural disasters – some of our choices through the years have created climate changes that begat disasters, but things happen and we don’t always know why.
How do we view death in light of these questions and our faith?
I’m interpreting this question to mean the loss of something precious – the loss of joy – the loss of life – not necessarily the actual bodily death of a person. We die a little each time we recognize a loss. Recognizing my Mom’s humanity was a death for me. Praying the “Our Father” after listening to my Dad was a death for me – the death of God as male. Interpreting well-intentioned advice as a put-down is/was a death for me – the death of my dignity as a person.
But, God came to earth and lived as a human just like me. Think about his mother’s nagging at the wedding, his mother’s carping at him while he was preaching and healing. Think about his grief at the loss of his friend Lazarus. Think about God’s pain as a human. I do and remember that where I am, God is and has been. Where I go, God is there and has been there. So death is not the end. Tomorrow will be different.