“Poor God,” I thought. “God gave away all control over us when God gave us free will.” It was one of my first thoughts when Daddy killed himself. I felt sorry for God and thought God helpless. I imagined God crying along with my family, grief-stricken. Everyone loved my father and thought well of him. Everyone was hurt by Daddy’s death, including God.
I worried that God would have no choice but to send my Dad to hell. From the first day, I started bargaining. I remembered rationalizing that certainly as my father’s Judge, God would have to take into consideration mental illness—even human judges did that. Didn’t they? Surely, my family and I were about pay enough of a hell-debt to get Daddy into heaven. I wasn’t the only one with this worry. One aunt said she was almost sure that Daddy had been baptized, as if that saved him from Hell—as if God would have sent him straight to hell.
That fear of my father going to hell was covered over later with hurt and anger. My husband and I were invited to a neighbor’s party. All the women chatted together for a while in the kitchen. One woman talked about her love for God and stupidly said how sorry she felt for people who kill themselves because they would never get to heaven. Such judgmental words about God flowed out of the same mouth that had just described a loving God. I wished, at the time, that I could have said my thoughts to her, but I hurt too much to speak. And I was too afraid of what I would say. I stomach ached from swallowing my words.
It took me a while to get a handle on God’s power over death since Daddy’s suicide. I started reading the Old Testament; I wanted evidence of a powerful God that could save my father. What I learned really didn’t have anything to do with the business between God and Daddy. The day after he died, an Episcopal priest told me that she believed God gave redemption even after death. She said that she felt God would heal his mind and give him time to make amends. Daddy’s impulsive actions, sins if you want to call them that, are now between him and God.
What I learned was about my own relationship with God. God wanted me to always ask, to always seek, to always find courage. God was a tough old character that weathered my anger, despair, and even my lack of faith. God wanted me to be happy. But even a higher power couldn’t make me happy or make me live in the Now, the kingdom of heaven where God is, without my consent. That was the gift of free will. It was my choice.
“Do we really worship a God who is unable to be God when people need God the most? None of us have kept the commandments. Do we really believe God’s hands are tied by anything?”
…Rev. David Sawyer