“God has a plan.”
“Let go, let God.”
“Leave it in God’s hands.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”
These phrases, and so many more, make me feel…twitchy. I know that most people mean well when they say things like this. But in my reality, none of them, not a single one, is helpful. Most of them have done me much more harm than good.
I think I started going to church when I was about seven. At the time, my father had not yet done anything that most people would have considered abusive, I was certainly being groomed. My father would watch me in the bathtub. There were no locks on either the bedroom or the bathroom doors. My father dominated my world.
And I started going to church and heard the message that god the father loved me and ruled over my life. God saw everything and god had a plan for my life.
My young mind had no frame of reference to understand that god was somehow different from my father. And the way god was presented to me, there was no difference between my father and god. There was not supposed to be a difference.
My father used his power and position to control me. He had a plan for me. It just worked to his advantage that the church was giving me the same message. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. I know men and women who have been abused by priests, teachers, school administrators, family members, and sometimes family members who are members of the clergy. I think we all got this message. God was eerily similar to our abusers. And we were not encouraged to question our abusers or how god was being presented.
God became the divine child abuser. Everything that happened to us was from god. God had a plan for us. God gave us this burden and also ordained that god’s own son suffered and was crucified.
If I stay on that point and think it through, I get more than a little anxious. God, in his majesty and infinite wisdom, came to a young woman and impregnated her. (In abuse circles, there is another word for this kind of interaction. Most people would call it rape. There were many traditions of the time in which stories of gods coming down and raping young women were common.) The young woman has the child, and he grows up and is sinless and perfect.
So, then god in god’s infinite wisdom and as part of his plan, sets the stage for his son, his flesh and blood, to be killed. The reason for this? To allow god to forgive humankind it’s sins. That way, god can continue to love his people.
Does anybody see a flaw in this logic?
I gobbled this information up like candy. God loved me, but had given everything to me, including my father and the abuse he was inflicting on me. God had planned his son’s death and planned my pain.
With this type of thinking going on inside my head, it is still a bit of a mystery why I got into seminary. I think I went primarily because I had questions to ask and I wanted answers. God wasn’t talking to me, but I hoped one of my learned professors would have an answer. They didn’t. I asked. I talked to them privately. I asked questions in class I’m pretty sure many of them wished I hadn’t. But they listened. Some listened more intently than others, but none of them ever dismissed me.
As Jennifer described in her post “My God is a Messy God,” my god is also a messy god. Most days, I think my god is just a mess.
Even though I do not go to church now, some of my greatest supporters and friends are part of the church. I met with one of them recently. He always says that he’s rooting for me. He has always believed in me. At our last meeting, he told me I was fierce. He said that all I really needed to do was survive the abuse, but I’ve done so much more. He said I listen to other survivors and try to teach others how to spot abuse and how to stop it. He said I never give up.
For me, that is where god is. God is in the struggle. God is with us as we struggle to survive and in moments when we overcome. God is in the surviving and rejoices when we thrive.
God does not want us to suffer. God doesn’t give us these struggles. Life gives us struggles and god is the cheerleader encouraging us to go on when it seems too hard and painful.
I have always felt that heaven and hell are right here and now. It all depends on how we treat each other and ourselves. It is a goal to strive for and something to live through.
We all have scars and pain, but not because god wants us to. God wants us to be well and happy, respectful of others and ourselves, always striving for the inclusion of everyone.
People may be sacrificed in life by other people, but for me, god cannot be behind that. I hope you have found supporters in your life like I have. I hope you know that god did not cause your pain. Your pain was caused by a selfish person who had no thought of anyone but him or herself. The pain was also probably continued by people trapped in a system that doesn’t know how to deal with abuse realistically. It is not your fault.
I hope you have found some peace and healing. If you haven’t found it yet, please keep looking and searching. You deserve it. You are not alone.