A Karmic Sandbox (karmasoup) wrote,
A Karmic Sandbox
karmasoup

Hoping for a Sign

ILLUSIONS

My Mom tells a story about being too discontent one miserably hot Minnesota summer day.*

*You might think it can’t get that hot in Minnesota, but you’d be surprised.  I come from Florida, where temps can get up to around 100 – 102°F in the blistering summers, but regularly hover between 97° - 99°F.  In over 30 years, I’ve seen the dog days of Minnesota summers push the mercury past 106°F on multiple occasions.  Fortunately, the Minnesota summer season only lasts a matter of weeks, and the worst of it usually only a few days.  10,000 lakes put out a lot of humidity in the air, too, so Minnesotans tend to complain about the high 60s-low 70s heat index, but that’s nothing compared to the 97% dewpoint the Florida panhandle brings in from the double slap of being sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Gulf.  So we transplants tend to count our blessings.  Usually.


...But this post is not about a comparison of climates between the Southernmost and Northernmost US states.

As the story goes, alone one mid-afternoon some late July or August in her 100+ year old house with no A/C, Mom found herself sticky and sweltering, the mess of a half dozen or more fans she had set up throughout the space only feebly throwing about the muggy atmosphere, which didn’t seem to have much effect.  So, there she sat on her couch with her tongue hanging out, sweating bullets and fanning herself with a flyer, feeling an ugly kind of grumpy.  There was no one around, mind, so it’s not like she was actively griping to anyone in particular, or even out loud at all, but in her head, some version of Yosemite Sam’s mumbled string of inaudible, incoherent obscenities had been playing on loop for a spell.

After a bit of this, there came an abrupt power surge; Mom heard a loud *POP!* — and all the fans blinked out at once.  Just like that — no more wind movement.  The house was suddenly quiet as the grave, while the stuffy, stifling, soggy summer steam converged in on my Mom to envelope her like a blanket of syrup oozing over a smothered stack of pancakes.

In that moment, Mom’s grouchy internal monologue was instantly replaced by a fearful whimper of imploring, apologetic humility.  While desperately trying not to cry, she began to pray.  She begged God to forgive her cantankerous nature in those miserable moments of weakness.  She promised not to take for granted the many wonderful gifts she’d been given, and to be demonstrably grateful for the many creature comforts her privileged life afforded her.

A moment later, the electricity clicked back on, and the hum of the fans whirred once more.

Mom tells this story with a wink and a laugh at herself as an uplifting cautionary tale, of the time she was given a gentle, not-so-subtle reminder we must always remember to show our gratitude, since things could often be so much worse.  Much like the biblical parable of Jonah and the vine, in which the disgruntled prophet became angry and belligerent with God after God had given him a plant to shade him for a day, but sent a worm to eat the plant the next day, and a scorching wind to beat upon Jonah’s head the day after that.  Mom decided then and there she wouldn’t need to be beat over the head to heed God’s reminder of what she’s been given.


I get that it’s important to be grateful.  I know we shouldn’t take what we have for granted.  I understand maintaining humility in our lives helps us to be more loving and kinder toward others who are not as fortunate.  Many a fable has been written with such an advisory theme, and not without just cause.  Humans as an imperfect creature have a natural tendency to remain centrally focused, self-absorbed, and caught up in our own petty desires.  But we as a people can be and do so much better than that, so it’s only right we should make the most of any reminders available to us whenever we need them.

I’m hard pressed, though, to feel good about the notion suggested by Mom’s implication this brown-out was an act of divine intervention.  If that is the case, then she gives deference to the idea that a supreme being who is supposed to be an all-loving father could be content to find an elderly woman in misery and discomfort — albeit, yes, perhaps minor, to some degree, in comparison to the suffering of others around the world — but would respond by twisting the knife to further compound that misery and discomfort.  In order to modify the internal thoughts of a sweet old lady whose life has been spent in a tireless pursuit of everyday ways to better her care for those closest to her and anyone who needs it, this would be the punishment imposed upon a loving mother, a doting grandmother, a dutiful wife, a giving friend, a charitable stranger, and a faithful Christian.

If a parent willingly caused a child to suffer in order to teach that child a lesson, wouldn’t that be considered child abuse?  But if your God does it to you, you should be grateful for the lesson?  I am reminded of how often the kinds of statements made by those who are very religious are almost imperceptible from the excuses one hears from people in abusive relationships made to justify their treatment at the hands of their abusers.




•  Abusers convince their victims they are worthless in order to make them believe they deserve abuse.

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

“Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”


•  Abusers require their victims to show proper respect to the abuser’s higher authority in order to avoid further corrective action.

“If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.”


•  Victims of abuse must always be obedient to their abusers, without question, or suffer the consequences.

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days.”

“Therefore, as you have always obeyed, so now, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning.”

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”

“...retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel.”


•  Abusers make their victims believe only the abusers know what’s best for their victims, and this is how they show they love their victims, whereas total submission from victims to their abusers is how victims show love to their abusers.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.”

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke.”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

“You are my friends if you do what I command.”


•  Abusers convince their victims they cannot escape their abuser, as the abuser knows them better than anyone else, and will always find them.

“For their crime will they escape?  In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!”

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

“For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.”

“While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”


•  Victims of abuse must change their whole way of life to fit in with what the abuser wants and thereby avoid the abuser's wrath.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; do this, and you will live.”

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.



My husband is an atheist.  When I first met him, he considered himself to be a Taoist, thinking of it as more of a philosophy than a religion, but has since shrugged that association off as an unnecessary attachment.  He rejects the commonly held and strongly browbeaten Christian dogma there can be no good without God.

I haven’t quite reached the point of being willing to say there’s no God, but mostly out of sheer stubborn will, at this point, perhaps because the brainwashing of indoctrination that begins in so many homes even before birth is hard to break free from, though I don’t know that I would ever get to that point.  I want to believe there’s a loving God.  And the promise painted in the image of the folk hero represented by the man Jesus is certainly appealing.

It’s hard, though, to justify such a belief in the face of the apparent paradox that God loves you unconditionally, but only under certain conditions.


I want to believe there are good people who understand how to follow the teachings of the man whose directions included,


“Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his brother.”

“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

“Let all you do be done in love.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“Love must be sincere.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor each other above yourselves.”

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love conquers all.”

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does not envy.  Love does not boast.  It’s not proud.  Love is not rude or self-seeking.  Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”



But then I look around the world and I don’t see a lot of love in the faces of the people who call themselves Christian.  I see sanctimony.  Hypocrisy.  Self-righteous indignation.  False judgment.  I see greed, the need to be in and maintain control over others, and lust for power.  These characteristics do not resemble the man Jesus.  I am reminded of the words of the mahatma Gandhi, who said about these people,

“I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ.”

Even my own parents, whom I know to be good and kind and loving people, reject the hateful acts of racism and class warfare, but Mom still thinks women should know their place, and believes this country would be better off if everyone put their faith in the Bible first.  They both think gays must be taught the scripture in love so they understand the error of their ways, and repent and turn from their sin.  They see the Gossamer-in-Chief as a stain on our history, and a blight on the face of what it means to be a Christian, but they worship weekly and regularly fellowship with multiple people who see the conservative agenda as justification to have put him in office and continue to support him.

And if I bring up how uncomfortable I am to break bread with people who are certain that Catholics need to be saved from the fires of hell, or that having a justice on the supreme court who will promote family values is more important than the health and safety and well-being of my husband and my son, or kids in cages, or anyone who’s not a billionaire and may need health care someday, I will be told that’s merely politics, and it should have no bearing on my faith, or my obligation to do what I know is right.  The thing is, I remain true to my obligation to do what I know is right.  And I don’t believe that includes a weekly gathering with people who pay lip service to honor the command to love others, but who clearly only love those they deem worthy.

As for my faith in God, I honestly don’t know what to make of God right now.  I struggle with lots of unanswered questions, like, how can a God who created a universe in which he set the rules claim to be about love and forgiveness, while in his creation, the forgiveness of sin requires the blood of an innocent?  What does the suffering of one who has done no wrong have to do with love, and how can it right any wrong???  If that is love, I don’t want any part of it.

How can man claim that I am made in God’s own image, when I am appalled by what man claims is the very nature of God?  How can God be both loving, and yet jealous?  Peaceful, and yet vengeful?

My faith in mankind is stretched about as thin as it could be.  Though I do still believe there are plenty who would choose above all to love one another, and to show love to the world, I don’t see love winning most battles lately.  Scripture claims to be “God-breathed,” but it was the hand of men who wrote it.  The fact is, the bible is a twisted, tangled serpent’s nest of contradictions, and anyone who claims to understand it is cherry-picking, at best.

It can be cherry-picked to create an image of God as a peaceful and loving father, a jealous, vengeful warrior, a humble, subservient, sacrificial lamb, or an internal inspiration.  It can be manipulated to promote any directive man’s evil heart can manifest.  But it cannot be interpreted to create one cohesive image of God, and that is a truth that makes everything about the so called word of God subject to suspicion, more than interpretation.

I have absolutely zero faith in the motivations of men, especially those who claim to speak for God.  I have no confidence in man’s ability to even understand the concept of God, much less to determine that God’s intent, nor to impose it upon others.  As Susan B. Anthony said,


“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

And, sure, it would be nice to live in a world where politics stayed out of religion.  Unfortunately, religion hasn’t successfully stayed out of politics.  And from what I can see, those who have married the two together have only used it as a weaponized tool to bring harm to others, to oppress the disadvantaged, and to take from the downtrodden.


And yet, as I write this tonight, uncertain of where the question would take me, no sooner had I settled on the title — a line from my favorite Styx song — than I heard a knock on my door.  There in the amber glow of my porch lamp was a lovely young mother with three small children, all under the age of 10, standing back with a word of encouragement for the tiniest of them to step forward and ask, did we have any money we could give him to take to his church so they could help Mexican children?  With a smile that showed he’d tugged on my heart, I told him what a precious gift that would be, and I was so grateful he’d had the thought, but we didn’t really keep cash around the house.

His mother thanked me sweetly for my time, and herded them all down our sidewalk.  I knew she hadn’t put up to this.  I knew this wasn’t a church drive.  I knew that sweet, beautiful young boy had heard there were kids his age who were suffering, and he wanted to help but didn’t know how, so his kind, patient mother took him out to let him knock on doors and talk to his neighbors about helping in whatever small form of assistance they might have to offer.

Then I came back to my desk, sat down, buried my face in my hands, and wept.  For today, for now, I know I’m not an atheist.  And I know there’s still hope for the future.




LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 13 - Topic: FAN DEATH
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  • A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

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