If there is a God….
To be truthful, that’s not exactly what she wrote. Her precise words were “If there is a god, or some form of higher power….”. but when I read it, I knew exactly what she meant. For all of her artsy, adopted bohemian ways, she was – at least at her core – a Midwestern girl with Midwestern sensibility and a rudimentary understanding of how things worked based in the knowledge that corn did not just grow in rows naturally. Someone had to put it there. The question – regarding the corn rows or the interplanetary balance of gravity and inertia – remained the same. Who?
“If there is a god, or some form of higher power….” It might seem like innocuous wondering, but in reality, herein lay her dilemma. If there was a higher power, then He was real, no matter if you called Him God of the Universe or the Universe itself. In the past, He’d gone so far as to refer to himself as obliquely as “I Am”. Surely a God that vague would not be offended at a newbie getting His name wrong. She was not overly worried about getting His name right. She was tremendously concerned with getting her stuff right.
“If there is a god, or some form of higher power….” She then went on to hypothesize how this or that would be different based on that initial variable – the existence of all she had doubted for so long. Surely, based on her precise calculations, on her experiences, on her fears and doubts and storm filled relationships, He didn’t exist, or if he existed, surely he didn’t care. But what if He did. What if He did exist? If He existed….surely He cared.
Those who cared before had been far and few in between. They were there, to be sure – bright spots on a dark timeline - but they weren’t always there. What was always there was the nagging pain. Who was always there were the stone throwers, ridiculers, nay-sayers and tongue-waggers. They varied in degree of intensity, but they never really went away.
“If there is a god, or some form of higher power….” She knew she wasn’t the first to ask, nor was it the first time she’d asked. If He’s real, He must be asked it a million times a day. If He’s not real, the questions probably collect in the dead question file somewhere in the great beyond, she mused, filed between “Tree falls in uninhabited forest” and the chicken or the egg conundrum. Everyone has asked it at some point….but she’d met a few over the years who claimed to have gotten a response. It made her wonder.
“If there really is a God…”. It’s a fascinating question – one at least as intriguing in the asking as the answering. For most people, the answer is a relief. With the answer comes finality. If He is as they say He is, then all sorts of behavior and attitudes and hurts are open for review. If He isn’t – isn’t how they say He is, or isn’t at all – then none of our behaviors, attitudes or hurts are open for review…but neither are anyone else’s. Their selfish actions are as valid as her inner pain, and who’s to say they’re wrong? Her? On what authority? His? For the broken and disenfranchised, the answer to the question begs to be yes.
Authority is beckoned from the difficult portions of our lives. If there is no Authority, then there is no justice, and all that is done to us is fair. She knew enough to know this could not be how life was meant to be lived – every man or woman for him or herself, to the victors go the spoils, and let the losers in life be happy in their place, because all was fair in love and war and there wasn’t much else to think about.
She could not accept this unilateral coexistence of hurters and hurting. There must be some right somewhere – if not in a man’s laws, than surly on his heart. Surely those who had persecuted her over the years knew in their innermost being that it was wrong. After all, whether immediately or after the fact, she had become very good at recognizing the wrongs she so easily generated for others if she was not careful, and she did not think it okay in her life either.
Life and living cried out for justice, so it must exist. Didn’t the transcendence of the desire give it a credence all it’s own? No one doubted thirst or hunger – surely justice ranks near those in the list of things longed for. Life had to be more than equal choices. It had to be choices and consequences…and, of course, that would require Someone to handle the administration of it all.
She reflected on her pain-givers over a chipped coffee mug. No, their selfishness, as natural as it came, wasn’t not to be equated with the pain it caused her….with the blood it had drawn from the surface of her soul. They had caused it, and she lived with the effects. “If there is a God….” Surely He had something loud and emphatic to say about all this.
If there really is a God, then there really is an authority. This ought to be the most comforting or most frightening thought a human mind could conjure. There really is a higher power. Someone for them to answer to. Someone to make it right, no matter who screwed it up. Someone to avenge his elect. She wondered for a moment if the election was over or not. She was pondering a write-in campaign for herself.
She’d doubted Him for a long time - perhaps never really believed at all – but the last few trips around the sun, her rueful doubt had set like concrete in the forms of her experiences. To believe would be much harder than doubting, because doubting had become second nature. By this time, she had built up serious equity in her doubt. To let it go would surely be to suffer loss in her accounts labeled ‘reason’ and ‘radical self reliance’. At the same time, she knew that keeping those accounts as full as she did was never all that satisfying for her. It was as if her natural longing was outpacing her natural mind.
So she said it. She said it in jest, in a perky little electronic missive, but she said it nevertheless…and like most of the rest of us, she didn’t fully realize the weight of her words. It was the question that poked a hole in the levee of all she thought she thought…the one that held all she wondered at bay.
Maybe she wasn’t all that self-sufficient. Maybe those around her were not sufficient at all. Maybe she asked if He was real because secretly, behind the dark glasses and bright persona, she was praying that He would hear her questions and come racing forward to defend both of them against the onslaught of her doubts.
To begin a statement with “if there is…” is tantamount to hoping it’s true…because short of hoping it’s true, there’s very little reason to say it at all.
If there is a God, anyway. I think she’s stumbled onto the original prayer.