There's a guy I know who tells stories. They are usually stories about how frustrated he is at the world. He dislikes the way of the liberal. He confuses the charity of the liberal for greed. He sees the conservative way as the only responsible path. He believes that everybody should be completely self-supportive. Nobody should rely on the state.
There are two kinds of people. Successful people and lazy people. His upbringing and faith have taught him that the reason he's never had the problems of the unfortunate is because he's doing it right and they're doing it wrong.
I have listened to his stories for years without comment, but seething at his smug shortsightedness.
Ironically, I've never bothered to examine why his commentary bugs me so much.
Well, until now.
I used to be him. That's why it bugs me. I find myself wanting misfortune to happen to him. This is only half-true. I'd rather he judge the world in harsh obliviousness until the day he dies than wish upon him some of the horrors that befall much of humanity. Let alone the relatively small problems I've had. I think I'm better for what I've been through. I'm glad that the judgmental asshole I used to be is gone. What remains is a slightly less judgmental asshole. But the pain was barely worth it.
I was a man of faith. My faith taught me that if you served the lord, you'd basically be set.
Having never been sick (really sick), I believed in miraculous healing. I believed that if anybody had any problems or sickness, they needed more faith.
God would heal the truly faithful. Also, God would not only make sure you were provided for, he'd make you ridiculously prosperous.
So I prayed. I worked. I tithed. I served. I loved God so much for all his goodness and great gifts, etc.
I saw people with problems and had no pity. I would try to tell them what they needed. They needed faith. They needed God. I would tell them story after story of God's miracles.
After the birth of my second child, I came to understand that I do not know everything. I understood that no matter how much we think we have control over our lives and circumstances, misfortune can happen. It can send you to a dark place.
The best part of it is that if you're a man of faith as I was, you probably have a bunch of Godly friends of like mind. You go around feeling sorry for all of those unfortunates with physical (and mental) disabilities. Also - superior. Vastly superior to all of those people of little faith who settle for the crap thrust upon them. You have the same answer for all of them. Increase your faith in God. He has promised to heal you. Are you calling God a liar?
So when your daughter is born severely handicapped, this is your support group.
For a while, it's cool. I mean you're crying and sad and ache for your perfectly innocent, precious little girl and everything. But you truly believe God's got your back. You just go get your praying done and receive God's promise. It'll all work out.
Then it doesn't. Your daughter doesn't get healed. But you can't doubt God has a plan. Sure, the longer it goes, the more uncomfortable all of your friends get around you.
Not because they harbor any ill feelings toward your daughter. They just don't really feel so good about being around someone who can't trust God enough to get his daughter healed.
This went on for a couple of years. People distanced themselves from us a bit. Finally a leader of our huge church invited me out for coffee. He wanted to offer some advice.
During that meeting, he encouraged me through anecdote. It had something to do with him noticing that his daughter or son would suffer the horrifying symptoms of a bad cold every time his walk with god faltered even slightly. I can't be sure because it was a long time ago, but it seems like his walk with god was shakiest during the height of cold and flu season. Then he'd get right with God within a few days and a couple of glasses of orange juice later, his kids would be right as rain.
The guy was an auto mechanic. His hands and fingernails were permanently encrusted with thick black grease.
As he was telling me this story to illustrate that my daughter was suffering one of the most severe cases of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy the doctors had ever seen because of my questionable walk with god, all I could think was "Do you finger your wife with those hands?"
With tears, I stood up, threw a couple of dollars on the table and left the Village Inn.
I didn't say anything to the guy, but he knew he had fucked up.
I also felt pity for him. I realized that he believed that every time his kids got a cold, it was his fault. I hoped (honestly) that nothing serious ever happened to him. I didn't think he'd be able to deal with it.
I stopped going to church that week.
A few weeks later and I don't know how he heard, but the pastor of the church, a man I'd never met, called me.
He asked for "Fred Hinsley" pronounced correctly, somehow. He'd done his homework.
"Fred, this is Elmer Murdoch and I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for what has happened."
He went on to ask for my account of it. He was shocked. He made no sales pitch. He knew I wasn't going back to his church. He only wanted to find out if I was going to be ok. He wanted to help me if there was any way. He was genuine and I loved him for it. I could hear his real compassion for me and my situation. He was a good man.
But I couldn't allow myself around the flock any more. There would always be judgment. Including from me. The words that Tim (I just remembered the guy's name) spoke to me at the coffee shop that day were harsh, but they kind of echoed my thoughts. I was wondering what had I done to deserve this pain. I was faced with the prospect of watching my kid die within the next few years. It wasn't fair. It must be my fault somehow.
And if a miracle had happened? What then? I hate to say it, but it's true. I'd have become worse. More convicted than ever that my faith was so awesome that anybody who remained sick was just no good at faith and god and stuff. I was obviously more humble than them.
So when I hear somebody who has it all figured out, I sometimes wish something would happen to them. Only because I know that in the long run, I'm more compassionate (still not much, but more) than I used to be.
As it turned out. I didn't know everything and that whole God thing was not the way for me.
Cancel my subscription to the resurrection
Send my credentials to the house of detention
I got some friends inside -- Jim Morrison
I gotta beep a conja chuchum
Honk konk konk
I donta eat ya corn and beans
ya bop a lula
Eat your bom potito (potato wave -- EV)
Eat some corn
Yay right -- Also Jim Morrison (Paraphrased).