Came to Believe

Why did God abandon me? Where is God? I thought as I cried during church yesterday morning.

You might be wondering what a nice Jewish girl like myself was doing in a church on Sunday morning. I guess I’m experimenting, kind of like when I dated boys before figuring out I’m a lesbian. One good thing about my city is that we have a pretty decent LGBT community. Two of my synagogue’s clergymen have been gay and the church my roommate and I attend is an LGBT-affirming church. Reverend Donna can sometimes be spotted with her arm around her wife when she’s not delivering a sermon.

I did not hear a word of Reverend Donna’s sermon yesterday. Wrapped up in my own thoughts, I pondered unanswerable questions while the people around me proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ. Why does God let good things happen to good people? If I’ve had horrible things happen to me, does that mean I’m a bad person? Did I deserve every instance of abuse? Will I remain unforgiven until I forgive? No answers came.

“Hey ‘Sandy,’ it’s Katherine. I feel horrible, I really want to make a bad decision, but I’m calling you first, please call me back if you get this in the next little bit. OK, bye,” went my voicemail on “Sandy’s” cell phone yesterday afternoon. She’s a friend from AA, with some pretty serious sobriety, someone I go to when I’m down in the dumps because she’s big on gratitude, and she can always turn my bad attitude around. She called me back late last night, but I was asleep.

I called Rabbi Courtney, and cried on the phone. She was kind and understanding, (as she always is) and we arranged to meet up at the synagogue tomorrow. “I don’t know how to pray,” I told her. “I don’t even know if God is out there. I feel like He abandoned me. I feel so lost.”

“I think you might need to reevaluate your concept of God. It sounds like you’re clinging to a really old version of God,” Rabbi Courtney said softly. “Maybe it’s time to look for a new version.”

“James” is my sort-of-sponsor, an SOS, if you will. I called him yesterday too, and when he called me back, we spent almost 45 minutes discussing spirituality, religious upbringings, and prayer. The gist of our conversation was that there is no wrong way to pray. He gave me some resources from different spiritual teachers to check out and said he’d see me tonight at the meeting.

“I haven’t prayed in months,” I confessed. “I mean, I say the candle blessings at synagogue, I say the Kiddush, the Hamotzi, all of those, but they’re not the whisperings of my heart I so desperately need God to hear.”

James listened to me ramble about how lost I felt. I haven’t yet told him about my schizoaffective diagnosis, how God sometimes seems as close as the sunshine cat, sometimes as distant as Mars. But I’m sure he’ll understand. I hope he will, anyway.

After our phone conversation, I felt a lot less wound up. I went home (I’d been at my parents’ house to avoid hurting myself), and sat in my backyard looking at the sky. 

And suddenly, the words just came. I humbled myself before God, asked Him to comfort me in this difficult time, thanked him for bringing James into my life, and prayed that I’m not being naive for believing that James truly has my best interests at heart and doesn’t have ulterior motives for wanting to get close to me.

Strangely, I did feel comforted.

That night, I went to an AA meeting in a church. The first time I went to that meeting, I heard a woman’s story that resonated with me immensely. She was bipolar-schizophrenic, and incredibly candid about the path she’d taken that had ultimately landed her with thirty-some-odd years of sobriety. The second time I went to the meeting, I was paranoid, and bolted out of there before the meeting started.

Last night, the meeting was about a book called Came to Believe, an AA book I’d never heard of before. “What’s this book?” I asked my friend B., who was sitting near me.

“It’s about how different AA members came to find God,” he said.

How very apt, I thought.

The first line of the second story we read went, “Before I joined AA, I knew I was going crazy.”

Me too, sister, I mused.

I am still angry. I am still bitter and resentful. The man sitting next to me at the meeting shared that he believed that, “All people are good.” I quietly wrote in my journal that I thought he was full of shit. I copied a quote from the Came to Believe book into my journal, and the man on my other side asked if I’d like to keep the book.

As I was falling asleep last night, I said my own version of the Serenity Prayer to myself. I can’t remember exactly how it went now, but that’s okay. I’m pretty sure God heard me.

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