I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately, not just about during the saddest and most confusing times of my marriage, but in general, since I can remember.
Going through the divorce has made me question a lot of things, about my beliefs, how I was raised as a Catholic, how the nuns at my school taught us about God, how my family taught me about God and the Virgin Mary and everything we Catholics believe in, and more.
I have also been comparing the different stages of my faith in my life. I’ve noticed some very distinctive phases. I have also noticed how my feelings changed during those stages.
But there’s one particular stage that has actually scared me the most: The one I’m going through right now and the previous one.
Until a few weeks ago, I was very mad at God. I was angry, questioning why He allowed for everything that has happened to happen: Why did He allow for my husband and I to meet when I was perfectly happy on my own as a single woman; why did He let us have a child, only to put her through a divorce and for my husband to be using her as a tool to manipulate me and control me all these years and even more now that we’re going through the divorce; why is He letting him use her just to get at me, trying to damage me as much as possible in the eyes of the court at our daughter’s expense; why is He allowing my mother to suffer so much because of what I’m going through and why has He let my husband mistreat her and lie to her the way he has lied to her. I asked myself so many other questions, too; not just those.
The rage eventually subdued and gave way to other types of thoughts. I started to feel guilty; that perhaps I deserved everything that was happening to me because I had stopped going to Mass many years ago (actually, I started to attend less and less frequently as my relationship with my husband (then boyfriend) progressed and got deeper.) During those years when I didn’t attend Mass as frequently as I used to and then completely stopped going to church, I never stopped praying. Therefore, and to some degree, my faith did not subdue. But I would only go to church in a blue moon and when my husband had other plans. Since he is not a Catholic, it wasn’t his thing and he never truly showed interest in going. So it was not something I could share with him, even when he wanted us to get married in the Catholic Church. Even our daughter is baptized in the Catholic Church.
The way I always saw it, the path of faith is one you have to walk on your own. Eventually, on the day of the Final Judgment, each one of us will have to be accountable to God on an individual basis. Therefore, who was I to encourage my husband to believe and pray? I could be there for him if he had questions, but it was his path to follow, not mine. That’s why I was never concerned about him and I not sharing the same faith or religion. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t practice any religion at all and I doubt now that he even believes in God or a god to the case.
But I’m getting a little side-tracked. In the past few weeks, I remember some stories of families that love God and believe in God as a loving Father who genuinely cares for them and guides them and will see them through whatever it is they could be facing. Even at their most difficult times, they truly believe that God has a purpose for their suffering, for their trials, for their downs in life. Take Bethany Hamilton‘s story. She and her family have an unbreakable faith in God. I recently read the story of the Beam family from Texas. Another story where their faith was tested, but they still believed going through that whole ordeal with their second daughter’s health. And we have so many other stories like those two.
Now, when I look at the way I grew up, it makes sense why I feel the way I do about God. I had always been very scared of God to the point that I would never pray directly to Him. Instead, I would ask for Mary’s intercession for most part. I would also pray to my Guardian Angel and the saints. But I would hardly ever pray directly to God.
Going through the divorce, it has made me wonder why was it that other families believe in the love of God while someone like me cannot believe in a loving God? When my rage gave room to guilt, I started to wonder. I then stopped to ask myself why was it that I was so scared of God. Because it came down to that: I am very scared of God.
This prompted me to ask myself why I feel that way about God. It took me a few weeks, but I slowly started to put my finger on it. I was not raised to believe in a loving God. I was raised to believe in a scary God; in a God full of wrath; in a God that punishes you for your sins; in a God that will judge us now and in the last day.
The nuns at the school made no effort to teach us about the other side of God, the loving, fatherly side. But they poured all their energy into teaching us about the frightening side of God. Before you start arriving to some “let’s put all the nuns and priests in the same bag” conclusion, not all the nuns and priests are like that. The previous nuns we used to have at school taught us about a just God. But when that congregation got reassigned to another province and the new congregation took over our school, the new congregation believed in a fierce God, not a just, loving, fair one. Therefore, that was the teachings they passed on to us.
They would make a point of covering all the stories from the Bible that depict an angry God (or Jesus.) But not the stories I used to love the most, such as the story of the prodigal son, or how Jesus genuinely cried about his friend Lazarus when he died. Add to that the fact that the men in my family have always been quick to anger, or absent (like my father,) I did not really grow up with a loving, just, fair man around me to teach me that men can also be loving, just, fair, and forgiving.
I am now starting to reconcile with the idea that maybe God is not that bad after all. That may be God wants me to trust Him that He will see me through the divorce, that He will protect my daughter, that He won’t let my mom suffer, and that He will have a better plan for me. That maybe He needed me to go through what I’m going through to see this truth and to start to finally believe in Him as a loving, caring Father who genuinely protects His children from harm, as long as they trust in Him and His love for us.
I was listening to the Catholic radio on Sirius XM the other day. I have no idea whose program it was or who the host was. But she was relating the story of how she was so unhappy and mad at God for allowing her to get pregnant for a second time when she was not ready to be pregnant again (it seems that by the time that second baby was going to be born, she would have two children under the age of 2 and she was not happy with that; not that she didn’t love the unborn baby, but she was not happy with the idea of having to deal with a pregnancy; and I can certainly relate to that because my pregnancy, although uneventful, it was not piece of cake and I did not enjoy being pregnant at all.) The host’s words resonated with me so much, not just with what she was saying about pregnancy not being what Hollywood depicts it to be, but also everything else she was saying about faith. How angry she was at God; how upset she was at Him; how she decided not to talk to Him anymore; and how she then realized that it didn’t matter because God could still know what was in her heart and mind. She said a lot of other things that sounded like things that were going through my mind at that time.
I also realized something I already knew: That the Church is made by humans and, therefore, imperfect. All the anger I had been feeling about how the Church treats abuse victims, how they do not provide support for divorce couples, and some other things, I once again came to the conclusion that ultimately, it has nothing to do with God. God is God, the Church is the Church. God is perfect; the Church is not. I could still work at finally building a relationship with God, regardless of how I felt about the Church. Ultimately, it is not about going to Mass or how much money you donate to the Church. It is about your relationship with the Father. And you do not need to be at a church to have a relationship with Him. You can have a relationship with Him at all times of the day and night, anywhere and everywhere.
I still struggle with the fact that I had abandoned Him for so long, most especially since meeting my husband. But if He is the loving Father so many people believe He is, then I could be like the prodigal son and go back home to Him. For the first time actually. Because I had always considered the parishes I would go to Mary’s home more than His (I usually end up attending parishes dedicated to the Virgin Mary.)
These are all new feelings and findings to me. I should have known them since I was raised a Catholic. But I wish I would have been taught a little bit more about the loving side of God. Maybe that’s what God is trying to do now by letting me live through this divorce. Maybe He wants me to go to Him once and for all. To trust Him. To know that things are going to be okay somehow. The other day I finally prayed directly to Him and asked Him that no matter what happens to me, to please protect my daughter from her father. I do not want her to end up a narcissist like her father. I rather something happen to me than her. I want her to have a fruitful life. I want her to find the kind of happiness that comes from within, that no matter the circumstances around her, that she never feels alone, hopeless, or in the dark like I did. That’s what I want.
Jesus said that we have to be like children to cross the gates of Heaven. I think I am now starting to realize that this is true, not just after we die, but now, in this world. The Hamiltons and the Beams of this world seem to have a childlike trust in God. And maybe that’s what I need to have right now. I need to be like a child and start to walk towards God like one. Because if I try to do it as an adult, with full reasoning, I know I will fail and I will go back again to my old ways from a faith point of view. I need to nurture that child within that is still very scared of God and teach her that it is possible, maybe, God is not that bad after all.
Yes, you’re facing a divorce right now. Yes, your husband is lying and being unfair. Yes, your husband keeps abusing you. And yes, it will get worse as the divorce gets nastier and takes longer. However, I need to let go. I need to let God. I need to once and for all throw myself into His arms the way my daughter throws herself into my arms when she’s distressed, with full trust and confidence. I know the truth about my marriage and, if I trust in God, the truth will prevail. But I have to trust. Not half way. I have to let Him take care of it. He saw me through hard times before. He made it possible for me to be in this country now. I can see His hand in many things that led me here today. I need to believe that I am not alone and that my marriage to a narcissist and my divorce from that narcissist are just a necessary step to get closer to His plan for me. I need to believe that His plan for me after divorce is going to be the best plan yet He has for my life. I need to believe, for my own sake, for my mother’s, and for my daughter’s. I need to believe. I need to trust. I need to be that prodigal son (or daughter) and just go home, not back, but for the first time in my life.