“Momma, who is God?”.
My daughter asked me that question last summer. I am still trying to figure out how to answer her.
I didn’t grow up going to church. I say that with no hard or jaded feelings about the fact. I feel like I heard a lot about God, having grown up in middle Georgia. However, the conversation always felt more like “someone” that other people knew. I never met him.
Like my daughter is starting to now, I saw a lot of gray matter in the way people, especially the ones that made it a point to remind you how often they went to church, presented themselves and the way they authentically were when around like minded people.
Hypocrisy was something I couldn’t name back then but I felt it every time I heard a self proclaimed Christian person use the N word. Sort of today’s version of “No I don’t think you’re going to hell because you’re gay, but I’d be devastated if I found out my son or daughter was gay.” I’ve known that kick to the gut feeling you get when you see or hear hate and ignorance collide since I was very young.
As a child, I think I had a cartoonish version of God in my head. He was someone that hung in the clouds. I knew other people believed he created all of us but I was never completely sold on that idea. I knew most people around me believed that he was a protector and that you turned to him in times of need. I was never firm in that belief either.
I knew there was something more to be said about God then what was being exposed in front of me; however, the older I got the more I pushed away from his existence at all. The little bits here and there that I learned about the bible just didn’t add up.
Anger was a major divider in me being able to ever associate anything other than frustration with God. That everything happens for a reason rhetoric just irritated me and it pushed me further away. It was impossible for me to believe there was a reason for having to endure the abuse and violation being done to me. And if there was this great creator and protector that loved us all, why did he forget about me? I think I always wanted to believe, just never could given the hand I was dealt.
I’m sometimes envious of those that have the spiritual camaraderie that comes from attending church. I’ve been lucky enough to find that elsewhere though. I just can’t bring myself to look for God, or whatever other name you have for him/her/it, in a church. Even the more “modern” churches that claim to accept everyone still, from what I’ve seen, finish off sentences with “but…” when discussing non attending people’s choices.
Forgive me if I sound crass but I don’t see finding God in a church, or anywhere rather, as an acceptable claim to being a “good” person. Understand that a man that raped me for 8 years of my life found God and he found that suitable enough to send me a birthday card and a $50 check on my 19th birthday. It said “sorry I didn’t raise you kids in the church.”
The $50 bought a bag of some high grade weed to numb myself and the card just solidified my belief that being religious, in any form, does not qualify you to claim you have a clear conscious or genuine heart. I get that this is an extreme example for my rather simple point, but in writing I always promised myself I would be honest about where my thoughts generate from.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s, which coincided with becoming a mother, that I began to question my lack of faith. Years of rebuilding myself worked towards letting the anger go. I was starting to find it more difficult to fight the idea of God’s existence than acknowledge it. I knew there was something greater than myself because I could feel it. It was something that I could identify as borne out of and moving within the forces of love. I began to open myself more to the idea of spirituality. I started to see how there could possibly be a distinction between religion and spirituality.
I was becoming more and more aware of a force around me that was powerful, magical, comforting and often ironic. I started to understand and accept that I was allowed to have faith even though I wasn’t brought up in a church or attending one now. I learned that my faith is in no way connected to a book. Especially one that is often turned to for direction on every aspect of life. I try not to turn to any one thing when looking for answers or guidance. I just know I would miss something if I lived like that.
Maybe I should look at the other side of things and say maybe if I had God more present in my life as a young child, I would have felt more protected or secure or less lost. I suppose I have come to know that side after all though. I know now he was there, just in a shape or form that didn’t fit the better known version. The praying hand nic nack, a bleeding man hanging from a cross or a pregnant virgin were not things in my view growing up, but God was present without the physical signs. I know that because I survived. And in some strange way I recognize I am a stronger person because of all of the pain.
Had I not had “someone” help hold me up and carry me through all that, the end result of all the abuse would look very different on me. God helped raise me. Just not in a church or with the help of scripture.
So, I return to the question at hand. How do I give a simple answer to my daughter when I’m still not sure I have it figured out in my own head? I refer to the greater power as “God” only because I don’t know what else to call it. I say “he” because “it” doesn’t sound fitting enough, and people get too rattled when I say “she.” How does a mom that believes in both science and a greater power answer that question in way a very inquisitive four year old will be satisfied with?
For now, my daughter knows God is love. It’s the only thing about this whole topic that I can be sure of at this point. I refuse to fill her head with scripted rhetoric because it’s the easy way out. She and I are both very much students on this topic. Students that will perhaps, along the way, teach each other.