I once won a competition! The question was ‘who wrote “The Owl and the Pussycat”?’ I don’t need to tell you, as no one actually told me then (i.e. I knew it), that it was Edward Lear. I won a little theatre to do shows in and I performed in front of my parents.
Disaster. Dropped Cinderella.
“Bugger!” I said, before I knew it. I think I was nine or ten. Mum and dad leaned forward, biting their lips. “Did you just say ‘bugger’?” one of them asked. “No!” I said, maybe a tad too defensively. That night, boy did I pray! “Dear God,” I said fervently, “please can I never have said ‘bugger’. Please let mum and dad forget I said it. Please don’t let me go to hell, I didn’t mean it and I’m sorry. Sorry I said ‘bugger’. Please let mum and dad forget. Please please please.” It’s worked! They have, in the intervening twenty years, forgotten.
And thus began my on/off relationship with God. Raised a Catholic, I began to pray to remove my character defects in order to get to Heaven. If I was mean during the day, I’d pray furiously that God would forget I was mean. It did me very well for a long time.
Then I hit my teenage years and refused to go to church. My relationship with God (I’ll pray this, you do that, yeah?) changed drastically. He hated me. He was going to kill me. He was going to kill me and send me to hell if I went inside a church. I remember being with my brother outside St Joseph’s, acting out something like a scene from ‘The Omen’. I can’t go in! God will punish me! I will do worse than die! Sheer terror overwhelmed me. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I shouldn’t do it.
Then university happened. And I wanted to die. God still hated me and was just poised over his smite button, so I approached dying very warily. The best thing, I decided, was to find a suicide loophole. They were 1. freak accident, 2. fatal illness, 3. get murdered. It is hard to engineer 1 or 2, so I settled for 3. Secretly, I would head out at 3am and wonder around, hoping for the feral youths to set themselves upon me. I would set out with a loaf of bread with me, and deposit a slice at the corner of each road for homeless people to eat and for me to go to heaven, for being good to homeless people.
Well, the murderous thugs were all tucked up in bed, it turns out. And only the pigeons flicked around my slices. But I found something else. At the 24-hour co-op, a lady gave me a hug. The next day, I felt myself walking into the Catholuc Chaplaincy, something I never would have done if I hadn’t have been given hope by the hug lady. I met a girl and we talked. She told me it was wonderful, and that she even lived there.
I then joined Cathsoc and made my peace with what I understood as God. God may not exist, none of us can prove that or otherwise. But all I know is the universe was created by something, and that something I take to be a benevolent being. You may not agree, and you’re perfectly entitled to that. I never used to, either. But sometimes, when I’m alone, I take comfort in the fact that I’m never alone.
“I’m no theologian: I don’t know who or what God is exactly. But I know he’s a force more powerful than mom and dad put together, and you owe him big” – Lisa Simpson.