Sunday, October 11, 2009

A New Poll



I'm not really just curious ~ I'm DEEPLY curious.

And I'll probably write more about it.

But for now, do me a favor and try to jam your complex and paradoxical thoughts into one or more of the little boxes in the poll to your right.

34 comments:

Songbird said...

For me, it was not as simple as feeling God was absent or distant. What really happened was I felt isolated, like the only person in the world who had experienced my particular loss. (This was clearly not true, but the nature of the loss was such that it was hard to connect with people in similar situations.) I felt punished and abandoned by a God who I knew existed and who seemed to love others, and that just made it feel worse. In addition to the actual loss of the baby and the dreams of life with three little boys, a life that would never be, I lost my particular understanding of God and human goodness and how the two intertwine.
Now, I would say seventeen years later, the theological wilderness through which I wandered eventually brought me to a deeper faith and a closer connection to God. But at the time, and for a long time after, it seemed clear God favored other people for no reason I could understand.

Gannet Girl said...

Thank you, Songbird, for those eloquent words.

Jennifer said...

My greatest losses (a baby, a parent) both took place during my years as a pastor. In neither case did I have any permission to grieve. God felt largely inaccessible to me, and the spoken expectation was just the opposite, as though I could meet my own needs and be pastor to myself.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

My biggest loss was not the loss of a person. I'm guessing that is what you're asking, but my biggest loss and the hardest grieving task I have ever faced was the death of my dream to have children. There were days I believed that God had taken this from me simply because it was the thing I wanted most and because childlessness was the fate I feared the most and had been all my adult life. We first started dealing with our condition the year Susan Smith drowned her children, and I had intense anger that God would give children to someone like that and not to me. I wanted to know why such things happened. I wanted there to be a lesson or a purpose. I couldn't fathom life being so arbitrary and unfair. For a long time, I believed that God allowed the infertility so that we could focus on our art, but that made my difficulties getting fiction published just another instrument of the pain.

I think if God had not been so real to me before this experience, I would have left him because of it. But in spite of the great pain, I continued to believe that life would be worse and make even less sense without God than it did with him.

As for the lesson I was hoping for, well, I don't look for that anymore. Now I think that many things about this earthly stage of our life don't make sense. I think the condition that prevented our having children was probably brought about by an environmental cause that we will never be able to pinpoint, and it's just part of the sad and damaged condition of this world. And I believed that God grieved for us as much or perhaps more than we grieved for ourselves.

Sorry for the dissertation. As you know well, grief is not a simple process.

Gannet Girl said...

Jennifer, that sounds like a nightmare.

Our EP told me that she wished I was already pastor to a congregation when our son died because, she said, "you would have been completely embraced."

It sounds as if that was not your experience.

Gannet Girl said...

Ruth, I so appreciate your bringing to the table another experience of loss, and one so often overlooked.

Hope said...

I've been sitting here trying to figure out what my biggest loss has been. I picked the one where I really had to make a decision whether God was good or wretched because it was a turning point in my faith. It was where I stopped having to figure it out and just go on blind faith that God was good even when life was wretched,even when I couldn't make any sense out of life.

Five years ago my brother in law was accidentally killed by a friend in a relative's yard and left there on the front lawn. For some bizarre and unknown reason the police let all the family past the yellow tape where his body, which was covered up on the ground, was so we could get to the house.

We were on welfare at the time and using a food bank to feed our three teenagers. It was wretched. No one in the family knew our need, our shame was great.

Since that day, whenever I hear of a tragic death I always think to myself, "their nightmare is just beginning."

Karen and Joe said...

I love that you are doing this poll. I also like reading the comments. I never get used to the suffering in the world. I hope a lot of people respond, because I am very curious about this. Being from the evangelical community, it is a bit forbidden to discuss such things! So I count on you to do it! Ha!

Gannet Girl said...

Hope, thank you for sharing your difficult story.

I was thinking tonight that one reason people repeat that awful "I can't imagine" mantra is because they really don't want to imagine what is about to unfold over the long term.

Gannet Girl said...

Karen, I am very interested in this from a ministerial as well as a personal perspective. I think I am going to write about it in some detail but for now -- well, I commented somewhere else that my brother had looked into a (pretty evangelical) church some months ago and when he tried to discuss our family stuff in a luncheon with the pastor, the pastor said "I don't go there." My brother lost interest pretty quick.

Anonymous said...

My biggest loss - being rejected by my life partner after more than twenty years of marriage after being told just hours before how much he loved me and looked forward to our partnership in the future. Completely unexpected and sudden and done in a very callous (and cowardly) way. I felt/thought (and sometimes still do) that God has created me to be a joke...and is laughing at this grief.

circlibmm said...

My greatest loss was not a death, but involved someone I love being falsely accused of a crime and going to jail. (It's a nightmare that isn't over yet.) When the crisis first hit, God absolutely vanished for me. After a while, I understood God to be real but remote and unknowable. I'm moving slowly back toward feeling a connection with the Divine but it's taking a lot of work.

Gannet Girl, thank you so much for your words here. You have been in my prayers for many months.

Virginia said...

No god in my world, replaced with a understanding of a connection to "all that is" and a personal knowing that as I have experienced many lifetimes, and of those closest to me, we have been together many times, we will be together again, in different ways. An "other than us" god isn't part of my reality.

Peace,
Viginia

Mompriest said...

In all honesty...I wonder if there is a God, more so than I wonder if God is near or not. Because if there is a God, then I trust that God is near to me (and others) and guiding me (us). But if there is not, then my/our hope for such is just an illusion.

Mostly I hope for a God that overcomes evil, and I see very little of that these days. Mostly, I think, evil is prevailing.

Perhaps, though, that is more of a commentary on humanity than God, the evil prevailing....

And on and on my thoughts go....

Gannet Girl said...

Anonymous, thank you for articulating that Big Question so many of us have for God:

Who ARE you?

Gannet Girl said...

Circlibmm, thank you for another reminder that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, I know a little about that one, too. Thank you for the prayers.

Gannet Girl said...

And Virginia, thank you for the reminder that God as Other, or God at All, is not a universal given.

Gannet Girl said...

Mompriest. Your quesions = wisdom.

A friend and I having the theodicy discussion last week could not come to any resolution about whethr God is either powerful or compassionate. The only thing upon which we could settle is that there is suffering.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

when i was younger the man i was going to marry, killed himself... and i hollered, i yelled at the night sky... god was nowhere for me. then i went to seminary... i was determined to hunt god down... whatever. 18 years later.... i'm out of a not-so-hot marriage, out of my walled-off, still grieving self that i had become. it took a long time to navigate my grief... and i, like songbird articulated... felt i was the only one experiencing it or who had experienced it. after all we weren't married... so folks thought i'd get over it. move on...

finally, new life has come. and i've found the resurrection we preach of so often, to be a reality in this life, not just something for the future. i think of lazarus being unbound... grief binds. it takes awhile to be unbound. when i was bound, i couldn't find god.. but that didn't mean god was not there.

Gannet Girl said...

Hot Cup, there is a young lady in my life who has had the beginning part of your experience. 18 years from now, who knows, but if she is reading this . . . I hope often for love and light in her future.

I'd be interested in your take on the book Surviving Ben's Suicide, which the author wrote 15 years after her college bf's suicide.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I am going through yet another time of huge loss and trouble in my pathetic life and once again, God is NOWHERE. Zippo. I have come to the realization that my experience of God has been much like my experience in many friendships and relationships: where I have everything invested and there is nothing there.

If what I am going through now results in my son being hurt any more than he has been, then I don't honestly know what I will do.

It seems, like contrary men, God is only there when I don't need him.Or her. Or whatever it is.

Beach Walkin said...

On one hand... during my losses... choosing to take my father off of dialysis which led to his death, my husband's mother's suicide, my husband going to war, this whole being a pastor thing... I often feel like God is absent... or far away. I go through the motions... prayer... God talk... doing the stuff pastors/Christians do... looking for God at work... but usually it doesn't help too much. I feel alone.

On the other hand... when other people experience losses... I can see God at work in a lot of places. I can even see God at work in me. I can articulate how I see God at work... and people can hear it.

I guess there is a place in me... that is closed off... so that I don't let God in to help me... unless someone else is being helped by God at the same time.

I think I'm going to have to ponder this... because if this is really true... then I'm probably not such a hot pastor... because what I'm believing/feeling... and what I'm saying are two different things... which is hypocritical.

Rev SS said...

For me, God is such a mysterious "other" that I don't find myself thinking about near or far; my personal losses and "death" and "resurrection" experiences, and those of friends and parishoners have convinced me that God is real and still in the business of giving life and love ... even tho' the being "known" and loved by close human friends I would wish for has always escaped me.

Rev SS said...

... and especially even tho' I hate the cruelty and evil that God's gift of free will allows to exist

Widening Circles said...

My father died in June, after a final illness of a couple of months, a final month in the hospital, and a final week in hell, if I do say so. I have a "finger rosary," a remnant of my RC days, which consists of 10 wooden beads on an elastic string with a small cross attached. If you slip it over your middle finger, you can clasp the cross in your palm. I kept in my pocket during the day and I fell asleep holding that cross many nights including the entire last week; when I woke up again it would still be there. I'll grant that this will sound childish, but it felt like holding hands with God, and I needed that.

I didn't pray rosary prayers. I wasn't capable of any sustained prayer. I think I must have prayed for my parents, both of them, but I don't remember doing so. The only prayer I remember is for God's presence, and that one expressed not in words. I have no words to explain what I believe about God and suffering, either, but I was able to trust in that presence.

What I have to say about this experience is that as sad and intensely horrible as it was, it wasn't a tragedy, so maybe it isn't in the same category as the things others have mentioned. Although I am definitely still grieving, the most intense part was relatively compressed. My dad was 85 years old, he was a good guy, he lived a good life, he loved his family and his family loved him, nobody lives forever. I walked through it with my brother and my sisters. And life goes on.

Anonymous said...

Two griefs at two ages and two reactions. My father died of cancer when I was eleven. There was no talk of God and no mention of my dad after he died. I didn't know it then, but there were reasons in my mother's past that she reacted as she did. But somehow, somewhere, the passages that spoke to God caring especially for the widows and fatherless were a promise to me. Yes, a horrible thing had happened, but God cared especially for me. No idea how I found or who gave me the passages.

A second loss was the ending of a 29 year marriage. When I was in the shock parts, I really didn't have a sensation of God but was just surviving. In quieter moments, I knew that God was present and cared for me. I count it as a huge grace that I had continued with the same spiritual director for nine years (at that time -- now 14 years). Here was someone knowing my story, hearing the new stories and holding me in prayer. I knew God was present. I owe much to the Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Too long, but there you go.

Nancy, a lurker

Gannet Girl said...

PG, I suppose it seems pointless, but I am praying with you and your wonderful son. I do, sadly, know that nowhere zippo feeling.

Gannet Girl said...

Beach Walkin, I am pondering many of the same things.

Gannet Girl said...

So many baffling questions, SS.

Gannet Girl said...

WC, there was a wonderful column on prayer beads, last summer I think, over at The Prior's Column.

Gannet Girl said...

Nancy, I always love hearing from someone who had found possibilities in The Exercises.

Jan said...

My biggest loss was my mother dying in 1992. That loss brought me to the realization of God, the possibility of faith and prayer. Also depression ensued for years.

I cannot imagine losing a child. You are still in my prayers.

Gannet Girl said...

Jan, thanks for what you've said. I'm interested that the loss of your mother BROUGHT you to the possibility of faith. Qute the opposite experience in my family of origin.

Stratoz said...

I was here a few days ago. How do I answer this...? I can't remember?

When I imagined it. It was dark and I was alone. Nobody was there.

Then I imagined some more. And I was not alone.

It took me well over 30 years to imagine.

What did I lose? again I can only imagine.

sorry about the vagueness.