Someone asked me this question: “After everything you’ve been through, do you still believe in God?” Whew, that’s a loaded topic. Kinda top heavy. I’m not sure how to answer you but I’ll try my best. Forgive me if I stutter and stumble. Deep breath. Here we go.
I believe in a greater power, and I call that power God. I identify with most Christian beliefs, but I don’t subscribe to a particular doctrine or dogma. I don’t limit myself to a single system of belief because there is so much to learn from others and each system, within or outside of Christianity, is guided by this greater power. Yes, the names we use vary, and the stories we tell differ but in the end, most religions, centre around a singular belief.
That belief, in one word, is love. I believe that God, or whatever name you choose, is an entity driven by compassion and grace. It is a companion that walks with us through the hard times. It celebrates with us in the good times. It helps us when we ask but not always in the ways we expect. Its ways are mysterious, and I’ll never understand how, or why, it does what it does but I do know it loves me enough to never leave.
Even when I leave, when I walk away, God stays close by and will always be there when I call. In that absolute certainty, I find comfort because nothing about my life has been safe or certain. I walk on shaky ground that brings me to my knees more often than not, and I need more than a hand up. I need someone, or something, to kneel next to me and keep me company.
It’s a big ask and I’m fortunate enough to have many people who are willing to try. However, there are experiences we’ll never fully understand until we’ve been through them ourselves and I don’t want you to understand what this is like. I want you to stay standing because the thought of you hurting is too much.
God doesn’t suffer as we do so when he gets on his knees next to me, I know he’s safe and that means I can let go. For me, there’s comfort in being able to let go and lean on someone, or something, that’s bigger, more powerful than what I’m facing. The love, in that moment, is greater than any I’ve ever experienced, and it gives me enough strength to stand back up.
Well, seven out of ten times at least.
To be honest with you, talking about this makes me very nervous. Too many times, when people talk about their faith it comes across as aggressive and manipulative. It’s a recruitment campaign that sounds more like a sales pitch than a genuine exchange of feelings and beliefs. It’s repulsive even though it’s trying to be inclusive and I don’t want you to feel excluded.
I grew up in the church, my dad’s a pastor, but I left several years ago. I have many reasons for leaving and maybe I’ll talk about that sometime if I can find the right words. Despite being gone for so long, when I see some of my friends from church they ask me, “What do we have to do to get you back?” I recently bought a car, and the salesperson asked me the same thing only they wanted my ass in a car seat, not a pew.
When asked to talk about my faith I hesitate because I don’t want to sound like a used car salesman. I want our interactions to be pure and untainted by ulterior motives. If it comes up organically then great! Let’s share our beliefs because I’m interested in your experiences with a greater power, faith, or religion. I think we have so much to offer each other, but I want to do it in a way that fuels a relationship and kindles a bond.
Does that make sense?
I’m now realizing that some of you might be new, and there are some gaps I need to fill in. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. My kidneys were damaged by “medical misadventure” and they never recovered. We were told that they would shut down completely when I hit puberty and they were right.
By the time I was twelve, I had been spending more time in the hospital than at home with my family. I remember one morning, I woke up feeling awful and I told my mom, “I think I need to go home now.” She told me I was home and I said, “No Mom, the real one.”
From the age of twelve to seventeen, I think I spent a grand total of thirteen months at home with my family. The rest of the time was whiled away inside of BC’s Children’s Hospital. Surgeries, procedures, treatments of all sorts. My medical team did everything they could to keep me alive and despite their best efforts, I still died multiple times. They brought be back! Over and over again. They fought and we prayed.
Like I said, my dad’s a pastor and God, religion, was a huge part of my upbringing. The solution to every problem started with one sentence, “Let’s pray about it.” Given that most of the situations we found ourselves in were life and death? Prayer was one of the few things we could do too, hopefully, encourage a positive outcome.
It’s no wonder people ask me if I still believe in God because, when so much bad happens, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a God at all. In those moments, when there’s no light to be found, it feels like God is a fairytale or, worse, he’s just too busy to care. Those moments also rekindle an age-old question: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? I have no answer to that but when it’s my time to stand before God, you bet I’m asking.
I could lie to you and tell you that my faith never wavered but you’d see through it in a second and I respect you too much. Of course, my faith faltered. I’d even say it was shattered! My faith was tested and I was found wanting. Keeping the faith isn’t easy and sometimes it’s damn near impossible.
Several years ago, when my second kidney transplant failed, I couldn’t bring myself to pray. I couldn’t talk to God. I couldn’t look at him without wanting to spit. I couldn’t be in his presence or welcome him into my home. I felt anger and betrayal. If God was a physical entity, I would’ve happily punched him over and over until my hands bled. I called God every name you could think of and then I made up some new ones.
Here’s the thing, I never questioned whether or not God was real. I know God is real because I died and God was there when I crossed over. I felt him. I heard his voice. I was on the other side of life and God was there, waiting for me, and I’ve never felt so safe, loved, or cared for in my life. Nothing will ever convince me that God isn’t real because he was there when I died and he told me it was time to go back.
I’ve never doubted his existence, but I have doubted his love for me. When my life fell apart, I couldn’t see how how a God of love could let this happen. I hated him for it! I hated him for sending me back to this life, this body. It would be so much easier if I didn’t know he was real. Knowing he’s real, knowing he could do something, but feeling like he’s abandoned me? That’s devastating.
My heart was empty. I was alone. I was on my knees, and no one could be there with me. Except, I looked over and God was kneeling next to me. We didn’t talk for a long time. There was too much pain and words can’t heal everything. We stayed in the silence for days, months. He let me grieve, and he let me be angry. He stayed there with me until I realized he hadn’t abandoned me.
It wasn’t a lightning bolt moment and there weren’t angels singing somewhere in the distance. I simply said, “I hate you.” God nodded and told me it was okay. We stayed together in that silence and that’s all I needed. That’s what God is for me. A companion. A friend. A confidant. My one safe place in a life that’s been anything but safe.
I don’t talk about my relationship with God very often because it’s so deeply personal. It’s sacred ground that I fiercely protect because without it, I feel lost and scared. I need this one safe space more than I need food or air. I need to believe in a greater power, regardless of its name, because life is too hard and too painful to go through it without the hope of something better.
I hope I answered your question without stumbling too much.