I’m not quite sure what to pin this on – pop culture, society, belief systems or good old fashioned overanalyzing – but there is something in me that always felt pressured to ascribe meaning to everything; and I do mean everything. Was I raised this way? Did the Bible tell me so? Have I watched too many movies? Hard to say.
I’m tempted to throw the rope around this pop-sage phrase: everything happens for a reason. But to press even further, that lasso could probably extend itself over traditional Evangelical indoctrination that everything happens because God either loves you or is disciplining you or has handed you over to Satan like a modern day Job. Run into an ex on a bad hair day? Miss your dream-college application deadline? Get sick? Or, did you win the lottery, lose the sinus infection, and marry up? Clearly, God and the Universe and all the Heavenly Host are trying to tell you something.
Here’s the problem with this theology (and though it isn’t entirely religious, I’m calling it theology anyway, for the simple reason that most people abide by this rule in some fashion…like theology): it leaves the interpretation of life’s events far too heavily in my own hands, and quite frankly, leads to bipolar and OCD-like tendencies in at least 98% of adults who abide by the rule* (*conjecture). Personally, I don’t want to live under the assumption that I can tell what God has up his sleeve, simply because today went really well or not and therefore I’m obviously in his favour or not. To un-relig this idea: maybe the Universe isn’t telling me anything. Maybe the Universe wants me to lighten up and stop asking the Universe so many near-sighted questions. Maybe instead of reading the events of today like a horoscope, I should just get some rest, drink lemonade on a porch somewhere, call my mom; tell her who I just ran into and why that’s so darn funny.
Do you want the truth? I don’t ascribe meaning to things anymore, and I haven’t for quite awhile now. The reason is this: according to that popular sage, God and the Universe are in on a Joke that seems to revolve around me. In fact, the more days I gather under my belt, the more I realize that they’re either laughing with snooty self-gratification at that poor little game piece named ashley, or, I’ve been completely misinformed. It took awhile to kick in, but eventually I stopped deciding to believe that I am a pawn in some cosmic game. Perhaps it was an act of self preservation and nothing more, but hey, it worked.
What I’ve discovered as a result of the string-cut is both freeing and unsettling. First, the freedom comes in the everyday, in the ability to just enjoy life, to laugh when things are funny or fucked up and then to move on like an adult. The unsettling bits come when that question still arises and I have no answer afterwards. ‘What does this mean?’ is now met with silence instead of practiced belief. Instead of basing my understanding of God on situational experience, I’m now forced to find a new way of seeing Him in my world, and I admit it’s not that easy.
But here’s the thing: I can’t go back. The days of interpreting the voice of God via the checklist of Must Haves are behind me (Dear Jesus: I believe you are bigger than my culture). I believe that life is just life; a series of good windows and solid walls in no particular order; a run of miscellaneous ups and downs. I have experienced 'love' from those whose only goal was to test me because they felt I didn't measure up, and I can tell you: that isn’t love. So when I think about life, this thinking begs the question: is God testing me, or has he simply given me the ability to learn? It must be concluded that if God is Love, and if love is truly not self seeking, then the latter is true: it is more important to focus on what I do with my days, than on what my days do to me.