Monday, June 20, 2005
on father's day.
"Sing to God, sing praise to His name,
extol Him who rides on the clouds�
His name is the LORD�
and rejoice before Him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."
When my father died about 16 years ago, someone had written these verses in a sympathy card that was given to me. I don't remember who the card was from, or much of anything else about the card, except for that verse. At the time, I read those verses and it made a small part of me want to trust in God, to have hope. To the mind of a kid raised in the church, a PK (not player killer) weaned on Bible stories of happy endings, I was ready for a miraculous intervention right then and there - if Christ himself came down from Heaven on a cloud and raised my father from the dead, I would not have been surprised. Seriously.
What a difference sixteen Father's Days later makes. And I felt last year is the same as now. Random thought: nobody is born cynical; life just changes some people that way.
Try as I might, Father's Day is usually the nadir of every year and it is this day that I often feel the furtherest away from God... when I feel the most removed from the being whom I'm supposed to believe embodies love, justice, mercy, and righteousness. But suddenly, unexpectedly, and unexplainably depriving a wife, a son, and a daughter of a husband and father, a good man who himself had dedicated his life to serving God? Was it loving, just, merciful, and right?
The darkness within laughs, snickers, and screams. It also babbles in Putonghua and Nihongo.
wo bu zhidao keyi xin nage zhenli. taihen shinjiru.
I've heard all the standard and pithy replies before... sorry; don't worry, life goes on; there's always hope for the future. My mind can intellectualize all the typical theological, Christian-ese responses... God is in control; God is good; Heaven is a better place than here. But none of those things that were said to me, no matter how well meaning the intentions behind them, ever made me feel better or gave me the peace I needed.
I admit it, a fatherless life has hardened my outlook somewhat... it's marred my innocence. My off-beat sense of humor, laidback manner, and a soft-spot for children are the only things that smooth out a few of the rough edges of the jagged piece of rock that passes as my heart, maybe because things didn't turn out quite how a 10 year old boy thought they'd turn out. There were no mentors, or substitute fathers to speak of, though there were occasional visits from a collection of uncles, both blood and unrelated, but they had their own sons to tend to. And no matter how much I prayed, God didn't come from Heaven to help me with my homework, take me to ball games on the weekend, cheer for me when I fought in tournaments, teach me to drive a car, cook dinner when Mom couldn't, or juggle my finances.
I was left to figure all that out on my own.
Yet despite it all, I still want to trust and believe, because the alternative sucks - a Godless world that's even more hopeless and depressing than I think it is now. I try my best to walk the path of a true disciple, of self-denial and faith. But it's hard. As a child, when I prayed before going to bed, "God, I believe in you... watch over me", I never could have imagined how difficult it is.
I was asked by someone at my church to share in service about God's grace, but I turned it down... because I knew that on this day, I couldn't do it sincerely. I'd rather not speak than be a hypocrite who stands up and says, "God has given me everything I've prayed for! My life is the best-est, yay!" when I don't feel it's true.
I ended up not attending church. Better to meditate on things at home than go to church and either, 1) spread my bad mood; or 2) be an object of pity.
One rather odd ephiphany I had while reading Silence is that every person who believes in God has their breaking point. Scripture says that God does not allow us to be afflicted with anything that we cannot bear, but if people are honest with themselves, I think everybody is just one incident away from questioning what they believe is true. The range of What if... ? scenarios that happen these days are sometimes horrific beyond belief... and even if they don't happen to me, they do happen to someone.
Only some very rare and exceptional people can withstand such trials.
Some days are bad days, some days are good days... June of every year always has one of my bad days. Having faith sometimes means a lot of soul-searching and wrestling with personal issues. Maybe that's why part of me is a little sympathetic to anybody who is says they're agnostic.
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