“God has other plans for you.” When I heard this, just a few days after the fire and my son’s hospitalization, I was both startled and even angry. I quickly subdued my initial reaction because I knew the speaker was sincere in both her faith and her intention. My first thought, though, was to question why God would want a fire to start in my house and my son to spend time in the ER in order to make different plans for my life. Still, I accepted her good will and went on my way. I know that she has faith that God touches everything we do and that there is a plan. I don’t, however, share that faith or concept of God.
I don’t feel very religious or spiritual these days. This feeling did not begin with the fire at my house; I’ve felt this way for several years now. It began after a year of volunteering much too much within the Jewish community. In my enthusiasm, I had overextended myself. All the annoyances and pettiness of some individuals in the different organizations finally got to me. I know that all organizations face this problem; they consist of people, after all, who can sometimes be irritating or have hidden agendas. I’m sometimes irritating myself, I acknowledge that. My friends from other religions report the same experience in their communities. It’s the nature of any organization, especially one that depends on volunteers. Nevertheless, I was burned out and decided to take a break from it all.
The second shift in my spirituality coincided with the big change – menopause. For nearly a year I felt apathetic about pretty much everything in my life. It came over me rather quickly and I was unprepared to feel down, blah, even depressed month after month. I went to extreme measures, for me, and went to my doctor for some medication. The medications helped and I eventually got through that change in life. My apathy went away but my spirituality did not come back. I assume that this condition will change; after all, I’ve been interested in and enthusiastic about spiritual matters most of my life. I find communities like the Amish or ultra-Orthodox Jews fascinating. I wonder at their absolute faith and certainty, but I also know that I will never have that, nor do I desire it. I have too many questions and too much doubt to believe anything 100%.
When my house fire and son’s hospitalization happened, many friends sent prayers, which I appreciated. Whether you call it prayers, positive thoughts, or good vibes, they’re all meant sincerely. I’ve sent all of those at one time or another when someone needs support, too. Whether they help, well, that I can’t tell you. I know I felt better just knowing that other people were thinking of me and my son. I don’t believe in a personal God that influences my life even though I have called upon God when something bad has happened, hoping that I’m wrong. I’m not sure how much about God I believe at all. Call me agnostic. There may be some abstract divine presence in the universe or maybe not. I don’t dwell on it. I keep my focus on the here and now. I still enjoy some religious rituals, like lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night. It’s something I’ve done for decades and that continuity brings me some solace in difficult times. As for the rest, I only know for sure that I don’t know anything for sure, and that’s about as certain as I’ll be about spiritual matters.