TO CELEBRATE THE OCTOBER RELEASE OF MY BOOK THRASHING ABOUT WITH GOD, AND TO EXPAND THE CONVERSATION BEYOND MYSELF, I HAVE ASKED 31 BRAVE PEOPLE TO SHARE A GUEST POST WITH THE THEME OF #IAMTHRASHING. THESE ARE PEOPLE I HAVE PERSONALLY DIALOGUED WITH, PEOPLE WHO I KNOW HAVE RISKED A LOT TO WRESTLE WITH THE HARD STUFF THAT COMES WITH SPIRITUALITY. OUR FAITH MAY NOT LOOK LIKE YOURS, BUT WE WELCOME YOU TO THE DISCUSSION.
There have been times in my life when religion was not what I needed, at least not what I thought I needed. Once, when I was 13 (queue the early 80's soundtrack), I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever, and it was horrendous.
Running a fever as high as I had can lead to mental retardation or death. I know that because the doctor said so to my mom on the other side of a curtain. Thanks, Doc. Sometimes I would lay in my bed, alone all day and all night, wracked with severe cramps. My body would pull itself into the fetal position and the pain would seem to last for eons. I remember my mother and grandmother trying to massage or at least pull me out of the ball my body had contorted itself into, and I would simply cry.
In those times I not only lost faith in God, the Almighty, but I did more than losing faith, I cursed the Heavenly Father. I cursed His only begotten Son and the Holy Ghost as well. I pleaded for them to kill me with mercy as the pain became too much for my teen mind to bear. I remember thinking to myself that if I really pissed God off perhaps he would send down lightning bolts to kill me in my bed. I even drew a chubby kid in a hospital bed with a lightning bolt coming down and frying him. That seemed like a good plan at the time.
Pain does funny things to your mind.
In reality I know that my parents were in and out of my bedroom checking on me and sitting with me, just being present because there really was nothing that they or anyone could do for me. Once I was home from the hospital I doubt that I was alone much unless I was sleeping and they left me to rest. But, at the time, in my pain, I was more than alone, I was forgotten.
I was forgotten by God, whom I had a deep and caring love for. I was forgotten by Jesus, and I was an altar boy, dammit. The Holy Ghost, well, that little white dove was seemingly elsewhere, because I was alone.
As the pains of the fever lessened over time (months) and I got my strength back, my anger with God subsided and soon I was just another teen, but something had changed deep within my soul.
In the years between my having been sick and when I finally left the Church, which had zero to do with my doubt in a higher being, I was a faithful and practicing Roman Catholic. My wife and I met and were married in the Church. We had four beautiful children there and we even taught Sunday School in that parish. It was lovely.
One night I was happily paying attention to blinking lights in a server room at work when a friend asked me why I thought she was going to hell. If I remember correctly I just looked at her for a few moments.
She was a kind soul, a beautiful person, and a Jain.
I explained that I did not think that she was going to hell, but that I felt strongly that God would see her path as a righteous one and she would be in heaven. (Holy shit. I was the self righteous one.)
She asked me to explore why my faith taught that she would be sent to hell for her religious beliefs. I did just that. I read the Catholic books that I could find that spoke about other faiths, I tried to speak to our parish priest, but he wanted none of that talk. It took me months of readying and praying but one day I looked at my wife and I told her that I could no longer teach Roman Catholic Dogma.
In some ways it broke my heart. I had been born in to a Roman Catholic family and I always thought that I would raise my children in the faith and one day they would bury me with a Roman Catholic funeral. Suddenly, I was without a faith. I had no religion.
That was a decade ago, and in some ways I am still thrashing about, learning, expanding, growing, loving. It was never my intention to walk away from a path that my whole life had been on, but I guess that is what makes it real to me. It was my choice. It was my soul aching for truth.
Today I have many Buddhist practices, but I lean more to Sanatana Dharma. I see reality in the terms of a non dualist. To me all is divine. All is Goddess. All is God. All.
I still wrestle with how and what I teach my children, but I hope that they see that their mom and I love with with no limits. I hope that they see me as a kinder person since my path began to include mantra, these funny Om tattoos, and this mala I wear around my neck.
In the end all that matters to me is that my family and friends know that I love them, just as I loved them before, but now I see them as a literal part of me, not other.