Disclaimer : After re-reading this post, I have discovered that it follows no discernible pattern, and my thoughts are clearly wandering with as much direction as a broken compass. It is, as Voltaire would say, crappy writing. But I am lazy, so instead of scrapping it or re-writing it, I am going to give this post headers to give it some semblance of order. Thank you for your continued tolerance.
Part One – In which I talk about the I.R.S.
Let me give you a snapshot of my financial life.
My wife and I struggle, financially, throughout the year. Some of this is because we have poor spending habits. Some of this is because we have to work entry-level jobs. And a big part of it is that, well, the family and I are used to thinking of ourselves as poor people – so when extra money comes in, we spend it on things we need or want, because we don’t know when we’ll have that kind of money again. That means I get three awesome moments every year. Two months out of the year give me an extra paycheck, and then, I get my income tax refund. I live for my income tax refund. If I can’t buy a present for someone during Christmas time, I’ll often buy it for them with my refund. In fact, I do this so often I’ve started referring to this time of year as “Taxmass”. It’s also when I do vital things, like buying new tires for my truck, that I can’t afford to do during the rest of the year because the one-time expenditure is just too much. Some years, I need that refund to come on a certain day, because I have unexpected expenses that tend to come up early in the year. This year, for instance, I had a sudden move from a house I shared with my former roommates, to the new place that Brandi wrote about here. That move cost me a TON of money, and I’m looking to use some of my refund money to catch up from the pretty bad spot I’m in.
So yeah, I’m pretty pissed that the IRS has delayed my refund.
Usually, stress like this does one of two things to me. It either a) causes me to run to the bathroom immediately, or b) jump over something in my way, then run to the bathroom immediately. It’s my body’s most predictable response to stress of any kind, but especially the stress that comes from worrying about whether or not I can pay my bills.
Part Two – In which I (sort of) tie Part One back to God, which is ostensibly what this blog is about.
Not to keep drawing attention to it, but if you made it through this post then you know that it appears that God has taken care of that particular problem for me. Also, worry tends to make my premature ventricular contractions kick into high gear. Still haven’t had one since the conference I referenced in the above-linked post.
Now, I don’t want to rehash the story. You’ve read it or you haven’t. It’s gross and goofy, but it’s my little miracle story. Thing is, now that I’m waiting for my income tax refund to come in (to keep, amongst other things, my cell phone from being turned off), and I’m doing all the things I normally do when I’m nervous – like obsessively checking my bank website once an hour to see if the money has magically appeared – and my newfound healing is being put to the test, something is occurring to me.
Holy shit, God really healed me.
“Surely you knew this,” you might be saying. “Your previous post is all about God healing you. Surely this is not a new thought to you.”
And yeah, I kinda knew it. And two weeks without a PVC, or an attack of IBS, is pretty cool. But going through stress like I’ve had since yesterday morning, when I saw I didn’t have the money I expected in my account, and not having stomach cramps is. . . is a fucking miracle.
Pardon my French.
Part Three – In which my miraculous healing makes me type-vomit random thoughts onto this blog.
So now I have to face God in a new way. I have to admit that it is very clear that God wanted to get my attention in a way that would have long-lasting consequences for me. I don’t know why he decided to do that – I’d already decided I wanted to be a pastor, and I’ve been pursuing that goal for a couple of months, in the way that one can pursue pastorship in a couple of months – so his previous works had already gotten my attention. Why, then, the gross li’l miracle?
That’s the scariest part of finally leaving atheism behind, I think. When bad things happen to someone who doesn’t believe in God, it doesn’t create a huge philosophical quandary.
Question – Why do bad things happen?
Answer – Because.
In a universe created by a God who clearly exhibits his love for people, this question takes on a lot more meaning. If God doing good things for us is a sign of his love, does that conversely mean that God does bad things to us as a sign of his hatred? Or displeasure? Judgment? The Old Testament seems to imply that the answer is yes, absolutely, you have tremendously pissed-off God and now you are being smited. Smitten? That word always gets me. Anyway, the old answer definitely seems to be that when bad things happen, it is because God is expressing his displeasure
That idea seems to be losing some steam now, possibly because of the onslaught of very reasonable questions that have been used to counter it. When a young child dies in a horrid way, how did that child so earn the wrath of God? Did their parents do something that offended God so much that he had to punch them below the belt?
I have to tell you – having been very, very recently healed by God for whatever reason, I don’t see the being that healed me as being capable of that kind of arbitrary cruelty. But the Bible says that’s his M.O.
So. . . what do I believe? My heart, that tells me that God is loving and kind? Or the Old Testament, that says in very clear terms that God will crush me for disobedience? Cake, or death?
I wish I could follow this random musing with an answer, but honestly, guys, I don’t have one. God healed me. God loves me. My heart speaks to me more loudly than the Bible does, I’ll tell you that in the spirit of honesty. And when the Bible does speak to me, it does so by speaking to my heart. I’ll read a passage, and I’ll feel this . . . kinda. . . warm resonance in my chest. Maybe I’ll put the Bible down, lean back in my chair, and just sit there with a “wow” feeling for a few minutes.
Part Four – In which the type-vomited contents of the author’s mind start to veer into controversial, possibly heretical, territory.
I’ll be honest, again – if I read something that doesn’t give me that feeling, I’m less likely to take it to heart. My favorite apostle, Paul, said a bunch of stuff that left me feeling basically nothing. Women shouldn’t talk in church? Nah. Men should cut their hair short, while women should leave their hair long? Thanks, Paul. . . but I’m not reading this for fashion tips. Homosexuals won’t be accepted into the kingdomof God? That seems rather arbitrary, doesn’t it? I mean, Paul gives the churches in Corintha list of the people who cannot inherit the kingdom, and he includes homosexuals – but doesn’t mention murderers? Until God speaks to my heart, I’m gonna be “family friendly” and assume that Paul just didn’t like gay people. After all, if anything that Paul says can be attributed to being relevant only to first-century Palestine, I think it shows us that we have to ask that question about everything a human writer says.
As my wife often says, “If I read something in the Bible, and it’s not printed in red, I take it with a grain of salt.”
Part Five – In which the author attempts to end this fiasco gracefully.
I guess all of this is to say, belief in God is hard. Belief in God after God has shown himself to you, in a pretty no-shit-this-happened sort of way, isn’t much easier. For me, it seems to take all sorts of clichéd questions and make them immediately relevant. Life was easier (mentally, anyway) when I thought that maybe there was no big, spiritual power to take into account. Not because I didn’t want to be held accountable for my actions, but because there is no struggle to find meaning in a meaningless universe.
Has anyone else had to struggle like this, after finding their faith in God being confirmed? Am I the only one to see the cloud behind my silver lining? Or am I simply just being gloomy because my tax refund never wants to arrive? I’d love to hear from you.
In fact, considering the poor quality of this post, I need to hear from someone – anyone – who can save this blog from itself.
Even an internet commenter.