Lately I’ve felt this need to pray. Not all the time, but just in moments.
Moments where my son is at the starting gate, revving the engine of his little Cobra 50 dirt bike and lined up with 20 or so other kids all who are also rearing to go. All of whom are focused on the countdown and who will go in less than 30 seconds to start a race where each and every one of them runs the risk of crashing and being taken off the track in an ambulance.
Or, lets say, moments at this time of year when I think about my dad dying and how much I miss him and how my son’s birthday was the last time I ever saw him and how much I just want to talk to him.
Or, moments when I sit down to work and am so desperate for some kind of sign that I am on the right path and that things will work out and I will get this book off to the right person at the right time who will get it to the right publisher and the right…on and on.
Or, moments like this weekend, on Saturday, when I was in Edmonton amongst the crowds watching the street performers of the International Street Performer’s Festival thinking to myself, “Well, if someone is going to do something terrible like run into the crowd as a human bomb, this is where they’d do it. Please don’t let them do it.” I mean, considering the way the world is going, that is actually a justifiable fear to have right now.
You see, I grew up as the daughter of a pastor and, well, funny thing, my mom has since become a pastor (although, any attempts she has made at discussing religion I kibosh instantly) so God was a prevalent figure in my life. Praying was something we did. (It was also something that never worked out for me, thus beginning my search for meaning and my questions concerning faith and the existence of god and so forth.) I went to Vacation Bible School (VBS for short), church every Sunday, Sunday school every Sunday, confirmation classes, and I even taught Sunday School (yeah, sorry kids. I didn’t mean to do that to you. I hope you can forgive me.). God was there. Or, I thought he was, and so I talked to him like he was.
The thing is, I have since rejected those ideas. The idea of God and religion and praying and so forth. Yes, I understand that there are those who choose to believe and that is fine, I will not judge you for that and you are absolutely entitled to those beliefs. Hell, people have been entitled to those beliefs for thousands of years. But I am not one of you. And I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with that. I chose not to believe because even at a young age, it never made sense to me. And after all that church, all that Sunday School and confirmation and yes, even University courses, it still just doesn’t work for me.
I don’t want to believe. And I don’t. That’s not saying I do not believe in other things, that’s an entirely other conversation. But the thing is, I do not belive in God.
And yet, I really wish I could pray and that I could feel that someone was there to answer those prayers.
Lets go back to my son, at the starting line, after he’d just finished nearly puking his guts out from fear and tension over the race. I really wish, as I’m holding back my own tears (yeah, yeah, I know. It’s just an 8-year-old’s local 50cc moto, I get it. Not something to get worked up over. But, these kids can get hurt. It’s emotional. It’s scary, actually, as a parent, it’s terrifying. So yeah, I get choked up about my kid’s moto. Big deal.) that when I say, please oh please don’t let him get hurt, that there is someone listening. Because, well, wouldn’t that make all of us feel better? To be able to say that and actually believe that someone else is listening? Someone with the power to watch over our children and keep them safe?
It’s the same with my dad. If I could have told my kids that he became an angel in heaven to watch over them when he died, it would have been so much easier. And then, or now, when I talk to him (All. The. Time.) I could imagine I was talking to this man in a white robe and wings and not this, well, this I’m not sure what that is floating about. It would just be easier. Imagine grandpa as an angel now…done. Easy as that.
But that’s not real life. It’s just not that easy. And I so get, more now than ever, how religion was created and why we cling to it. At the end of the day, we need to feel our kids will be safe, that our loved ones aren’t gone and that we are doing the right thing. And honestly, that’s not in our own power to do, so what better option to offer up the job to some powerful being that will do what needs to be done. Because, it will be his will either way. Our kids are safe, we get that job, we make a difference, it was all in God’s good grace. Or we don’t, and our kid is carted to the hospital, or worse, paralyzed or being fed by someone else his entire life, we waste our time working on something that never amounts to anything, or our life is pointless and meaningless, and that is still all part of some plan of God’s that we can’t understand.
A man drives a truck through a crowd on Bastille day and kills dozens of people, and that is still God’s plan, even if we can’t understand it. A child walks into a crowd with bombs strapped to its chest and detonates him or herself killing everyone he can see, and that is still God’s plan. If I am one of those crushed under the truck’s tires or walking within the blast zone, that is god’s plan. And if I am simply watching it on television, feeling my own fears and worries so far removed from some of the carnage others have seen, well, that is also God’s plan.
See how easy that is?
I am tired. And frankly, I don’t want this responsibility. I don’t want to wonder if I am wasting my time writing a book that will never be published, or worse, that people will hate (or even just not like) it. I don’t want to think Iam allowing my son to ride motocross only to end up in a wheelchair before his life has even begun. I do not want to talk to my dad all the time, day after day, to find out he’s not hearing me. I do not want to be afraid when I take my children downtown to watch a festival, worried that someone might decide that Edmonton will be a good next target for whatever hate they want to unleash unpon the world. I want some higher power involved in my life that will reassure me that all is well.
The problem is, that higher power is me. And can only be me. And that is scary.
It is so much easier to trust someone else. Blame someone else for our failures and thank someone else for our blessings. But if it comes down to us, comes down to our own sense of who we are, that tiny voice inside our heads guiding us along our path, then that means we have to face the consequences. That means we have to face uncertaintly. Because, ultimately, when we make a decision, when we set out on a path, we do not know what we will encounter, we only know that we have set foot upon it. We can only see what is right there, in front of us, and once we see it, we can’t go back.
When I watch my son at the starting gate, I ask my dad to get on that bike with him. Because I just can’t imagine my son riding alone, I need to know someone else is with him, I need to know he will be safe because I can’t bear the thought that he might not be. Just as, when I sit down at my desk to work on my book, if I ask someone else to ensure my success, I am taking away all the hard work I have done for myself. I am denying myself the faith in my ability, in my need to write, in the stories and characters that are living in my head. I am always envisioning the success it will bring, because I can’t bear the thought that I have done all this work for a flop and I am too afraid to trust myself. And that is when I wish I could pray. I wish I could give it up to someone else and trust that it will be taken care of.
But isn’t that what I’m doing in the first place? Isn’t that exactly what I am doing when I wish my son good luck and walk away from him as they start the countdown. Isn’t that what I’m doing when I sit at my own desk every day instead of going to someone else’s? Isn’t that what I do when I take them downtown in a busy city to take in the talent and joy the street performers have come to give them?
Maybe we’re all gods in our own way. Maybe it is us who carve out our destiny and simply trusting in ourselves and in the decisions we have made is all that is necessary to give us strength and faith and comfort. Maybe my need to pray, my wanting to be answered, is simply my own need to trust myself. It’s me giving myself permission to make that decision and walk away. It’s saying, I made the right choice no matter the outcome. Maybe instead of needing some god to answer me, I only need me to say, “It’s okay. You followed your heart and you did your best and it will work out exactly how you need it to in order to learn whatever lesson it is you need to learn.”
If I felt that my dad was truly gone, I wouldn’t be speaking to him. And maybe in speaking to him, I’m just speaking to myself, saying the things I’m too afraid to just come out and say on my own. Maybe praying is simply a matter of speaking to that innermost part of ourselves, our souls, because we have not yet had the confidence to see ourselves for who we really are. Maybe I need reassurance that I have made the right decision because I am not quite there yet to know, truly, that any decision I make wholeheartedly is the right one.
I can’t control other people, and I can’t control their hate as much as I can’t control their love. I can only control myself. And in doing do, in trusting that, I make myself my own god. I take control of my own destiny, whatever it may be. And so, instead of praying, maybe I should be talking to myself, letting myself know that I am on my own side. That I am there to support myself along the way, no matter the outcome.