To say I have a conflict with God is an understatement. I truly have a love-hate relationship with Him. I often mention that I was raised Catholic and currently reject it based upon my sexuality, but I know I really can’t ignore my love and need for God either. Currently, I feel like an internal battle for my soul is happening. On the one hand, I want to feel like my sexuality is completely natural and completely acceptable in the eyes of God – in fact, encouraged by God to love someone (if anyone). But on the other hand, I feel like traditionalism tells me that I am not aligning my life, thoughts, soul or being with God’s will and purpose for me within my life – in other words, I need to repent my ways and live accordingly.
I can’t begin to even out down all of my struggles and arguments against faith, let alone begin to express all of the ways that I believe God has helped me within life. I have a sense of obligation that is coupled with a sense of rebellion. Granted, I do realize this is the essence of the so-called human condition. I even realize that it is within the struggle for faith is when the victory is the essence of the divine. But I also feel the conflict is ripping me apart at different points in my life. There are times when I feel like I’m living faithfully only to have my faith mocked and ridiculed, and I know there are times when I am living in a way that makes me feel free and I feel guilty and shameful. And to say that this isn’t a critical moment for me, would be a fallacy. You see, I place a lot of my relationship with God on the crux of my sobriety too.
It’s during these conflicts, that I find I don’t want to face any of it and I go back to drinking.
But I know…deep down, I know…that’s not what I want.
Deep down, I know that there is a hole in my soul that I have not been able to fill.
I haven’t filled it with booze.
I haven’t filled it with sex – with men nor women.
I haven’t filled it with food.
I haven’t filled it with hobbies that became compulsions.
I haven’t filled it with egotistical pursuits.
I haven’t filled it with a hateful and argumentative need to be right.
I haven’t filled it with seeking praise from others.
I haven’t filled it by isolating myself from others.
I know many of my Christian friends would say it can can only be filled by accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I know many of my friends in sobriety/recovery would say I can only fill it with a Higher Power or a God of my understanding. I don’t know that I’ve had too many people for different religions or faiths ever express to me what might be the path to feeling okay with myself. It’s not that I’m unwilling to explore different paths to so-called spiritual enlightenment, it’s just that I am unsure if I can ever feel spiritually enlightened…
And my thoughts are here for two incredibly important reasons.
One is that I am currently doing Step 4 within the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and God/religion is a specific item on my list of resentments – thought not quite the same as it might be for others. I have never had the over-bearing or abusive treatment that some people have experienced when it comes to faith and religion. In fact, my own dad, whom I respect immensely, has never condemned my questioning to critiques of faith. He has always been open to questions and answered as compassionately as possible. I never felt forced to do anything I didn’t want to do when it came to faith. I’ve also had the opportunity to be involved with churches or religious groups that accepted my voluntary involvement. So, I do not have that negative connotation. No, my resentment is purely academic – I know what I’ve read, and listened to in speeches, homilies, commentary, conversations, etc. and I have experienced that some of these things don’t match what I feel. I’ve also understood theological reasonings that I have flat rejected because they do not line up with what I want – i.e. my will is different. I want what I want and I can’t help but believe that the things I want are not inherently against God – regardless of anything I can research on an intellectual level.
The other thing I am experiencing right now is the loss of my grandfather – He passed away on Saturday. He would have been 90 this April. He is one of the most devout Catholics I know. He was the kind of man that was at mass daily for years, and had attended mass the previous Sunday before passing away. I remember as a kid, going with him and my grandmother to take food to the nuns that lived nearby their house. I was baptized in his church – along with most of my grandparent’s family. My little brother had his funeral at my grandparents’ church. He donated to the poor, regularly. He always helped his family. He prayed his Rosary daily. He received communion regularly – a minimum of once per week. He was a loving man – completely devoted to God, if not my grandmother and family. And he was a quiet man. A veteran of the Korean War – he even helped dig the trench that separated North Korea from South Korea.
And did I mention he was Catholic?
Hearing of his passing on Saturday filled me with a remorse. A remorse I feel could only be addressed by honoring him. And I felt a need, a deep need to reconnect with the Catholicism of my youth. I felt a need to pray my Rosary. I felt a need to go to confession. I felt a need to reject every sin I ever committed – especially those sins seeped in physical pleasure. I felt sadness for ever living in a way that was not righteous. I suddenly felt a need to step up and be the man I have never been. Reject everything about myself – the parts of me that were selfish, self-seeking, dishonest and afraid. I felt a need to make sure I make my marriage work – yes, in spite of everything.
And then I felt inept…
How could I possibly live up to anything like that? I will fall short of what my grandfather was. I will fall short of the goodness and faithfulness of that man. I will fall short of the virtues of my catholicity. I will fall short of my temptations and desires. I will fall short of my inability to forgive. I will not be able to live up to a smidgen of the goodness of my grandfather. The quiet giant he was. The hands of a worker. A farmer’s tenacity. The strength of faith. I will forever fall short.
This is the true essence of my resentments: myself.