Update – December 30, 2015
me to God – why are You doing this to me?
God to me – apparent silence. maybe i’m not listening.
me to God – what am I supposed to learn from this?
God to me – I love you and will take care of you. if you let Me.
me to God + God to me – I’m really focusing on learning what He says in the Bible and trying to listen to what He’s trying to tell me.
God to me (night of December 29, 2015) – I didn’t do it.
Wow. Finally an answer to that first question.
I kept asking, “Why are you doing this to me? “.
And I finally realize that the answer was there all along. God’s been trying to tell me – “I didn’t do those things to you.”
That was an unreal moment. And it still is, as I continue to realize what that means.
But in order to understand it – you have to know the journey. So the details will be at the end, in this same rust colored italic text.
Why do some people “connect” with God right away, while others take a long time, and still others never do? Why do some people love Jesus and others hate Him? Why do some go from hating to loving Him, while others go the opposite direction from love to hate?
I think if it were possible to actually answer this question, one could bottle that answer and become rich. But – if it were that easy, there’d be no need for the bottle – everyone would have already chosen and never change their minds.
First – a definition –
Atheist – A person who does not believe in God or gods
That means if you believe God is not good – you’re not an atheist.
That means if you’re mad at God – you’re not an atheist.
That means of you reject God – you’re not an atheist.
An atheist is a person who rejects the idea of God. One who doesn’t believe that God exists. Just the idea that God is good or bad – caring or uncaring – any characteristic at all really – means that you are not an atheist. Someone who, like me for about 25 years of my life, is very angry at God is not an atheist. Being angry at someone, even God, says that we most certainly believe that person exists. This alone was quite an awaking for me at one point.
I think this is important, because we really need to be honest with ourselves, even if we don’t believe in God. If we think He’s out to get us, as I used to – and we’re mad at Him – as I used to be, we absolutely do believe in Him. We may not believe God – but with these emotions directed at Him, we most certainly do believe in Him. It’s an important distinction – and if we can’t be honest about that, the first order of business is to get that straight.
There’s no Bible verses in here. That avoids some of the controversy, hopefully. It’s my story. Nothing More. Nothing Less. Just My Story.
So – here’s “my story”.
Lots of people have worse lives than me. Compared to the world as a whole, just the fact that I was born and live in the U.S. puts me at the top of the heap as far as chances for a good life. But like everyone else – my life is what I know. Everything else is conceptual. People in horrible situations in other parts of the world can be happy – because that’s all they know. People in great situations can be miserable – because that’s all they know.
When I was four years old, I learned that my parents would not protect me. Not that they couldn’t – that they wouldn’t. My oldest memory was walking home from kindergarten – alone. I used to walk to school in the morning with my older brother, who was in 1st grade. OK – not that much older. There was a store along the way – don’t remember what kind. We were told to always walk on the other side of the street from that store. Don’t know why – just that we were supposed to do that. One can imagine what goes through the mind of a kid upon hearing that. Some might have had to go in just because they were told not to. For me – it was fear. Especially on the way home – alone.
What I couldn’t figure out – and never did – was why my stay at home mother couldn’t walk with us. She’d just be there sitting on the couch chain smoking and watching TV while I had to walk past that dangerous store twice a day. Every day. Why wouldn’t she walk with me if it was so dangerous?
We moved between 1st grade and kindergarten. I didn’t want to move. My friends were at the old school. I’d never see them anymore. I remember my parents told me I would – that we weren’t moving that far – and I would go visit. As it turns out, we didn’t move far. Just to the next town. In small town Connecticut – it wasn’t that far. We never did visit. They lied. That’s what I remember. Why did they lie to me?
Within a couple days of moving to that new house something happened. I was outside. Some older kid came by and threatened me with a knife. Still being naïve, I ran into the house and told my parents what happened. They accused me of lying – told me to go back outside. I was more afraid of them that the kid with the knife, so I went back outside. Fortunately, the older kid was gone. But, why did my parents not believe me? Why did they send me back out when I wasn’t safe?
Not too long after this move, I started having nightmares. I was in school – the cafeteria. Remember – this was grade school – probably around 2nd grade. All the kids were in the cafeteria. Eating lunch. Talking. Laughing. Someone came into the cafeteria. Started shooting. Kids were running. Screaming. Bleeding. Dying. This was the late 1950’s. Things like this weren’t happening back then. Now – it’s all too common. Back then – it didn’t happen. Except in my dreams / nightmares. I couldn’t tell my parents. I knew they’d get mad at me and send me back into the cafeteria. So I’d just lay there in bed. Afraid to go to sleep. At least I didn’t have to go back until the next day. But why couldn’t I tell my parents? Why was I more afraid of them than the shooter in my nightmare?
In fourth grade, the nightmare changed. It was still there – practically every night. But it changed. That’s because the 4th – 6th graders ate in the gym instead of the cafeteria. So the scene changed to the gym. All the kids were in the gym. Eating lunch. Talking. Laughing. Someone came into the gym. Started shooting. Kids were running. Screaming. Bleeding. Dying. This was the late 1950’s. Things like this weren’t happening back then. Now – it’s all too common. Back then – it didn’t happen. Except in my dreams / nightmares. I couldn’t tell my parents. I knew they’d get mad at me and send me back into the gym. So I’d just lay there in bed. Afraid to go to sleep. At least I didn’t have to go back until the next day. But why couldn’t I tell my parents? Why was I more afraid of them than the shooter in my nightmare?
Over time, we’d move. The scene would change. But the nightmares didn’t. I still couldn’t tell my parents. I never did.
Eventually, I gave up on even making friends, let alone wondering why I couldn’t see them anymore. It was less painful that way.
While I was still in grade school, having lunch and nightmares in the gym, my mother decided to be Catholic. I think it had something to do with President Kennedy, since he was Catholic.
I actually liked that. It felt safe. There were no nightmares about being in church. It really was safe. And they talked about a “father” that would really love us and take care of us. I wanted that so bad.
Somewhere in there, I decided I wanted to be a priest. Back then, other kids wanted to be policemen and firemen. They wanted to keep other people safe. I wanted to be a Priest. I wanted to be safe.
My father didn’t like the idea. But I held on to it.
Years later now. The nightmares went on. We moved to California. The nightmares were now in underground parking lots.
I had a chance to go to a monastery for a couple weeks. There was a photography class there. Since I was into photography, my parents let me go. I was thinking it was chance to see what that kind of life was like. At first – it was awesome. Such peace. So safe. Nothing but God.
One night, one of the monks brought out some alcohol. I wasn’t even old enough to drive, let alone drink. But they gave me some. Too much. Today we hear all about the pedophile Priests. But there were pedophile lay people too. Ready, willing and able to take advantage of the situation. I was so afraid after that night that I couldn’t sleep in my room for the rest of the time. Some woman’s brother came to visit – didn’t have a room to stay in – and there weren’t any empty ones. I gave him mine. Everybody thought that was so nice of me. You see – I was too afraid to tell anyone what happened. I knew they’d tell my parents – and I didn’t want to get yelled at.
Turns out – some of the monks couldn’t wait to tell my parents how generous I was. My father didn’t even ask why I did it. He just laid into me. I couldn’t tell him why. Too afraid.
My safe world was gone. That was the end of my desire to be a Priest.
That was the end of being Catholic.
That was the end of a lot of things.
I was so mad at God. Why did You do this to me? I wanted to follow You. I wanted to tell other people how great You are. How safe it is with You. How you were the Father that our own fathers couldn’t be. But look what You did! Why did you do this to me?
Fast forward several more years. I’m in college. Living on my own. The nightmare is still there. But changed. Now I’m in my bed. There’s someone standing next to the bed. He’s got a knife. I’m awake now. And I know if I roll over – he’s going to kill me. So I just lay there. For a long time. Can’t move. Why can’t I feel safe anywhere?
By this time, I have more “control” though. I don’t have to go to bed. That way, there’s no nightmares. I don’t go to bed ‘til I can barely stay awake. Three – four o’clock in the morning. Get up early. They still happen sometimes though. There’s no escape. Why can’t I still feel safe?
By the time I’m in my late 20’s, people tell me I’ll never live to see thirty. I’m always tired. I’m usually sick. Have had pneumonia several times. But I can’t sleep. Why can’t I feel safe?
A few times I try to go back to church. I can’t do it.
I’m still so angry at God. Why are You doing this to me?
I got married.
It was a disaster. She didn’t like God either. We had that in common. But it was a mess. For three years. God – why are You doing this to me?
Sometime after this – I’m in a tourist store at Knott’s Berry Farm. They have a thing with the “Footprints” story on it. If you don’t know it – Google it. It’s about someone looking back at their life – and they see that when things are really bad, there’s only one set of footprints in the sand – as opposed to two, when things were good. They ask God why He left them during the hard times. God says – my precious child – when you see only one set of footprints – that’s when I carried you. I started to cry. I had to leave.
Fast forward many years. I’m in my mid-forties. Yes – apparently I did make it past thirty. I have some Christian neighbors moved into the townhome next to me. The wife tells me one day that I need to get a girlfriend and get married. God says in Genesis it’s not good for a man to be alone.
I told her it wasn’t time yet. God would let me know when it was time and He’d take care of me.
WHAT?? WHO SAID THAT?? WAS THAT ME??
Yes – it was me.
I have no idea where that came from. After all these years. The nightmares still going on. Me – still asking God why are you doing this to me?
Somewhere in their though – I started to change the question from Why are You doing this to me. It became What do You want me to learn from this?
I wasn’t learning anything. I told Him He’d have to fit me up side the head with a 2×4 (I was into wood working at this time), because that was the only way I’d get it.
This went on for a couple years.
One day – I knocked on their door – said it was time. Pray for me.
Shocking – isn’t it? He never did answer my question. He just let me know that it was time and He was there. I guess God’s 2×4 worked?
She (the neighbor) told me to make a list. I asked a list of what.
She told me a list for God so He’d know what I wanted in a wife.
I told her I didn’t need to make a list. God already knows what I want. And based on my past He certainly knew better than me what I needed.
I know. Where did all this trust come from all of a sudden?
Why are You doing this to me – turned into what do You want me to learn – turned into I know you will take care of me.
Like I said – no answers to any of my questions. Somehow – He just let me know that whatever I needed to learn – apparently I had learned enough that He was going to let me walk on my own a bit and take care of me.
I went out to the internet to start looking. Saw a profile that was so much what I wanted & thought I needed that it scared me. I turned the computer off.
My neighbor invited me to their church. They’d never done that before. They were Chinese. I’m white. They were having a weekend conference in their church. It was mixed race & language. It was Chinese & English. Interesting.
I was supposed to work that weekend. I’m in charge of an IT project that we supposed to start Friday night – same time as the conference. It had to be done by Sunday evening. The conference was ending at lunch time Sunday. One of the people at work told me to go to the conference. They’d cover for me – and call me if I was really needed.
I went to the conference.
The first evening – they did what’s known as an altar call. We’re supposed to go up to the front of the church when we feel the presence of God. I told Him – I’m not going up there unless I feel something. The person leading it says it’s full in front. If you feel God at this point – just kneel where you are. I’m still standing. Still waiting. Still telling God I’m not kneeling until I feel something.
Then I’m kneeling. And Crying. Saying I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. …. People come up next to me – put their hand on my shoulder and pray for me. People I don’t even know. Total strangers – praying for me. Each time I start crying even more. This went on. And on.
Suddenly someone’s grabbing hold of my belt and pulling me up. I could have stayed there forever. Apparently it had been close to 2 hours. Two hours!! They stayed with me and prayed for me all that time. I could still feel something too. It’s hard to describe. It was like I was floating on air – an almost electric tingling – and I had so much energy. I couldn’t sleep that night. But it was a good couldn’t sleep. The next day – I could still feel it. Same thing Saturday night. Same thing Sunday morning.
We were just finishing lunch Sunday. My cell phone rang. It was work. Everything had gone fine all weekend. For those of you in the IT field – you know how unusual that was. Yes – everything went well. And now they were ready for me, because the part I had to do (because of the permission level I had on the system) was next.
How amazing is that? Talk about being taken care of. The whole conference went on. No problems at work. It went at just the right speed too. As the post conference lunch is finishing – they’re ready for me at work. I haven’t slept for the last two nights – but I feel fine.
A couple weeks later – I go back out to the dating site on the internet. The woman I saw before – her profile was still there. But there was a line missing. In the original one, she said she was looking for someone who had the same faith as her. That wasn’t in it anymore. I sent an email and asked why not. Apparently that’s all I said. Didn’t even put my name. So she replied. She said that’s really the only reason she replied.
The timing again. Had I replied the first time – I wouldn’t have asked that question. Obviously. The line wouldn’t have been removed yet. Then she may not have replied to me. Then we wouldn’t have exchanged the next few emails. Then she wouldn’t be my wife today.
Yes. God did take care of me. When it was time. His time. Not my time.
I ended up leading the Bible study at that little Chinese church for the next year. It was for the college kids who came over from China. English was their second language, but they wanted to learn the Bible in English. My neighbors were in the adult Chinese class. They came over to the college group. At first some of the college kids didn’t like the way led it. The pastor though – he did like it and said they should give it a try. When I left that church to go where my now wife was attending – they asked if I could teach them to lead the way I did. I couldn’t. So many Christians don’t like to talk about the Holy Spirit. But I look back and know that’s how I led. We were doing the book of Acts. Acts always used to scare me. I thought God was going to want me to be like Paul – so often in prison and always under threat of death. But now I’m leading a group to do that book. Who ways God doesn’t have a sense of humor? The thing was though – I was ready for it. His timing. His way. It’s not like I really knew ahead of time which words to look up to see what the actual Greek meaning was. It’s not like I knew when to use a different English translation to get the real meaning. It’s not like I knew which commentary to look at in order to understand and get the meaning from the words. And yet – I did it. I take no credit for that. Look at my life. How could I? And yet this trained pastor was happy with what I was doing.
I get married. God was right. She’s the one. The timing is right.
After getting married, my wife moved into my townhome. It’s got three stories. One night – I’m having a nightmare. I hear a noise coming from downstairs in the basement. She doesn’t hear it. We’ve got two dogs. They don’t hear it. I get up. Go downstairs. Down one level. Someone’s coming up the stairs from the basement. I start down the steps that this person is coming up on. We meet in the middle. It’s a woman. I’ve never seen her before. I started shaking her and yelling at her. Who are you? Who are you? Over and over. My wife wakes me up.
I’ve never had the nightmares again.
For the first time in more than 40 years I can actually fall asleep right away and stay asleep.
God – why are You taking care of me?
Jesus – you really do love me.
I finally have the caring father that I always wanted.
A year or so later, we’re preparing to move. We want a house and a yard instead of a townhome. We’re cleaning up some of my stuff in the basement. My wife comes across some spiral notebooks with some writing in them. She brings them to me and asks what they are. I don’t recognize them. But it’s my writing. It’s Psalms from the Bible. Apparently I was copying them. During the dark times – when I thought God had deserted me – I was copying Psalms.
If you don’t know – many of the Psalms were written by David, when he was in serious trouble. His enemies were trying to kill him. God was mad at him because he committed adultery. God was mad at him for his part in the death of the man with whose wife he committed adultery. David cried out to God. The thing is – no matter how bad things were for David – he always ended the Psalm praising God. Knowing that in time, God would take care of him.
So here I was – is my own dark times – copying David’s Psalms. Not able to write my own. So I borrowed his. Apparently knowing that in time – God would take care of me.
The Bible lets us know that God was most unhappy with what David did. I’m sure He’s most unhappy with many of the things I did too. But somehow – someway – I knew that just as with David – He wouldn’t throw me away.
Two of my favorite books on the Old Testament today are Job and Habakkuk. Both of them are about men who were angry with God. Both spoke to Him openly and honestly. Kind of like what I did.
Both of them heard back from God. Although neither one actually got their questions answered. I didn’t hear back from God in words – but I clearly believe I have “heard” from Him and that He is taking care of me. But you know what? He never answered my question either. I still don’t know why I had to have the life I did. I don’t know if it was because of things my parents did. Was it because of things I did? No clue.
I think back now to the beginning. To the very beginning.
Adam gets instructions from God about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God makes Eve. The Bible doesn’t say who told Eve about the tree. It seems that most people assume it was God. I asked someone about this one time. I assumed that if God told her – it would say that. I assume Adam was the one who told Eve about the tree.
Then Satan comes along. Goes for Eve. The one who (I believe) heard about God’s command from Adam. A man. Not God. Did Adam get the message right? Is that why Eve could be tricked? The message came from another human – not from God Himself?
They end up eating from the tree.
They now know the difference between good and evil.
They hear God.
They run and hide from God.
Question. What would have happened if they hadn’t run? We don’t know – because that’s not how it happened.
God asks what happened.
Adam says it’s the woman that God made. Essentially – not my fault. You did it. You put her here. She fell for it. She made me eat it.
Question – what would have happened if Adam had taken responsibility? What if he admitted that maybe she was tricked because maybe he didn’t give her the right message about the tree?
Question – what would have happened if Eve had gone back to Adam to ask if Satan was telling the truth?
Question – what would have happened if Adam or Eve had gone back to God to get clarification on what He said? What if they asked God about the fruit from the tree before either of them ate it?
But none of these things happened. So we can’t know.
But that whole scenario leads to some questions. Questions that I think may determine how we approach the issue of whether or not to both “believe in” and “believe” God.
All along the way, both Adam and Eve could have done something different. Each time I asked a question – one they chose not to pursue – they could have done what I asked about. But they didn’t. Each step along the way – they had choices. At each step along the way – they had the free will to do what they did. Or not. They freely chose to do what they did.
I know – some say we’re predestined for everything that happens. I don’t believe it. The human race in general – yes, I think we are predestined for the horrible end that we see in Revelation. But for any specific individual – I don’t believe it.
You know what though – consider this. If we’re totally predestined for whatever happens – it doesn’t matter what I believe. If we’re not – then what I believe matters a whole lot. Did you catch what I’m really saying here?
Why should I risk condemning myself by being angry at a God who predestines everything? Whether I’m mad at Him or not – what’s going to happen will happen.
But what if it’s not all predestined? Then – what I think is huge! If it matters – then I have no reason to be upset or even worry about predestiny! If everything is not predestined – Why should I condemn myself for something that isn’t even true?
The reality of what happened to me is that somewhere inside – even though I was outwardly angry at God – I believed somewhere that He would take care of me.
I believe that’s in all of us – that small hidden feeling that He cares about us.
It’s that 4 letter word that causes so much trouble.
Many ask why God put Satan in the garden if He loves us.
I say – that’s the wrong question.
That’s the questions Satan tries to get us to answer.
The real question – is whether or not we love God.
If we don’t have a choice – to choose Him or reject Him – how can we know if we love Him?
If we have no distinction between good and bad – good and evil – pain and pleasure – how are we to really know how we feel? Remember where I mentioned the people living in what we would consider miserable conditions – but they’re happy? And we live here in relative luxury and are unhappy? It’s based on what we “know” – or think we know.
We can’t feel any emotion without knowing the differences between various conditions of that emotion. In fact – how do we even know to feel an emotion?
If we were born in a constant state of having no feelings – how are we to know something hurts? Look at people that have leprosy. They have no feelings. They lose fingers – toes – hands – feet – and feel absolutely nothing! They can be operated on without anesthetics – because they feel no pain. Pain can be good. These people would love to feel some pain. At the same time – they have no sense of physical please either.
Consider this from the point of good and evil. If we didn’t know what good and evil were – we wouldn’t thing that the best living scenario in the world was good. If all we knew was Heaven – would we think it was good? Or would we just think it’s the way things are? If all we knew was Hell – would we think it was bad? Or would we just think it’s the way things are?
If we didn’t know the difference between a loving and supportive spouse and an abusive one – would be think the loving one was good and the abusive one was bad – or would we just think that’s the way it is? Current news stories bear out that we’d just think that’s the way it is. Abusive spouses are “normal” for people who grew up in that environment and expect it.
Same goes with God. How can we truly love someone it they are all we know? We can’t. Love only has meaning when one knows the difference between love and something else.
So the only way to know if we love God – or for God to know if we love Him – is if we know the difference between love and something else.
The only way to know if what God says is true is to know the difference between truth and untruth.
To us – maybe it seems cruel. But we don’t have to go further than a couple famous movies (if you’re old enough) to see what happens when everything is the same. One is “The man in the gray flannel suit”. Another is “The Stepford Wives”. There’s no love there. There’s nothing.
We agonize over the brief few years that we spend on this earth. We’re upset at God for allowing evil. We’re upset at God because of what happens to us.
But look at what it means.
He’s giving us the ultimate free will opportunity.
If we want to be with Him forever – which makes our few years here look like a fraction of a drop in a bucket – we can be.
On the other hand – if we don’t want to be with Him forever – we don’t have to do that either.
The choice is ours.
It’s our free will.
Like with me – there’s something inside of all of us that says God will take care of us, IF we want Him to.
Like with me – there’s all sorts of stuff outside of us that says – No, He won’t.
Which one of those to believe – which one to choose –
that’s up to us.
It’s our free will.
Even if you don’t believe it –
what if it really IS your free will?
Don’t assume it doesn’t matter.
Assume it does.
Because if it doesn’t matter – then it also doesn’t matter what you believe.
But what if it does matter? That’s when you have a choice. Wouldn’t you rather make the choice where you’re in control of the choice?
God’s not going to force us to choose Him.
I’m not going to force you to choose Him.
Notice – I’m not even saying I’m right.
None of us knows who’s right until it’s over.
None of us knows who’s right until it’s too late.
Whether you believe it or not – I believe you have a choice.
Whether you want it or not – I believe you have a choice,
I remember the Catholic Priests always used to tell us that we can’t sit on the fence forever. That was all they said. I used to really wonder what that meant. Now – I think I know. We have to decide – God – or not God. And failing to make a choice – staying on the fence – that’s choosing not God.
As long as I would have expected to have been choosing not God – 35 years! – I’ve made my choice – and it’s God. Sometimes it’s shocking – even to me. Especially to me, maybe.
Now though – I’m so happy I lived long enough to change to the other side of the fence. Had I died before 30 like many thought I would – I don’t know that I wouldn’t be in Hell now.
I still don’t know why I had to go through what I did.
I do know though – having been through it, I feel like I have to share it.
Share it with others who are on the same path I used to be.
Share it with others who think God’s out to get them.
Share it with people who think their version of God is right. Heck – I don’t know that mine’s right. I sincerely believe it is – but I don’t know.
Share that I believe we have a choice.
If – IF –
If I my life is what is was because of my parents –
Or if my life is what is was because of my choices –
Or if my life is what is was because that’s what God wanted for His own reasons that He’s not telling me –
I have to say – it doesn’t matter.
What does matter –
If even ONE person turns to God from hearing my story – it was all worth it.
December 20, 2015
So you can see, I most definitely believe in free will. I do not at all believe that God has already planned out everything that’s going to happen – that we will do what we will do and it’s all under His control and there’s nothing we can do to change things.
For those that believe in predestiny – I have two questions for you.
- Why did Jesus give us The Lord’s Prayer – to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven – if God has already predetermined everything that will be done here on earth and it’s all going to be His will whether we pray or not?
- When Jesus was here on earth – why did He heal people, if it was God’s will that they be sick? Do you really believe that Jesus worked against His Father? Do you believe that God worked against Himself?
These are the kinds of things that I’m finally realizing.
There’s a problem with believing in free will – and thinking that everything bad comes from God.
If He is the cause of everything, then we don’t have free will. If He’s not the cause of everything, then why do I blame Him for evil?
If anything – how can a God who I say is the very definition of Love – be the cause of evil?
The things that happened to me when I was a kid – they didn’t come from God. They came from people. Fallen people who did evil things. And yes – that includes my parents. And me. But I don’t think for one second that people did those things because God made them do it. With free will – we have the choice to do good or evil. Our own choice. But the flip side is – without free will – there’s no love. None. Because forced actions aren’t love – which is something else that I firmly believe.
Given those two beliefs – which are completely supported in the Bible – that we do have free will and that God loves us and wants us to love Him – it’s makes zero sense to blame God for the evil things that happen in this world.
And getting that our of my head is very exciting. I’m sure that somewhere inside my head / heart I still blame Him for some of what happened – even if I thought He did it to “grow” me. Looking at it instead as God growing me from things that someone else did to me – or things that I did to myself – leaves me more open to accepting His love without hidden reservations. And leads me more open to grow – again without hidden reservations.
For those who don’t like God because of what they think He’s done – I pray that you can learn what I’m learning.
God doesn’t do evil things.
People do evil things.
God didn’t do it.