Sunday, October 5, 2008

Prayer and Righteousness

I left services the first day of Rosh Hashanah because I needed to. It was more than just the unending tears, although I will admit to a little bit of embarrassment over that - especially when the woman behind me, in her best stage whisper, said to her husband "that girl is crying, look, she's crying, why do you think she's crying?". I felt anger. I felt despair. I felt baffled. I felt sadness.

I am angry with G-d and I couldn't imagine how I could sit there and pray to him when I feel so angry. It's quite the contradiction to have faith but then feel so angry with the entity to whom you give that faith.

Now, we have to take a little detour here. Since this is a mindmapping experiment, I have to go explore Righteousness before I can come back to this theme of Prayer. I planned for it to be a separate post, but, I need to think about it here.

Righteousness. Doing the right thing. I am a very black and white person. I believe, in many situations, there is a right and there is a wrong. You can make a good choice or you can make a bad choice. Now, don't beat me up, I know there is gray area and times when the choice that you make is not definable as right or wrong. But, in many cases, to me, it is clear cut. Nobody is truly righteous, in that nobody makes the right choice all the time. But, I do strive to be a good person and to make good choices. And, making the right choice, again, by my definition, isn't always the one that makes you the happiest or is the easiest. So, given that, of course, part of me thinks that I should never have left services, or, at the very least, should have marched myself back in there because participating in the Rosh Hashanah service, even if it caused me sadness, would have been....say it with me...the right thing to do.

Now, I will fully admit that I get WAYYYY too hung up on doing the right thing sometimes. So, why wasn't I able to do it in this situation? Despite feeling incredibly guilty about leaving, why didn't I leave and not just go back in?

OK, back to Prayer. I think I now know why I couldn't go back in. My relationship with G-d is extremely important to me. If I didn't feel that way, if the prayers that I wanted to say, that I needed to say, weren't important to me, I probably could have just gone back in and sat there and gone through the motions. But, I take the services and prayers and rituals very seriously. They are meaningful and important to me. And, so, it makes sense to me that, when I am so emotionally charged with negative emotions, I would struggle to participate in these rituals of prayer that I hold so dearly.

For the record, the ritual and the prayers are very important to me and I did go to services the next day, albeit after the sermon. And, except for a couple of times when I teared up, I managed to focus on the words of the prayers and the melodies I was chanting (the musical/lyrical prayers, in particular, impact me the strongest) and not the thoughts they evoked and I felt more spiritually fulfilled then I thought I would.

Now, we'll see how Yom Kippur goes....


shiner said...

I hope it is okay to respond here. This is such an honest and personal post. I am not exactly where you are but I have been there. I still can not set foot in church without crying my eyes out. The last time I went was for the baptism of my neice. The preacher kept saying that children are a gift. All I could think was "why don't I deserve the gift? What have I done wrong?" So, I think I understand what you mean. You want to do the right thing and worship but you are just raw and hurt right now. That is how I felt just a few months ago. It took time but I finally made peace with my situation. I decided that all I can do is my best. If I don't get to have a child, then it's not up to me and I will adopt. I decided 4 months after my last miscarriage that I could no longer carry the burden of "why is this happening to me." It sounds like you are trying to heal. My prayers are with you.

Polly Gamwich said...

I can completely relate to struggling with God in a service. Many times the pastor talks about our sin towards others and forgiving others ... when I feel like I am angry at God and I feel like I need to forgive him.

Dagny said...

It totally makes sense to me.

And I think the fact that you could not go back in speaks volumes about you, and in a good way.

And I'm glad you went back.


the Babychaser: said...

Like shiner, I want to be cautious in my response. Even more so, because I'm not religious. I'm the last person to be talking out of my ass about your relationship with your god. So feel free to totally disregard my reaction to your post:

Part of me does think you're being too hard on yourself. I believe strongly in right and wrong. But do you think that maybe you're overestimating the wrongness of your reaction to your grief? It's easy to go through the motions of a religion and feel self-righteous about it. It's not so easy to be honest with yourself about your feelings, and about your needs. Ahd it seems to me that in your efforts not to blame God for your agony, you've ended up blaming yourself.

You have chosen the hard road, the one where you are honest with yourself, with your community, and with your god. Doing what's right isn't about being perfect, it's about being kind, and sensitive, and honest. I think you are more right than you know.

If I believed in god I would be mad as hell at him/her. I really feel like it's so much easier to go through IF when it's just a matter of science and chemistry and even chance. Sure, I lose out on the comfort of feeling loved by a higher being. But this way there's so much less blame to go around.

Finally, I will note that even if you were totally at peace with your god this would be a tough time. Holidays and ceremonies like this are about families and new beginnings and carrying on your values to the next generation. So hard for all of us IFers to deal with.

Good luck with Yom Kippur, and good luck in finding the peace your deserve.

nh said...

I too hope it is okay to respond to such a personal post.

I've been there; angry with God and unable to pray, because those words mean too much. The struggle to keep the relationship open, whilst being angry causes many, many tears.

I shall tell you what our Minister said to me - that it's ok to be angry, it's ok to be in place where you can't pray, because others can and do pray for you. So whilst you have to find a way to overcome the anger and rebuild your relationship, do not feel upset (or guilt) that you can't participate in the prayers and rituals that mean so much.