There’ve been a few times in my life where I pretty much gave up on God. That’s not the same as not believing in him. I did that too. I’m talking about times where I believed in him but I just gave up on him. Times where I just decided it wasn’t worth it, or he was a pretty big jerk, or I felt like he was down right cruel to have the power to stop something bad but apparently not the compassion to do something about it. Quite a few times I gave up on God because some of his representatives were stupid, greedy, and petty or seemed to have given up on him before I did.
Once, when I was in grade 6 I think, I went to a program at a church where we would go after school and go to different groups for different activities and have a meal with our ‘family’ which consisted of 8 kids and two surrogate parents. I remember being with my Wednesday Program Family around the table and ‘the dad’ asked me to say the prayer before we ate. I said, “o.k.”, looked up at the ceiling and started to talk to God saying, “thanks for the macaroni casserole we’re about to down.” “Stop!” ‘the dad’ said. He then proceeded to tell me we don’t look up when we pray, we look down at the floor and bow our heads.
I was in grade 6 but the theology of this rule intrigued me. “So,” I reasoned, “I look down to hell when I’m talking to God?” I secretly felt a surge of bliss for sneaking a ‘hell’ into the conversation. “No, you’re bowing your head, you should pray with your eyes closed.” ‘the dad’ answered.
“Why can’t I look up to heaven?”
“Because we don’t do that, it’s wrong, we bow our heads and close our eyes.”
“And you saw me looking up with your eyes closed?”
“Will you say grace the right way or not?” I sensed the conclusion of our lively theological debate had arrived.
“I guess I’ll pass.” And with that I decided I didn’t have time for a god who couldn’t stand for me to look him in the eyes.
A few years later I found I hadn’t entirely given up on God. There were pop quizzes now and then and I decided he was handy as a partner at school even if the administration had banned him.
One day on our bus ride to school a girl sat down next to me. She was from a family who lived near the subdivisions that most of us on the bus were from but her ‘crib’ (yes I’m ‘down’ with the hipster lingo the kids speak these days) was not the posh spot most of us were accustomed to. They also had placed a lower value on things like personal hygiene. A blind person could identify where the three of them were seated on our bus.
The funny thing was that I’d actually gotten to know them. 3 girls got on, two could sit together but one looked around for a spot and when she saw the empty seat next to me she sat down. She was the oldest of the three, talked with a lisp and was painfully shy. Even though she knew me she’d barely talk to me. The bus was typically a place where they’d be called names as a warm up for the abuse they’d get at school. Honestly she reminded me of relatives on my mom’s side and most of the outside stuff never really occurred to me as something to pick on them about. (I wasn’t a saint, I called a guy at school ‘Fish’ with everyone else based on, we thought, his appearance, and I was very quick NOT to talk to a girl named Gaylene that my little brother somehow found grace for.)
So we’re sitting there on the bus together and I’m trying to get her to talk to me. I’m trying to be funny, trying to get her to smile and she mostly just kept shrinking into her coat like a turtle in it’s shell. I started asking her about boyfriends and would nudge her with my elbow every time it looked like she might be close to saying something. I laughed at my own jokes thinking it might prime the pump and she’d join in. She didn’t. When we finally got to school and the bus reached the bus yard and parked everyone started filing out and she jumped up and joined the line up.
Just before I got up one of the older guys jumped into the seat with me and started laying a pounding on me. Thigh, should, thigh, thigh, shoulder and then smashing me against the window. He told me he saw how I’d been picking on the little girl that had been sitting with me. He told me if I thought I was so tough I should try picking on him.
Have I ever mentioned before that I’m allergic to pain?
I was too stunned to say a word. He hit me once more for good measure and then got off the bus with his posse looking positively holy and righteous.
And I just sat there wondering what the hell had just happened. And I thought a prayer of giving up on God. I decided if that’s how God let people be treated who tried to be nice to people then I was done and he could get the job done without me. My mind could not conceive how a just god could possibly let a guy who had never said a good word to this little girl beat the crap out of me because it was inconceivable to his wee brain that I might’ve been being nice to her. If that was the kind of score keeper god was, I was finished. And I gave up on God again.
Of course I wasn’t very committed to giving up. Another test would come up that I forgot to study for or I’d pray for a teacher to be sick so the assignment I hadn’t finished wouldn’t be due for another day or some other personal crisis would lead me back to giving god one more chance…
…to be continued…
EXTRA: Big shout out to the brother of Cracked Virtue and his beautiful wife on the birth of their firstborn, a son! I’m sure L can hardly wait for production to start on brother 1.0 !