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I Do Believe.

November 13, 2009

We were sitting in the same pew we always sat in when it first happened.  There I was with my mom, dad, and brother standing, sitting, kneeling, standing, and kneeling some more with all of the other Catholics in our small town parish.  I was fervent about religion and doing it right.  Not just the practice, but the feeling that goes along with it.  Sometimes it was a natural high that came from going to church and often I would decide that I felt great about going to church.   Either way, I was going to feel joyful because that is what God and worship were supposed to bring to me.   It was perfect. I could do the right thing, please my mother, and secure a spot in heaven all from having the right feeling.  

Imagine how devastated my 7 year old self was then, when, as I gazed at Jesus hanging on the cross, I thought, I don’t believe.”  On came the litany of blasphemous thoughts, so confident, so evil.   They fought against my saintly self who struggled upstream against the deluge.   Jesus could not have walked on water.  He could not have risen to heaven.   I bet Jesus never even existed.” What upheaval.  How could I be so defiant, so unloving, so bad?  Most of all, what would my mother think?  There she was, next to me on the pew, singing and glancing my way from time to time to make sure I was attentive.  Ha!  Attentive to what?  My evil?  Oh God, if she only knew the truth.  She would be so disappointed.  I must stop these thoughts.  I do believe in Jesus.  I do believe in Jesus.  IdobelieveinJesus.  IdobelieveinJesus.  IdobelieveIdobelieve.  I. do. believe.  I’m sorry God.  I’m just sorry.  I don’t mean to doubt Jesus.  I decided that maybe I could just think clearly about this.  Jesus’ life has always been taught to me as fact.  It’s that simple!  It’s just fact.  Just as a sense of relief was washing through me, it started up again.   I don’t believe in Jesus. 

This continued throughout the mass.  It plagued me as I tried to fall asleep at night.  It occured to me intermittently throughout the day.  This went on for weeks.  Finally, one day after church, I got the courage to ask my older brother Joe if he ever “doubted Jesus.”  This was particularly brave as we often found any reason to fight with each other.  With compassion, he said, “Don’t worry about it Lile.  It’s no big deal.”  Really, I thought?  “But does it ever happen to you?”  “Sure, yah, whatever.”  Oh sweet relief!  I could finally rest.     And it worked.  Until it stopped working.  Then the reassurance from my brother just became a part of the cycle.

Jesus doesn’t exist.  Yes, he does.  But, he couldn’t have walked on water.  I don’t believe it.  But I should believe it.  I mean, I do believe it.  Then why am I having these thoughts?  Wait!  Joe said it was no big deal.  Ok, I feel better.  Except, I might not believe that Jesus exists.  Wait, what exactly did Joe mean when he said it happened to him.  He said, “Whatever”.  Was he even LISTENING?  Oh my God, I don’t believe in Jesus.  What if mom knew what I’m really like?

Awhile later, I decide that I need to go to the highest source my seven year old self could find:  My mother.  She heard me crying in my bed one night.  Well, ok, it was a set up.  I knew that if I were sad, it would go better.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t hard to cry about this.  The tears were real.  I just cried loud enough for her to hear me. 

“What’s wrong honey?” 

Crying.  Terrified of uttering the words.  I spoke.  “Mom, it’s just.  Well.  You know how?  Sometimes, I.” 

My mother rubbed my forehead.  “What’s going on?”

Unable to hold back any longer I said it as quickly as I could and braced myself for the lashback.  Maybe I would be in trouble.  Maybe I would have to live knowing how disappointed she was in me.  Maybe she would confirm my greatest fear:  I was a bad girl.  Unable to look a her, I said it.  “SometimesIdoubtJesus.” 

“Oh honey.   Everybody doubts.   That’s just called faith.”

I couldn’t believe it.  But I did believe.  I was too tired not to.  Not only was the answer so available to me during the previous few excruciating weeks, but the answer only unveiled a beautiful truth.  I was a good girl.  Even better, a faith FILLED girl.  I didn’t have it in me to find any holes in this argument.  Not for a couple of years anyway.  But that’s a story for another post.  

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. JeffR permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:36 am

    This is so inspiring 🙂 I’m not so religious, somewhat of an atheist, but I never throw away the possibility of a supreme being.

    • November 15, 2009 10:34 pm

      Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for the comment! I’m actually not so “religious” in terms of following all the rules….it is still in my life, but very much on my terms. The rule following doesn’t mix so well with my OCD. 🙂

      -Lilah

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