I generally avoid talking about religion/spirituality/faith/etc. I avoid it with approximately the same vehemence as I avoid meals with a high probability of giving me food poisoning and for some of the same reasons. Not only can it leave me with a very bad taste in my mouth and a nauseous lump in my throat, but there’s really just no way for it to end well. Mostly, though, I avoid it because spirituality is a very personal subject. Not personal in an “I’m menstruating today” taboo kind of way, but personal in the sense that my relationship with God is my own and I don’t feel that there is a right way to believe (although I do believe that there are wrong ways – like calling oneself a Christian and subsequently saying that God doesn’t love those people).
Yet, there is nothing like great tragedy to get you thinking about faith and what you really believe. As we close on the one-year mark of Zack’s death, I’m starting to hear questions about whether or not this experience has shaken my faith. Since I’ve asked myself this question many times over the last few months, I suppose it’s a fair question.
I’m not a church-goer and don’t believe that church epitomizes a person’s belief in God (or the connectivity of the universe or the scientific elements of chaos or whatever one might believe explains life). I have, however, always believed in the presence of God and an overarching Plan. When Zack was born with cerebral palsy, I never once asked why or why me. I was overwhelmed and I was frightened, but I believed that everything happens for a reason. In the past months, I’ve asked why. I’ve asked why us. I’ve asked what reason could possibly be good enough. I have ranted at God and the universe and the scientific elements of chaos more than once.
But here’s the thing about faith. Faith is both rooted in and entangled by human emotion. It is fluid. It isn’t about not asking questions. It’s about not knowing the answers and recognizing that you probably couldn’t accept the answers if you knew them. It’s about eventually coming to the realization that things wouldn’t be as they are today if they weren’t as they were yesterday.
I don’t believe in a God that would not expect me to be hurt and angry at the loss of my son. I believe in a God that would expect me to continue being a good person despite being hurt and angry.
I’ve said before that grieving the loss of a child is a journey of discovery. One of those discoveries is how strongly you truly believe in what you tell yourself (and/or others) you believe in. I find that I believe more strongly than I thought I did. Is that a coping mechanism? Do I believe that there is some Plan that I’m not intended to understand because that’s the only way I can live through this loss?
Maybe. But that’s part of why spirituality is so personal, isn’t it? Because we can’t be who we will be tomorrow if we don’t let ourselves be who we are today.