Self

I Don’t Understand God

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woman holding bible

I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around my husband’s traumatic brain injury (TBI). It was March 2012 — over a year since he was struck while riding his scooter by a truck making an illegal turn — and no matter what I did, his erratic mood was growing worse.

But on this particular day, I wasn’t dealing with his hot-cold behavior, angry outbursts, or depression. Instead, I sat alone on my bedroom floor, surrounded by family photos, trying to select the best ones to send to our attorney.

We were eleven months into our lawsuit against the driver’s insurance companies, and I needed to provide evidence of how my once sweet and gentle husband had morphed into the angry, hostile man my sons and I didn’t recognize and feared.

As I sorted the photos into piles, I didn’t hold back my tears. Every picture from before his accident showed a happy, loving family, and the only picture of us after his accident was taken the previous Thanksgiving. He stood behind me with his hands shoved into his pockets and a grimace etched on his lips.

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The deterioration of our family was scattered around me, and it was my job to convince the attorneys that what I claimed had happened had actually happened.

I had already printed off damning pictures from James’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Every day, he posted a scowling selfie, and every day our friends and family asked if he was okay. I studied those pictures and wondered if I had done enough to love him and fix him.

“Mom?” My middle son, Leo, stood in the bedroom doorway. He was eight and the most observant of my children. He was also, like me, the person who took the brunt of James’s anger. Leo and I believed that if we loved James more, showed him we loved him, and kept trying to engage him, James’s brain would heal and we’d be happy again. “What are you doing?” Leo asked. “Can I help?”

I dragged the back of my hand across my checks and forced a smile. “Finding pictures for the attorney.”

Leo walked across the room and sat across from me, criss-cross applesauce. He picked up a picture of James and the boys at the Russian River the summer before his accident. “I kind of remember this,” Leo said. “We got a canoe?”

“We did.” I tidied up my piles. Leo didn’t need to go down the torturous memory lane I was trapped on. “Do you want to walk up to the playground?”

He shook his head slowly. “Do you believe in God?”

His question took me aback. We were a Catholic family. My sons went to the same parochial school James and his mother, aunt, and uncle had all attended. Leo had had his first communion the year before. We went to Mass. I volunteered endless hours organizing the school and church festivals.

Of course, I believed in God. Except…I didn’t really anymore. Not since James’s accident sent our family spiraling, and God hadn’t answered my prayers.

“Why are you asking?” I said.

Leo shrugged. “I don’t understand God. Why did Dad get hit? I think God should fix him.”

I sighed and waited for a beat before answering. “I don’t understand either.”

“If God loved us, he’d make Dad not mean.” Leo, in his child wisdom, expressed the thoughts I had had for months. I had prayed at Mass and at home for God to heal my husband and make our family whole, and by this time, I had concluded God had either abandoned us or didn’t exist.

I motioned for Leo to sit on my lap, and he hurried over. I nuzzled his hair. “I suppose God does things we don’t understand. That’s what Father Rizzo says.”

Leo shook his head. “When you love someone, you help them. God isn’t helping us.”

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I had no answer. Like Leo, I felt abandoned and frankly, adrift in my once unwavering belief.

I kissed his cheek. “Buddy, I don’t know the answers. I wish I did, but I don’t. Maybe we should talk to Father Rizzo.”

And that’s what we did.

It’s been ten years since that conversation. Leo is now in college, and if I’m honest, neither of us believes in God anymore. Or maybe more correctly, both of us question God’s existence. My following of the Catholic church has been replaced with my determination to live a life that causes the least amount of harm — and I don’t need weekly services for that. I try to live by the positive tenants of the religion I grew up in, but I no longer participate in organized religion.

Because here’s the thing: like Leo once said, I don’t understand God.

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I don’t understand how a being who is all-knowing and full of infinite love can sit back and watch his children attack and hurt each other. I no longer agree that everything is God’s predetermined plan, and I now believe life is random and chaotic.

Every day, humans wage war, think only of themselves, and needlessly destroy the environment. Shouldn’t God prevent this? Does he want his children warring? Does he want us to destroy the beautiful planet he created? Why can he intervene in some situations, but not others?

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But then I step back, and I see my situation in the bigger picture instead of the snapshots. James and I repaired our marriage after he got the help he needed. Our family is strong, happy, and whole. It took years, not weeks or months, to get to this point, and even when I felt all was lost, something inside me kept urging me to keep working. To keep trying. To keep believing.

Was that God?

I don’t know.

I don’t know, and maybe I never will.

But I do know that I can live a life that causes the least amount of pain to those around me. I can speak up against injustices, and I can be a force for positive change. I can raise children who are compassionate and good humans.

I don’t understand God, and maybe I don’t need to. Maybe no one does.

But I do have questions for Him.

Mia’s memoir Always Yours, Bee, about her husband’s accident and her subsequent spiral into mental illness, was selected by BookBub as one of “15 Powerful Memoirs to Read in 2021.” She is also the author of the women’s fiction series, The Waterford Novels.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.