396. God is kind of an asshole (part 1)
Yeah, I haven’t been writing in a while. Life has been… overfull with stuffs. I hope to get to the last installment of the Language is Fuzzy series soon, but there’s something more pressing on my mind right now.
My girlfriend and I broke up recently and due to some of the circumstances surrounding that breakup, I’ve been feeling something pretty heavy lately. Put bluntly, I feel like God is kind of an asshole.
But let me backtrack a bit to give that statement some context.
There are many things I learned from my most recent romantic relationship and one of them is this: you can speak about the truth of your own experience even when you know that your truth is not the other’s truth.
For example, my ex has lived through some pretty shitty life experiences and because of this, sometimes she could be really critical of me (often for good cause). Now our relationship was one where we always tried our best to talk everything out, and I mean everything. And so when she would be critical of me, we’d talk about the criticism as well as what might be going on behind the criticism (sometimes an artifact of earlier life experiences).
I’ve written before about how much of my life has been one where I’ve focused solely on the needs of other people. That tendency is still with me (thankfully, to a lesser degree) and so in these times when my ex and I would talk about some issue she had with me, it was really easy for me to just focus on her side. It was much harder to talk about how I was experiencing the issue.
Internally, I’d think: “well, yeah, what she’s saying about me does sting a bit, but I know that it actually comes out of this or that experience from her past, and so I should just focus on her and keep my hurt feelings to myself.”1 And one of the cool things about our relationship was that she didn’t want me to do that – she wanted me to express myself and what I was going through, even when they didn’t line up with where she was at.
And that brings me back to feeling like God is kind of an asshole.
- I was taught that God wanted me to deny myself and my feelings
- I was taught that my desires were shameful to God
- I was taught that if I would just do all the right things and not think/feel the wrong things, that God would make everything work out
And I feel like God is kind of an asshole because all these things turned out to be utterly untrue. Even worse, these untruths played a role in my ex and I breaking up because even though I’ve rejected those teachings a long time ago, their residue is still with me.
Now at this point, I’m tempted to say, “well it was the church that taught me those things, so I should blame the church, not God.”
Yeah, maybe, but it was God’s church and God’s people who taught me, and that suggests that God didn’t care enough about me to intervene. And if that’s the case then yeah, I think I’m totally justified in feeling like God is an asshole.2
But here’s the thing.
The relationship between my ex and I was often at its best when I was able to stay true to myself and say the difficult, honest thing to her. This was really hard to do (again, partly because of what God’s church had taught me) and even though I did my best to pay attention to myself, and she did her best to help, the times when I was able to do this well were too few and far between. And that took a toll on our relationship because when I wasn’t able to connect with and/or express what I was feeling, that would leave her feeling alone.
Robust, loving relationships only happen when and where the people in relationship are able to bring the fullness of themselves to the other, including what feels true to them when they know it may not represent the whole truth of the matter at hand. That’s what it means to show up in a relationship and that’s what ultimately leads to good, healthy, strong, mutually loving interactions.
And so I want to believe that my relationship with God only gets better when I’m able to pay attention to my feelings about God and express them in a way that is raw and real.
And right now, I want to say that I feel like God is an impotent, worthless asshole.
And I’m betting that in hearing me say that, God is overjoyed and thinking, “YES! Randall is finally showing up!”
And God is ecstatic because that’s the only place where true relationship happens.
And that’s ultimately what God wants from and for me, and from and for us all.
Stay tuned for part 2!
As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Thanks for reading!
1 Often, this dismissal of myself was transparent to me – I didn’t even realize I was doing that.
2 I’ve actually moved to a process theology view of God and so I believe that while God did care deeply about me, God actually couldn’t intervene even if God wanted to. But I’m trying to focus on myself and my experiences/feelings in this post so please pardon the theological shorthand. 🙂