Rant: Letting it Out

I went to church today for the first time in three weeks. There, I said it. I played hookie for more than a few reasons, but part of it was I couldn’t take anymore mixing of politics with religion. The schism was hard for me, and I’m still sorting the fall out. I’m in a glass house here, people, so please, if you feel like casting some stones, do it elsewhere.

Sitting in the pew, with my children bouncing around, hushing them and bribing them with FrootLoops, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and dizzy, and my heart started beating really fast and I was blinking hard- I think I was having a mini-panic attack. Never had one of those before, so I may be wrong, but it sure was disconcerting.

Things are a total bucket of rocks for my little family right now. We are out of funds, we are looking for options and solutions, we’ve managed to stretch our six-months of reserves to last almost a year, but there just isn’t much left to stretch. The talks at church today, all by people I know personally and who are good folks, were on how doing good gets you good results. On another day, in other circumstance, I might have had a totally different reaction. Today: it was not good.

I mean, what does that mean for me and my family? It seems that kind of thinking puts God in a box- I put this in, you give me this out. Does it work that way? Because that seems simplistic and juvenile, and doesn’t at all match my experience of God. I don’t know why my family is struggling to much this year. I don’t know why we’ve had health issues, I don’t know why my brother-in-law killed himself, I don’t know why the economy tanked and my very capable husband is having such a hard time finding a job. But I do know if I start looking at this trial as something I could have controlled if only I were more faithful, prayed harder, gave up my Diet Coke or voted differently, I will go insane.

I refuse to turn God into a shopkeeper, a credit manager. That kind of thinking takes away the omniscience of our Creator. That kind of thinking turns God into a vending machine. Put in a coin, get out a reward. A vending machine doesn’t love his creation, and if I know anything at all, I know God loves me.

/End rant. Your regularly scheduled Dandelion Mama will return shortly.

35 thoughts on “Rant: Letting it Out

  1. Life’s challenges become impossible if we resort to thinking “If only… then…” (I like your vending machine analogy!) It sets us up for failure because we are mortal. Because of our mortality we are going to have struggles and weaknesses, and make mistakes.

    The only thing that keeps me going when life is REALLY tough is my hope and faith in God and His love for me. It is hard to maintain that hope when you’re thinking “If I only had enough faith then this would already be resolved…” (Been there, done that, learned the hard way…)

    I agree with you – if I’d been in your ward today and in your circumstances, I would want to rant about it, too!

    Personally, I like you and DM no matter how you deliver it, regularly scheduled or venting!

  2. Sounds like a panic attack to me.

    The “doing good gets you good results” is a horribly flawed argument. Sure, it does, eventually, but sometimes, some blessings I think are postponed until the afterlife. And there’s plenty of people that are doing bad with good results, and doing good with not so great results. I think you’ve been doing great, all year, yet things (as you know better than anyone) have not yet gotten better. And yet, you’ve kept your family together, you’ve helped Beanie grow and mature and get the help he needs to be as happy as he deserves to be, and you’ve been through the temple! You’ve sewn and painted and written beautiful things throughout the year, and I am increasingly awed by your amazing talents and awesome personality.

    I love your last line before your /End rant. Even when life is falling apart around us, that powerful love is still there, at times stretching and pulling us to our limits to help sculpt us, at times gently enfolding us as we sculpt ourselves.

    I pray that things will improve, that your family will soon receive a windfall of temporal blessings and a nice period of relaxation and comfort. And I pray that in the meantime, you will be buoyed up, that those threads still holding together sanity and hope will stay strong and weave together stronger still.

  3. One of my most cherished blessings is my memory of the day I finally understood faith. Well, in my own small measure anyway. Faith is being willing to do what I’m supposed to AND accepting whatever comes. After my fair share of health troubles, I desperately wanted another baby. People would say, “Oh, you just gotta have faith.” Sure…put faith in, out pops baby. Right.

    My life experience has taught me the same as yours. God isn’t a vending machine. He’s God. And I can feel his love even when I don’t get what I want. That’s faith.

  4. panic attacks are scary. very scary. i’ve had more than a few, and they are nothing to mess with. even mild ones.

    i can completely relate with your rant. i have all but stopped going to church, because i am so tired of hearing about how i am struggling because i’m not doing enough. about how i must be sinning because i’m not getting the blessings i should. i’m not paying enough tithing, because if i were, i wouldn’t be struggling financially. after awhile you start to believe it.

    but the truth is exactly what you said: god does love you. just as he loves each of us. and sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) crappy things happen. but he is still there watching over us. and someday, it will all be over, and we will be amazed at how strong we are. at how much we have learned, at how we have grown. and he will be there to embrace us.

    one of my favorite scriptures is matthew 25:21–“well done, thou good and faithful servant. thou hast been faithful in a few things, i will make thee ruler over many things. enter thou into the joy of the lord.”

    when things get really hard, i just say that to myself. it really helps me to keep pushing forward.

    and someday i hope to hear it from my savior.

  5. Hang in there!! Doing good things may not always get you good things, but it can’t hurt. I had found that keeping one foot in front of the other and taking things one day at a time helps me slog through the really crappy times. I hope that your husband finds some work soon.

  6. Our trials are not a measure of our righteousness. Sometimes life is just crappy and unfair. And you’re right—God does love you. Sending extra prayers your way.

  7. God isn’t Santa Clause.

    Trials come from a combination of things: your choices, other people’s choices, external forces that are out of your control, and sometimes just plain bad luck. We shore up our faith not to make the trials go away, but to be blessed with the Second Comforter, who can heal the hurts that come with trials. Trials hit the faithful and unfaithful alike. The difference is that the faithful do what it takes to keep it together and maintain their relationship with God. Which, I might point out, you’ve done magnificently. You’ve held your family together, you’ve stretched your resources, you’re still going to church, your kids are safe. These are not small things.

    You’re asking tough questions that don’t have easy answers, and you’re not the first to ask them. We really want God to be Santa Clause, because that’s a really neat idea. Hey, presents for everybody! Sometimes, though, I try to think about all the ways that my faith and adherence to the gospel has blessed me in small but meaningful ways, especially when I feel like the bigger stuff isn’t working as well. When I shift my focus about what being blessed means, I’m invariably humbled, and I find myself on knees with tears of gratitude on my face. And that’s a better place to be than feeling angry and frustrated and scared.

  8. I hate those kind of Sundays. It’s all you can do to get out the door to got church with all those wiggly bodies while thinking to God, “Please let there be something today that keeps me going.” Instead you get well meaning people speaking or teaching about things they don’t really understand.

    Thankfully this week it was stake conf for me, so not only did I not have to run primary but I left the kiddos home with DH so I actually enjoyed a meeting. The area authority who spoke said just the opposite of those who spoke in your ward. Life is hard, living the gospel is the right thing to do, not because things get easier but because sometimes they don’t. We need something to get us through these dark times. A reason to hope, a way to see a future in the darkness, an eternal perspective. The knowledge that one day we won’t have to worry about diapers, oil changes, the price of gas, mortgage payments, or the weekly paycheck or lack thereof. That because Christ loves us and is by our side somehow we can keep going. His comfort is real even when it doesn’t come in monetary form.

  9. It really sucks when you go to church looking for comfort and you get the total opposite. I’m so sorry.

    I agree that God is not a vending machine or Santa Claus.

    You and your family have accomplished some awesome things this year despite the boatload of troubles. Your friends and family stand by you and love you (I’m sure you know that but I always think it helps to hear it from other people, not just from my own head).

    Keep writing. Like Michelle AM, I love what you write even when you are ranting.

  10. I think sometimes well meaning people are not the best orators, their interpretation of scripture comes out tangled and their analogies skewed. I remember feeling similar feelings in regard to the “Windows of Heaven” speeches popular in regard to tithing, i.e. “pay you tithing and pay the bills with found money from Aunt Jill.” I interpret those words differently, the windows of *heaven*, meaning Spiritual blessing or blessings not necessarily of a fiduciary kind.

    I think “doing good and getting back from God” is probably the “Lose yourself to find yourself” or “toss your bread on the water and it will return to you ten fold” scripture references, which again, *I* interpret to mean that during difficult times our spirit finds peace in good doing, i.e. there is always someone worse off (and better off) than we are and it helps us put our troubles into perspective if we can find those who have less – either spiritually or monetarily, etc, and help them out some how, however small. You found someone who needed your sewing talent to make their wedding perfect, it was hard, but in the long run, didn’t it boost your Spirit to be of help and use to that family?

    When The Firefighter was at death’s door and a well meaning friend counseled me that my “faith was too weak and that it was a test from God, that He would be healed if only I had more…” I was hurt, it stung, however, I *knew* that was not the truth. *God* is in control, and if it was His will that my son die at age 7, then so be it and there would be nothing I could do to change that. My faith was for my son to not suffer and *His* will be done. I had faith, but (obviously!) 25+ years later I still feel the sting from her “well meaning words”.

    It is Spiritual maturity. We are all at different levels and some of us are not eloquent with what it is we are trying to say, some of us are unclear of the principle, or they are teaching things they have not fully understanding. This is a lay church and this stuff happens.

    I am sad that your Sabbath was so anxious and hurtful. I hope that soon you can find those things that will lift you and heal your heart. I *do* know there are many of us who still keep you and your family in daily prayer. I know this is trite, however, you *will* come out of this with real thanks for the experience. It may take years to get that perspective, but having been there myself I can testify to you that it will be o.k. and there will be blessings.

    Cleanse your mind of the hurt and try to feel the love that is there. Hugs.

  11. As a lurker, I have to delurk to say that your post was pain-filled, honest, and lovely. I appreciated you putting it all out there.

    My family and I have been through more than five years of on again, off again torment. There have been beautiful moments throughout, where I have felt cherished and cared for both by Heavenly Father and by those around me, and there have been times where I have felt utterly alone. What I have learned is that while prayers are answered, (and I KNOW that they are), they are not always answered as quickly as I think they should be. I have chosen to be faithful not because it gives me what I think I need when I think I need it, but because being faithful has given me strength to keep going day after day, just like you have. There is joy even in the middle of pain, and you have found that and told about it time and time again.

    And let me say this, too. Sometimes there is an end to the pain and the worry. I’m experiencing that now, and while I don’t know how long this happiness will last, I am grateful for every second of it. Keep your hope…your peace and happiness could be around the corner. And if it’s not, you’ll have the strength to get through it.

  12. Ugh – thank you for your honesty. You are absolutely right that God does not work the way your church thinks He does. I don’t think I have any wisdom to add because I am still trying to come to the place to be thankful for life’s challenges and circumstances. I pray that I will come to that place, because I do know that challenges will probably not go away. I will be praying for you to know the presence of God and to find glimpses of His glory in the midst of mess. Keep ranting – it’s good for all of us, I think.

  13. Another thought, just because I can’t stop thinking about this, about you and how I’ve had attitude with God lately because I’m not one of the ones to get a miraculous healing somewhat like s’mee.

    If doing the right thing were instantly rewarded with blessings there would be no reason for faith. There would be no room for agency. The choice and growth resulting from it would not exist. We would not depend on God, we would just know cause and effect. Which to me explains why this particular kind of learning could only take place where imperfection is allowed to exist. Because of the imperfect nature of this world we do not always receive the fruits of our labors, or if we do they’re rotten and thrown at our heads!

    We should want to do right because it is right. Many many times doing right is more difficult than the other options. That is part of this test. It is also the best way to learn and grow as a person. Being told that you’re growing as a person is not what you want to hear when going through trials so severe. But if you have to go through them (which obviously we’d all choose not to do if at all possible) you might as well come out the other side a better person. The trick is to be better at the end, not bitter. (I’m working on that)

  14. It would be kind of nice if there was a simple equation: Do good and only good things will happen to you. Unfortunatly, not so good (and even horrible) stuff happens to the best of people.
    Lately, I have been noticing that most people struggle with trials and disasters (much more common than I used to think). Hang in there and hopefully, things will look up soon.

  15. I agree it’s not good deed in, reward out. The people at church probably agree with that too, and just got carried away at the pulpit. You’ve had way more than your fair share this year, but my impression of you is that you do feel your righteous relationship with God has given you some real blessings in terms of peace, faith, hope, and love.

    The deepest level of the gospel is that we do good because it’s right, because we love, because we are becoming like God. Doing good to receive blessings is freshman level–better than nothing, true on a simplistic level, something to start with and then move up from.

    I’m sorry you had one of those days at church. Bad mom days and enthusiastic sacrament speakers can be a bad mix.

    “Cleanse your mind of the hurt and try to feel the love that is there.” second that.

  16. also in response to kitty: at one point i was our ward’s relief society president (crazy i know) and i learned that *everyone* has a challenge. usually, people don’t know others’ challenges, but i could go down the street the list the hardships within each house: one person’s work just changed its benefits and she can no longer afford the insurance her sick husband needs. one woman’s husband was unfaithful. one family’s adult daughter is making bad choices. and on and on. even the people who look shiny and perfect on sunday know about tragedy and hardship.

  17. My computer is dead and I have no time on left on this one. But I just want to tell you that I love you. I’m still praying for you and yours.

    It will get better. When, how and where? I’m not so clear on that, but I know it will ease up sometime. Love ya! JL

  18. You are absolutely right! God is not a vending machine! Hang in there and keep believing God loves you – because he does. No matter what! Just keep having that implicit trust in Him.

  19. “That kind of thinking turns God into a vending machine.”

    Amen, Tracy. AMEN! I wish that stupid “Do what you are supposed to do and you never will struggle” philosophy would die – just croak already.

    As the cannibal said to the remaining missionary, “This too shall pass.”

  20. You know… I don’t know what to say. I haven’t experienced what you are going through. But, reading it- I came to think about my experiences at church being in a very fertile ward and me a working mom of a single child. I’ve been told so much- and I wondered (sometimes still…) if it would just take more faith, more prayers, more this or that… then maybe, just maybe something would giv eway and I would get my big family I always wished for.

    I have hard times, and I’ve tried to be positive- remain with my head held up, and just think (and sometimes say) “if you only knew.” People don’t know, and as much as I love church, “church answers” don’t always tackle it… and when they are said in such a way- they can hurt.

    I’m still sending your and your family my best wishes and prayers… I know it’s going to work out. I *KNOW* it. Don’t you give up… rant, stomp your feet, but don’t give up.

  21. Ray, I cannot take credit for likening some kinds of faith to a vending machine. It was my pal Mo Mommy who planted that seed, whilst I was complaining of my day. It is so apropos.

    Mel specifically, thank you for your kindness. I’m sorry you struggle too. If only we could all remember that each of us in in our own kind of pain, it would help so much.

    To everyone, thanks for liking me and accepting me as I am, flaws and all.

  22. I know you may not see this comment, but I wanted to leave it anyway, because I can relate.

    We just went through about a year long period of horrible finance /business loss related awfulness. We’re just now scrambling up and out of it – but not out of the woods yet. My husband has really struggled with all of the financial losses, and is, even now, struggling with bitterness – wondering why God didn’t step in and help us when were were trying our best – why his most fervent prayers went unanswered when we were doing all we could do. He has always been the rock, while I’ve been the wanderer, so it’s strange to have our roles somewhat reversed.

    I have to believe that God just doesn’t care about our material well being. It’s the only way I can make sense of the whole thing. He cares about how we fare spiritually, but isn’t going to intervene in much of anything that happens to us in terms of jobs, prosperity, etc. And I do think God had a hand in getting us through all of the awful stuff that happened – bankruptcy and having the power turned off and selling off stuff in the basement to buy Christmas presents and nearly losing our house. He didn’t stop it from happening, but I think He did help me to be able to see all of the things we still had – our family, our relationship, our friends. After all of it, I knew that even if the worst happened, nothing could take that away.

    I know that doesn’t help when you’re in the middle of it. I just – I can really relate. I know how much pain there can be. I hope things get better really, really soon.

  23. What an incredible group of friends here. My DH and I discuss this topic often and pretty much have come to similar conclusions.

    Mo is brilliant. Thank goodness God doesn’t operate like a vending machine because frequently I don’t have the correct change and it won’t accept my dollar bill. 😉

  24. Tracy my heart is aching for you, I’m praying my heart out.
    I just don’t know what to say to you when you put it all out there like that. Again.
    But I love you!

  25. Tracy,

    I too appreciate your thoughts frankly expressed. I am giving a talk in Church this coming Sunday on keeping the commandments–and your thoughts have helped me to think carefully about how to share and interpret the scriptures I have found on this subject. I know that I have had experiences similar to what you described about your Sunday, and it really is soul-wrenching. Faith gives the courage to go back to church another week and at some point (often it is soon!) we find what seek there. Hugs for you and your family.

  26. When well meaning people mistakenly pull out what my husband calls the Puritanical idea that if righteousness = temporal blessings, I always think of Joseph Smith. Clearly, we know that he was a righteous man, who did all he could in his life to do right, and God’s will. And yet four or five out of his nine children died. He was at the center of the big Kirtland financial bank failure. Business after business of his went under. He was born, lived and died poor. Not to mention the whole driven from state to state and eventually being martyred. If anyone “deserved” money or a healthy family or an easy life because of good choices and good actions, Joseph Smith did.

    I think in reality that sometimes our lives get harder when we are righteous – because Heavenly Father knows that he can test us, and that we will come through. And he needs to test us, so that he knows we’ll be faithful always. Joseph Smith remained faithful; and countless other saints remained faithful through losing all their physical belongings and homes (and children…). Nowadays, countless latter-day saints and good people all over the world remain faithful to Heavenly Father, or God, or whatever name they give him, through Husbands and Wives job losses, and disabilities, and chronic and terminal health problems. THAT”S why good things happen to good people; not because you aren’t good enough, or drink diet coke, or some other santa claus vending machine where you didn’t put enough in. Rather (among other reasons like other’s agency, of course) we need to be tested, and more often than not this happens physically/temporally.

    I like the verses from “How Firm a Foundation,”: “When through the deep trials I call thee to go, The rivers of suffering shall not thee o’er flow. For I shall be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. When through fiery trials they pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

    I realize that this is all a lot easier to talk about and mentally accept than accept when it applies to one’s own life – I’ve certainly had my share of, “Why Lord? I’ve done X,Y and Z right, so I should deserve to have good things happen to me in my life.” But this is the doctrine that I understand in regards to what kind of results you get when doing good things. (And maybe, hopefully they meant you get good things as in what Sue talked about, ie you’re family is together, or you have friends, or even you’re testimony is strengthened.)

  27. Obviously, I am late to the party (catching up on the blogs after finally giving up on NaNoWriMo). I just had to say that I hate the God-as-credit manager metaphor as well. It would be awesome if it worked that way, but no. And I say that as one whose life has been relatively easy, all things considered. A few years ago I heard someone (not at church, of course) say that you have no business asking, “Why me?” when things go wrong if you don’t also ask, “Why me?” when things go right. I hate when I say that something was lucky, and someone corrects me that I was actually “blessed.” Well, yes, blessed, but lucky that God chose to bless me in this particular way, as opposed to some horrible, life-lesson, I-have-grown-so-much-as-a-result way. I am so sorry about all the crap that’s been happening to your family, and I’m sure other commenters have said more inspirational and comforting things (will never catch up on blogs if I read all comments!), but my heart goes out to you. Truly. I hope God blesses you in a lucky way soon.

  28. Thank you for posting this. And I’m a bit late to the game, too, but I feel the need to comment nonetheless.

    We have three children now, but it took seven years of trying and lots of doctors and seriously involved procedures to get the first two, twins.

    I can’t tell you the number of people who told me to just have faith, because, obviously, if I am not yet pregnant, I must not be faithful enough. Right. It that where babies come from? Faith? Wow, there must be a lot of drug addicted teenagers in this world whose extreme faith has not yet managed to become apparent in their behavior!

    Happy mama of three now, and there’s no bitterness now, just a greater understanding of exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing here, and that is maintaining a relationship with God regardless of my circumstances, not because of them.

    Love the blog. Found it through mommysnark.blogspot.com.

    I’ll be back!

Comments are closed.