My dearest oldest friend Kathy, who was the maid of honor at my wedding a lifetime ago, is now caring for her grown daughter who is enduring arduous cancer treatments. I told Kathy I’m praying for them both, every morning. And by that I meant: I’m making demands of God.
“Whenever I pray, God really gets an earful,” I told Kathy.
She thought I was kidding.
Over the years my relationship with The-Power-For-Good, which is my conception of God, has only gotten stronger and more muscular. Instead of whispering or tiptoeing, I approach my God forcefully. I don’t grovel. I grapple. I’m scrappy and demanding.
I make daily demands for strength, wisdom, compassion, patience, endurance — all the things I lack. I pray for the people I love who are far away, out of touch, out of my reach. I demand answers to questions that begin with “Why…?”. I pray for Biden. I pray for Lopez Obrador. And more. One way or another, in good time, I get most of my answers. Oh, and I try to balance my many requests with an equal number of thank-you’s for my many blessings.
It’s taken a while to reach this point of stubborn independent beliefs — years of spiritual interior struggle, like soul-climbing over a series of rocky, treacherous mountains, where the only viable way was up. I’ve long since ditched prepackaged prayers, choreographed rituals, and commonly held religious dogmas made by men hell-bent on mind control.
Manmade religions may well be a comfort to many, and I respect that need. But to me, when religious leaders preach bigotry and narrow-mindedness in the name of God, they are grossly misrepresenting the Supreme Being and doing more harm than good.
I know people who’ve become so disillusioned with the religious teachings of their childhood they’ve turned their backs on all of it, including the belief in a sovereign God. To me, this is tragic. I can’t help but wonder: Who do these people go to for help and guidance? Who do they pray to? Where do they derive their spiritual strength? How do they feed the spiritual hungers we all possess?
As my author friend Sallie Bingham wrote in her recent blog post, “Why I Believe”: “I believe because I have to” (https://salliebingham.com/why-i-believe/ ). I feel the same way. I have to believe in God because I am unable to believe in man. I cannot believe in mammon (money) either, although I know it’s become the prevailing First World god.
In my recent correspondence with Kathy, I mentioned the Tony-award-winning Broadway musical that came out in the mid-’70s when I’d moved to New York to attend Columbia University, “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.” As a starving scholarship student, with neither money nor time, I never saw the show; but I saw the marquee in midtown and ads for the show everywhere as I walked from my part-time job in publishing to the Columbia campus uptown. And I’d think, Ha! MY arms are NOT too short to box with God! I box with God all the time! We’re sparring partners.
My God, the Great Spirit (to borrow the Native American term), creator of all that is good, and freely available to all through heartfelt prayer, doesn’t live in any one church – or synagogue or temple or mosque, for that matter. In my view, no religion holds the sole proprietorship on God.
My God, The-Power-For-Good, who sustains me, guides me, uplifts me, gives me purpose — and often answers my prayers — lives in the boxing ring in my heart.