'Hating' God as a Form of Prayer?
By readingandchickens on November 28, 2012
I went to confession for the first time in five years on Saturday evening. This was about as vomit-inducing as it sounds. I kept praying to God, "I don't want to go. Do I have to go? I don't want to go! Say I don't have to go. You know you forgive me for all of the terrible shit I do anyway, so tell me I don't have to go." God said back to me (yes, God talks to me) (another post for another time? perhaps), "You don't have to go. But you should go."
I went. It was good, especially when I consolidated five years of sinning into things like, "I was angry and I was lustful," instead of having to replay specific incidents. I think I confessed to everything in under a minute, and then priest talked to me about the one I said first, about how I had been angry and unforgiving. Father said to me, "Forgiveness isn't about them. It's about you. It's all for you. You can forgive them, and honor them, and love them, but you don't have to obey them." Awkwardly, I'd forgotten to close the door so there was someone in a pew trying very hard not to listen to what was going on, and I was trying very hard not to sob like a baby.
When I left church, I felt good. Like, on drugs good. Well, I've never been on drugs, except after my C-section, and that was actually quite misery-inducing, but I imagine a person with better receptors for drugs would feel like I felt after confession. Goooood. With five Os.
And of course, it took about ten minutes for the feeling to wash away. It was replaced with more anger. LOTS of anger. It was like I needed to get it all out for a backlog of feelings to surface, and suddenly instead of feeling anger for the things I'd confessed, now I was angry at Gregg, and my kids, and most of all, God. I was so completely pissed off at God.
I still kind of am, to tell you the truth. I always am.
Image: VW Pics via ZUMA Press.
I'm not sure being angry with God is a sin, though. I think one of the reasons people pray is to be angry with God. I know Anne Lamott says that the three great prayers are, "help, thanks, and wow," but for me, the great prayer is, "I hate you." Maybe I should be going to Anne Lamott's church instead, but I think hating God is actually really healthy and helpful, and I don't think God minds a bit. She told me she doesn't, so I know it.
I can't list all of the reasons I'm pissed off at God because there are too many, but I can tell you one of them. I have a conversation with God about every single morning. It goes something like this, "I don't want to get up and write today. I am no good at it and I won't know what to write and I'll just have to redo it and I'm no good at it and also I'm tired and I'm no good at it, so I'm going to sleep in."
Then God says, "You really should get up to write."
"Couldn't I just be a stay at home mom? Or maybe an architect or an engineer or a teacher or anything else that's less embarrassing, please oh please oh please?"
"But I'm going to fail. This book is never going to sell and it's no good and I hate it and it's never going to sell and also I'm a failure and I don't want to do it."
"It's not going to fail. I'm sure of it. Trust me."
"I don't trust you."
"I know, but you're not going to fail. You're special," God says to me.
"I don't want to be special. I want to be completely and totally ordinary. And also, I'm not special. You just have to say that to make me do what you want."
"You are special, just like everyone else," God says nonsensically. God is not really into making sense.
"If everyone is special, doesn't that make no one special at all?" I point out, raising an imaginary eyebrow at God.
"You clearly can't understand. But no. Everyone is special. And you have to get up to write."
I argue with God for a few more minutes, and then God does this thing where she coaxes me and convinces me that I'm not actually writing, so it's alright. I'm just sitting there and the words will flow through me and I don't have to do anything but filter them through my brain. And before you ask, yes, God told me write this. And yes, I know that is completely crazy. But God told me that you are supposed to know that you're special, and that if you're looking for someone to hate and let out all of your rage onto, God is up for the job.
Like yesterday, when I was in the store, two sad-sack looking employees walked by, and one sad sack said to the other sad sack, "I'm really a writer, not this." The other sad sack said, "Oh," in an unconvincing way, like he wanted pat the dude on the back and tell him, no, he wasn't really a writer, he was a grocery employee. I swear to you, every single cell in my body was embarrassed for him and for myself. OH MY GOD. I couldn't hide my shame, and I scurried away from the aisle like they were talking about ME, about how embarrassing it was for ME to be a writer but really I just *think* I'm a writer and I'm going to be working retail my whole life instead and OH MY GOD CAN'T I JUST BE AN ARCHITECT?
This is a small complaint, I know, a tiny reason to be angry with God.
Here's another reason. Twelve years ago yesterday, Gregg and I had been married for exactly one week. It was also my dad's birthday. It was also the birthday of the friend who introduced Gregg to me. We didn't go on a honeymoon for a myriad of reasons, so when we came back to our apartment and there was a message on the answering machine.
"Gregg, call me back." It was his mom. Gregg did not call her back immediately, but I told him, "It's bad news. You have to call her back." Gregg said that I always thought it was bad news (this is true), and everything would be fine. Still, he called her back, and found out it was bad news.
His dad had collapsed at choir practice and been rushed to the hospital. He had cancer. He never left the hospital, and he died three weeks later. We made it in to Baltimore about an hour before he passed away. He wasn't even my dad; I'd known him for about a year, and I melted into a puddle. Gregg, always the optimist, had refused to pack a suit for the trip, and had to borrow his uncle's for the funeral mass.
I am still angry twelve years later on the behalf of Gregg, even though Gregg has, I'm sure, made his peace with it. I have not, just as I haven't made my peace with a lot of things. I have a deep desire to see all the puzzle pieces fit together in life, and sometimes they don't fit, not that I can see. I know that bad things happening make way for good things, and vice versa.
That's how I felt on Saturday after confession: I felt so good, and all these bad things came rushing in to take the place where other things had been sitting. I am still so, so angry. I still really hate God for that. God is OK with that. It is my great prayer. "I hate you for this," and God says, "I know." And then I go and do what it is that God tells me to, because I'm special, and so are you, and so is everyone else, and God lets me hate her so I can not hate other people.
I am trying to wrap this up in some concise manner, but all I can think of is my cute dog sitting next to me on the bed. Malcolm T. Dog (the T. stands for "The" in case you're wondering) is snoring lightly against my leg. He has old man gray hair poking out of his ears, and he looks exactly like Mr. Rogers, if Mr. Rogers were a 56 lb black lab mix. We found Malcolm T. Dog at a no-kill shelter. He was in a pen with a very jumpy and hyper Dalmatian. I was sure I wanted a Dalmatian, and so we played with him for a bit and the dog was cuh-razy and jumping and pouncing on us, and I felt this sadness deep in me, knowing we couldn't make this dog happy in a one bedroom apartment, and so we put it back in the pen. That's when we noticed Malcolm sitting there, shaking like a leaf in the corner, afraid of the Dalmatian, afraid of us. I took him out and played with him and he was it. He was special. He was mine. He is the sweetest dog.
Except that when I took him home, he was crazy. He ate our toaster. He ate our spatulas and our wooden spoons. He broke our dishes. He growled at our babies. He chewed our bookshelves. He was wild and angry and full of too much energy and we had to run him every single day for an hour just to keep him calm enough to only eat our spatulas and not our furniture. He was, frankly, a lot like the Dalmatian that I hadn't wanted for these very reasons. I loved him, but it was hard work to love him and keep him.
But now? He comes to school with me every day to drop off and pick up the kids, and he lets every single person pet him, every little kid pull on his fur and his tail and his ears, and he gives them his big brown doggie eyes of love, never growling, never barking, never even moving away from all the pawing on him, and people say to me, "He is the sweetest dog. HOW did you do it?" I nod and say, "We just got lucky."
The truth is that he always sweet, yes, but it took him getting all of his anger and energy out. It took YEARS. He was not a good dog. He was a bit of a nightmare. It took years of him beating up on us, and us not giving up on him, even when I had newborns and I very, very much wished I did not have this dumb dog bothering me. But it turns out he was special. He just had to get all of his anger out, he had to hate us and be mean and cruel, and we had to take it, because we loved him, because we knew he was very, very special, like the very first time we'd seen him shaking like a leaf.
And that's why I know my great prayer is, "I hate you," and also why I know it won't always be.
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