There’s something strange going on with me. It has to do with prayer, but I also have some questions for my atheist friends. Like, what are your go to phrases for hard times?
I tend to cry ‘O God,’ when things get tough. Or even, ‘Help me Jesus!’ if the situation feels dire. This can happen in a variety of situations, like with bad news or flat tires. Sometimes I verge into Handmaid’s Tale territory and say things like, ‘Praise Be!’ But I mean it in a good way because unlike them, there’s no gun to my back. So it feels very authentic. But what do non believing exclaimers shout? ‘Oh, the Void?’ Or, ‘What in hell?’ I’d really like to know.
I’ve always thought of the Almighty as a she, although, does a spirit have a sexual identity? Probably not, yet we insist on giving God a pronoun, anyway. If you’ve heard the fable about the universe being built in six days, ask yourself this. Who works that hard? Is it the guy who offers up some seed, or the woman who takes it, grows a baby and then gives birth to it? Pardon me, dear male readers, but I believe that only a woman would build a universe that quickly. The male part of the God brain might add, ‘Thank ourselves that that’s over! What do you say we take the seventh day off?’
Anyway. In 2006, I said the following prayer: ‘Dear God, please help me get off the sugar wagon. I’m seriously addicted and just can’t stop.” I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but it wasn’t this.
I developed allergies and began breaking out in hives. Massive things, with maybe 400 smaller ones on the bottom of each foot. Seriously itchy situation. It started with kiwis, then apples, then every kind of fish. No one could help me. Not my doctor, or an allergy specialist, or anyone. At last, I spoke to the family guru, my cousin Susanne. She listened carefully before speaking these dire words.
‘You should give up sugar and wheat. Maybe oatmeal, too. You’ve messed up your digestion and it needs to heal. It’s just for a while.’ (She was wrong about the last part.) But I followed her advice and a week later, lost all my allergies. The brain fog I’d been carrying for many years left me. I didn’t even know I had it until it cleared up. I also got back a decent iron and B12 count, which had mysteriously gone missing.
Some people think that God watches from afar and doesn’t interfere with us. Or that there’s no one there…hence, the void. But that has not been my experience. ‘Asked and answered,’ I pictured the Creator saying about my sugar addiction prayer. ‘Job done!’ (She high fives an angel.) It makes me wonder. Should we be careful what we pray for?
My daughter Mari has been living with me during the pandemic. I do the cooking and always end up making too much food. Not enough for leftovers, though. There’s no reason to put a cup of rice, or oven fries, or homemade soup, or chili or, you name it, in the fridge. And I can’t throw it away. That’s a waste.
So I eat it. Or I encourage Mari to eat it. And we’ve both been feeling the effects of those large meals. (I blame Clarence. His family’s motto was ‘Eat Big.’) So I prayed about it. And then one day I was out in my car listening to a broadcast about shortages in the supply chain for groceries and I pictured God thinking, “How about a temporary loss of food? That should stop her overeating.”
No, I thought. That wouldn’t happen. Humans make their own problems, and I am not the center of the universe. I brushed the worry aside, but just in case, began planning for a foodless pandemic. Storming with my fogless brain, I threw a survival idea at Mari.
“Those large birds perching in our trees aren’t very smart. If we’re desperate, I could catch one in a pillow case, smash its head against the cement driveway, pluck out all the feathers and cook it for dinner. Yeah?” She looked at me the way kids do when their parents are going around the bend.
So I pushed away the thought of no food and hedged my bets by adding prayer addendums, like, “Regarding my prayer about portion control, don’t do anything that affects anyone but me, God. And one more thing. I don’t want to end up shipwrecked or left on an island somewhere. I don’t really care that much about overeating.” Man, the paranoia can really set in.
It’s this pandemic. I have too much time on my hands and I’m missing my friends. It’s leaving me a bit…well. Like how I sound here. Anyway, if more bad things happen, just know that my prayers are becoming very specific. And yet. Perhaps they should be vetted by a lawyer. Or by my minister, Steve. Or Father Paul. Just someone else. However it goes down, I think I’d rather shout ‘No funny stuff!’ than not believe in a Creator. But that’s me. If you disagree, comfort yourself with this. You may be an atheist shouting into the void, but at you’ll least you won’t have to give up sugar.