Sunday, April 29, 2007

Little Miracles

Today my pastor spoke on the topic of hell. The last time he talked about that I found myself really upset. In fact I sent an email to him expressing my struggle with the topic of heaven (and hell.) I was upset because I needed to reconcile with the existence of heaven.

My mom loved me a lot. She was strong and courageous. She raised me on her own on a waitress’ salary. I didn’t have everything I wanted but I always had food to eat and clothes on my back. We were very close. We argued a lot because we were very different. My mom had been through a lot of things I just didn’t understand as a teenager and young adult. I can hardly blame her for being bitter. She didn’t know how else to survive.

My mom got cancer when I was 17. She had surgery and although it was scary at the time that seemed to be the end of it. We moved on and then around the time I turned 22 she told me that she had found a lump in her other breast. She died 11 months later. Those were the bleakest most horrible times of my life. We weren’t connected to the community around us. Most of my family avoided us because they couldn’t handle her illness. Three weeks before she passed away I spent 2 or 3 nights in a row awake listening to my mother moan in pain. She didn’t want to go to the emergency room because the doctors were on strike then and she would sit in the hall for days.

As my Mom was dying I was losing parts of myself too. When she stopped going out for dinner, so did I. School was difficult. I didn’t share what I was going through with very many people. I never asked for an extension until the two weeks my Mom was dying in the hospital. It was like I was trapped in this state of emotional torture and the only way out was for my Mom to die. Beyond that in some ways I don't think I would have become a Christian without this experience. We were so tied together and her opinion of Christians was not a good one.

I say all of this to explain why I struggle with the concept of hell so much. My Mom’s shitty life did not make her an ‘enemy of God.’ Many have tried to comfort me saying we don’t really know what happens between here and the afterlife. I hold on to that hope but it doesn’t make the twinge in my chest go away.

A couple of weeks ago I was crying out to God. For some reason I missed my Mom very much that day. When I expressed the survivors’ guilt I feel because He chose me I could hear God speak to me very clearly on this issue. He said, “That decision is Mine not yours. Give it to me.”

Since then I have felt a lot better. This morning’s service could have been very difficult for me but I kept reminding myself I have given this to God. To me this is a miracle because it was something I didn’t think I would be able to work through. So in a way I am thankful for the sermon about hell because it allowed me to see what God has done in my life.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Unanswered Prayer

Last week our pastor taught about unanswered prayer at church. He asked how many people struggled with unanswered prayer. I put my hand up. There wasn’t a whole bunch of other people who put their hands up. He thanked those people who put their hands up for being honest. I was surprised not to see more hands.

Shouldn’t all Christians struggle with unanswered prayer? The bible has many references that could be considered promises of affirmative answers to our prayers. And even without those I believe in a God who loves me. Wouldn’t any good father give a child what they asked for? Would a good father allow his children to suffer?

I may sound angry. I am not angry at all right now. In fact I can’t really point to an unanswered prayer of mine that is particularly bothering me at the moment. I have been thinking a lot about faith and belief lately. I have struggled with prayer because I am afraid of unanswered prayer. I don’t want to ask for fear of not receiving. What kind of belief is that?

So perhaps the key is to struggle with unanswered prayer. The alternative, for me anyway, is to not see any answer to prayer at all.