I don’t talk or write much about religion because it confuses me. I am not an atheist or an agnostic. I am not a Catholic or a Methodist. I am not a Baptist or a Buddhist. But I do believe in God. I try to be true to my beliefs, whatever they are on a given day.
In my tentatively titled, upcoming novel, Ripple, one of my main characters is a mother whose daughter was raped. After she takes matters into her own hands, Helen contemplates how to talk to God about what she has done:
Helen didn’t know what to say to God so she said the Lord’s Prayer. She didn’t feel like it made sense to ask for God’s forgiveness. She had done what a mother must do. And if that meant she was going to Hell, she was willing to pay her debt.
Helen is a high-powered big firm lawyer, with a $20 million book of clients. At the pinnacle of the legal profession, she is not in the least bit in touch with her emotions. Even though she does go to church, she has drifted away from God and when she needs Him most, she has no idea what to say.
As I constructed Helen in my head, I tried to imagine how a rational woman almost devoid of emotion would express her feelings, and often, her inner dialogue sounds like that of a confused teenager. Most of the time, however, she sounds heartless. Except when her daughter is hurt.
Even the most rational of mothers feels strong emotions about their children. Helen drops to her knees, both figuratively and literally, when she realizes that her daughter’s world is crumbling. Helen’s well-honed rational mind has no power to fix what is broken. She must be guided by her emotions. She is bereft. She feels empty and frightened and alone.
Helen is not based on me, but she does what I have done in my moments of desperation. She begs, beseeches, and cries out to God. She takes comfort in knowing that He is still there, always listening, never leaving her side.
Of course, Helen does not abandon her rational side. Even as she prays, she muses about the meaning and existence of Hell:
Hell. I don’t really want to live there for eternity. Is there even a Hell? Does it make sense, really? I love how Dante describes it.
And Helen doesn’t spend much time praying or even contemplating religion, even in her time of greatest need.
Helen told herself to stop worrying about hell and get a grip.
After all, she has things to do and a life to live.
What does this mean about my own religion? Like Helen, I have a finely-crafted rational mind. Unlike Helen, I feel and base my actions more on feelings than on thoughts. I am not a stranger to prayer or to God, but organized religion puts me off. I have seen visions of God and of angels; I have battled demons and I do believe in the power of evil. But even as I fear evil, I believe that good will prevail. God is good. In the end, He wins out over evil.
In my next book, I will explore the battle between good and evil, light and darkness, and Heaven and Hell in much more depth. Perhaps by then, I will have more of my own religion figured out. One thing I am certain of is that God doesn’t mind all of the questions I ask. To paraphrase the late and great G. K. Chesterton, the woman that questions and still believes in Him has a faith that is all the stronger.
Do you come by faith easily? I’ve been having on ongoing dialogue with the lovely Deb Bryan, and would love to continue this discussion with more of you. That is, of course, if you feel comfortable talking about it. I can promise you one thing: any discussion or debate here will be undertaken with love and respect. With that in mind, what are your thoughts and feelings?