Sister Margaret’s Rosaries make a familiar metronome like click as I kneel at the back of the chapel. The dim lights and and musty odor remind me that I’m in the basement of my rectory. Unlike other parishioners, I still need to use the landline to call God because I haven’t figured out how to text him yet. I clasp my hands together and pick up my virtual receiver to Him. I get a busy tone. I try again, this time depositing an extra Hail Mary and a few Glory Bes in hopes of extraditing my call. “I’m sorry, but God isn’t currently taking the calls of homosexuals. Please try again when you’re less confused.” The receiver clicks. Did God just hang up on me?
I want to give up on God, my desire fueled by fits of anger and reinforced by my knowledge of science and general worldly observations; are you really trying to tell me that women were created from man’s rib? I don’t know, it seems a little fishy to me, there aren’t even stem cells in ribs to create the other necessary organs for life. But, I can even accept that maybe there was a higher force responsible for sparking life…what I cannot accept is the evil, the pain and suffering I see every day in my line of work. How could a just and righteous God allow this to happen to his children? I slam my car door, push away the thoughts of religion and fasten on my ID badge, just another day at work.
“I place my hands together and bow my head silently, it goes to His voicemail. I know he won’t listen, but I leave a message anyways.”
I try to smooth the wrinkles out of my scrubs as I sit at the nursing station filling out an incident report. “Patients appeared cyanotic and was pulseless. I initiated CPR and called for help from licensed staff.”
One of the nurses looks at me, “Sometimes it’s easier to just remember that they’re free from suffering now.” The light bounces off her golden cross and I question how she still believes in her God after working here and witnessing so much pain on a daily basis.
I place my hands together and bow my head silently, it goes to His voicemail. I know he won’t listen, but I leave a message anyways. “You’re one twisted fucker to let all your children suffer like this. What kind of Father does that? Do you enjoy watching our agony, or are you too preoccupied to notice.” I slam the receiver down, and the noise of my fists meeting the table gets the attention of the rest of the staff. “Who wants a coffee? My treat.”
As I clock out I suddenly remember everything that God has dealt me, the terrible hand and the utter lack of instructions to even play the game. I close my eyes and I’m taken back to where I learned that God only lives on Sundays.
Looking back I see myself at 13 years of age. I’m all alone in my father’s house. I haven’t seen him in a couple of days and I haven’t seen my mother in five years. It’s Saturday, and my devout Catholic father will be home with just enough time to sober up for afternoon mass the next day. He’s an Irish Catholic in case you’re wondering. When the Eucharist isn’t available he settles for the blood of Christ. It’s 9 p.m. and I know I shouldn’t even bother saying a prayer before I go to bed, it’s not like He’s listening and if He was why would He leave me here? 3 a.m. rolls around and I awake to the slamming of a door and stumbling steps that only make it a few feet into the house. It’s Sunday, today God is listening and all will be holy in our house (until about lunch and the Bloody Mary’s are served). With service restored to the landline I say a quick prayer, hoping to get out of this house, hoping to escape the abuse and neglect. Today, God listened and it seemed as though all my prayers were answered.
“If God doesn’t love me, why should I love him back?”
The sermon that day was about how God condemns the gays and how they all end up in hell. Our pastor, new to the states and full of anger, gives a fiery sermon that would make one reminisce on the days of John Proctor. “In my country,” Father Asante just moved here from Ghana, “we listen to the bible and let homosexual sinners meet stone like God intended. I beg you brothers and sisters to reject those that are unholy and to cleanse your house.” My father seemed to be listening intently as he rocked on every word that our pastor enunciated. Either that or withdrawal symptoms were beginning to kick in.
I deposit a couple Our Father’s, “But God, you love all your children, right? God do you love me?” This is when I started to hear the silence. My years of Sunday school and religious practice had started to grow cold. If God doesn’t love me, why should I love him back? What I didn’t know at 13, was that my earthly father was unable to love a gay son as well. And almost like my prayer was answered, I was out of my father’s house.
“Thank you God,” I attempt to shoot him a quick text as I pack all my belongings. However, my text is cut short by the sick joke that He played on me.
I arrived at my mother’s, only to be greeted by a floor coated in empty bottles and the sound of sniffles coming from the bathroom. My stepfather emerges, and my younger brother screams “Mommy, I think Daddy’s sick, He’s all sweaty and his nose is bleeding.”
I decided now would be an appropriate time to finish that text, “Thank you…for being a major asshole.”
The white powder that seemed to be stained in rigid lines to the bathroom counter only made me question my faith more. And as I washed my hands I left one more voicemail “But why would you create something so evil. Why put pain here, why intentionally harm your children. Do you not love us all equally?”
“Do you want cream and sugar in that?” I come back to reality in the middle of Dunkin’ Donuts. I shake the thoughts of my past away, reminding myself of everything that I have overcome. Not only did I overcome an abusive childhood that ended in homelessness for a stint, but I was able to graduate the top of my class as a certified nursing assistant and licensed EMT on track to go to a great school. I did that, I think to myself. Not a guiding God, me.
Back at work the pain seems to be never ending. The family in room 308 is agonizing over their comatose father, and the patient in room 328, currently have an episode of psychosis is looking for a monster under her bed. It is the pain I have witnessed as a nurse’s aide that has truly harmed my faith.
“God,” I don’t waste my time depositing anything anymore now that I have unlimited minutes, “It’s not that I don’t believe in you. It’s just that, I don’t want to believe in someone that would allow pain and suffering like this to exist.”
I wait for a response and instead I’m greeted with a patient moaning in agony. I want to throw a temper tantrum in the hallway, start screaming “it’s just not fair,” but I’m too thankful for the life I have come to have. It’s moments like this where I have to think back to my senior year of high school, and as the blue nitrile gloves snap against my wrist I am back on the streets.
At 17, I spent the majority of the fall couch surfing. I simply couldn’t live with my stepfather anymore. My mother had run off with a doctor and I found myself utterly alone. I spent a night here and a night there, bouncing around, occasionally sleeping in my car under the twinkling lights of a Wal-Mart parking lot. I spent a little over a month without anyone, not even God to help me through this time. With my life in shambles I ended up with my aunt. I finally came to terms with the fact that both parents had left me, but the fresh wound still caused me to cry at night.
“God,” I always talked to Him in the middle of the night, “please just take the pain away. I’ll go back to church I promise.”
I bargained with him and to keep up my end of the deal I found myself back at my parish. And per request of my elderly grandmother enrolled in class to receive my confirmation. Except, it didn’t last. Word quickly spread about how my disease, my gayness, caused the holy water to boil whenever I walked in. And when the pastor found out that water was going to waste he quietly asked me to leave his parish.
“God,” my hands clenched the steering wheel and I put him on over Bluetooth, “I think I need to take a break from you.”
“It’s not you. It’s me. I just think I need something more.”
At 17, I stopped worshiping in the confines of a church, and I stopped worshiping a God that only seemed to offer pain and suffering. Instead I began worshiping myself. Service hours included, but weren’t limited to, daily gym visits and total investment into my academics. I thought then that all I needed was myself.
“Code Blue,” the intercom brings me back into the present “code blue, room 308.”
I stand by idly as the nurses ventilate and compress, hands clasped as I try to make an emergency call. Please answer I think to myself. Voicemail, again. “Please God, please don’t let him die.” It’s in times of need, times of desperation, I find myself calling His name.
The code ends, I find myself shaking from what I attribute to either nerves or adrenaline. Not wanting to let the seasoned nurses realize how nervous I am I clench my hands to end the tremors.
And in that moment I heard Him, “I never gave you more than you can handle.”
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