I remember the last promise I made to god. I hadn’t been to church in a couple of years and prayer had become a thing I did on occasion, briefly, and always with the feeling that I hadn’t earned god’s attention. My heart wasn’t in it. For some reason I believed I first needed to set aside time for god; lay out all my sins and vow to start over and make it right again. I kept putting it off because I was certain this time it would be harder. These thoughts only made a fleeting appearance at random, inconvenient times. And the days go by so quickly.
A belief in god walks hand in hand with superstition. If I pray before I pull out of my driveway and ask for god’s protection I will be less likely to die in a car accident. That kind of thing. Christians do know that god doesn’t work this way. It contradicts the concept that god is in control and everything works out according to his plan. Why bother praying over something that will happen anyway?
But it’s about choosing to let god be in control. Free will is the ability to choose our own path over god’s path, but if we pray and trust god to lead us then his will is what becomes reality. So it’s reasonable to believe that if the car accident is going to happen, it’s better that it happens because god planned it rather than because we put ourselves above god and it happened without his direction. Bad things will happen, but if you are right with god at least they will be the right bad things.
(Don’t think about it too hard.)
When you believe in god but you have been living according to your own free will, you may feel a little paranoid about the negative things in your life. Would it be different if I were trusting god right now? My faith was slipping. For a Christian, that is still a long way from doubt. It’s guilt. That’s where I was in my walk with god.
I was eleven weeks pregnant at the time. After several years of infertility it had finally happened- and I was a wreck. We were waiting to tell most people after week thirteen and I was sure something was wrong. It was a Thursday afternoon when the doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat. They only performed sonograms on Mondays and Wednesdays, and since Monday was Memorial Day I would have to wait until the following Wednesday to see if everything was okay. The doctor was not concerned and saw no reason to go any other route.
Well, you can imagine. Why didn’t I go to the hospital or something? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what I did do. I prayed. I finally made time for god and I found faith again. And I promised god that whatever happened, I would never neglect that faith again.
My daughter will be eight in December.
But I didn’t keep my promise. In fact, in spite of the following year being possibly the best of our lives, it was also the time when my belief in god completely unraveled. Why? Because of my very true intentions of keeping it. I went searching for god in ways I never had before. I wanted to know everything I could know about god. I wanted to erase every bit of doubt that had nagged me and to become the Christian I used to be. And I think you know the rest.
Three years had passed between the time I made that commitment to god and the time I thought my daughter might have a disability. I was still in that in-between place where old habits die hard and the feeling of lost was stronger than the feeling of found. I remember lying in the same bed in the same room and thinking about praying. It was silly. I couldn’t do it. Nothing about prayer felt real anymore and I knew I would only be talking to myself. The notion lasted less than a minute.
I had no guilt about the promise I had broken; no lingering questions about whether or not god was really there….but, for a moment I did wonder if that was why this was happening. The thought came and went. God, who didn’t exist, was punishing me for breaking my promise.
I had the same feeling the first time I wrote the words “I don’t believe in god.” I thought I might be struck dead. I stared at the computer screen as if I had done the impossible, or at the very least I was living dangerously on the edge. I knew it wasn’t logical. But the superstition remained far longer than god himself.
Sometimes I forget how long that time lasted because it’s so easy now. I have had worse tragedies strike and I haven’t thought of praying even once. These days I feel nothing about dismissing god. I don’t think anything will happen to me if I insult him. I don’t feel as if someone else can hear my thoughts or see what I do in secret; and I don’t worry about whether the hard times that happen in life are because of god’s plan or because of my own mistakes. They just happen because that is part of life.
The longer we live the more we experience both the good and the bad, and with no promise of equal distribution. Which was always true with or without god.
I do remember what it felt like, though. I recognize it in others who are existing in that in-between place now. It’s all habit and superstition. Like the way I still make sure to blow out birthday candles with just one breath, or briefly consider turning right or left when a black cat runs out in front of me.
I lived with god for a long time, so I expect now and then I will stumble into some nostalgia from our past relationship. I can even look back and smile at the good times. But like any other relationship, eventually the ghosts disappear and we do move on. Superstition and all.