Monday, February 10, 2014

Catfish - an Intermission

My favorite part of Quaker meeting each week is hearing what people have to say about how they’re experiencing their faith.  And for multiple meetings in a row, I’ve really wanted to say something, but have felt like I’d be squashing someone’s joy if I said what I wanted to say.  I don’t know why, but I feel a strong pressure to be the prodigal son coming home, and when I can’t be that person, I tend to shut myself up, afraid of ruining the positive experience so many people have.  I hope I’ll eventually have the courage to speak off the cuff, but for now, this is the best I can do.

There’s a show on TV called Catfish.  It’s about people who are in online relationships with people they’ve never met in real life.  Most of them have never seen the face of the person they’ve been chatting or talking on the phone with.  In the show, the mysterious other person is tracked down, and introduced to their online significant other.  Most of the time, the mysterious online person turns out not to be who they claimed to be.  Sometimes they’re a different gender than they claimed to be.  Sometimes they’re overweight and afraid to be seen.  Sometimes they’re just mean people having fun at the expense of others.

In my life, God has been my catfish.  The relationship I thought I had turned out not to be real.  And like the people on the TV show, even if the relationship wasn’t real, the emotions I felt during that time were real, and have to be dealt with.  It’s an awkward situation.  I’m simultaneously mourning the loss of, and being disappointed in, someone who probably doesn’t exist.

The weight of the loss of God is with me all the time.  It’s like being a widow in a restaurant, quietly watching the couple next to you celebrate an anniversary.  All I want is closure.  To either discover that I’m wrong about God, or to accept the loss and let it go.  Of all the things I’m afraid of, what I’m afraid of most is that neither will happen, and I'll spend the rest of my life waiting for someone who never shows up.

In the week since I first wrote this, I've tried to distance myself from theology, and have found it rewarding.  The searching had its purpose, but I suspect that time is nearing an end.  At some point life has to be lived and not just analyzed.  The weight of the search has so overwhelmed me with unhappiness that it's made it difficult to tackle any other goals I have.  Food, for example.  I would love to be able to eat better and exercise.  But when there's such a heavy negative pull related to God issues, how do I turn away food, which is always a positive experience?  I need to take back some control of my mental health, and let go of the need for answers.  God, if she exists, ought to be plenty capable of making herself known.  I don't know why I've felt obligated to do the looking.  I no longer do.


  1. As you move into a new season of life, I do hope you continue to write about the new goals as you tackle them : )

  2. Your grief is very real, even though the relationship with the God (or god) you thought was real was not. Theology has never been very helpful to me, nor has it revealed anything much of God. This separation urge toward mental health and letting go is tons better than theology. Just look at your life and enjoy what good is there. Much of the God Talk I hear feels like a desparate need not to feel hard emotions. And I am (cough, choke) a believer.

  3. Ryan, to me, your words are positive, in the truest sense, because you have been deeply committed to an authentic engagement with this question of faith. With asking how to think about God: what is God?, *is* God? I respect your efforts and I also respect your recognition: "hey, this approach doesn't bear fruit."

    The God who's described in much theology doesn't match up with your experience. Mine either. But there are qualities that we ascribe to God, or even Buddha, that you do experience... I know it, because i"ve seen you living it out... love, light, joy in the moments of our lives, compassion, a sense of belonging and connection to humanity and the cosmos... That's my list, yours might be different in the specifics. I see you experiencing these and manifesting them, and maybe there is some sort of path that's more connected to what you experience that's good & fruitful, and less about theological analysis.