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Agnostic — The rest of the story…

So I LOVE messing around with writing prompts. My attention span these days is maybe that of a 6-year-old (I say that because my 7-year-old grandson Ethan definitely has me beat!) so prompts are a good way to keep exercising my brain. (I hope… Sudoku is supposed to be good, too, though I have my doubts!)

But in all the years I’ve been playing with prompts I’ve never written anything I thought was about one thing only to have it reveal an important truth to me. That’s what happened with Van Gogh’s picture “Bent Figure of a Woman.”

Being a lover of things Victorian, and knowing some of the customs surrounding this part of everyday life in those times, my mind went immediately to “funeral” mode when I looked at the picture. So I just started writing. The thing was, when I read what I had written, one thing kept standing out to me – the ugly black dress. And I thought, wait a minute. There’s something else here below the surface.

After a couple more readings someone turned the light on over the basement stairs in my mind and I realized this story was REALLY about my not having dealt with my grief over this diagnoses of an autoimmune disorder. I’ve been so busy trying to stay “up” for my family that I have denied myself the catharsis of grieving the huge change in my life. And the ugly black dress? That’s the MG.

Black mourning dress reached its peak during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901).

In the story the woman reflects on her ugly dress and the reality that she’s going to have to wear it for a long time (the MG). The MG may go into remission, but I will have it for the rest of my life.

She also feels she’s been kind of cornered by having to put on a false front with folks at her church who would expect her to be aware of the social customs surrounding the wearing of black for a year after a spouse dies (we all know the kind, they ask you how you are and hope you don’t actually tell them).


And though she was tired and somewhat annoyed by their constant platitudes and clichés when it came to her faith (“Just give it to God.”), she made the choice to embrace the ugly black dress, at least in public (wearing a mask) rather than honoring her husband (in this case me) by having a nicer coffin and funeral procession. Truth be told, I didn’t realize I needed to grieve that person I’d lost…

I finally had to admit it was that part of me that was who I was before May 4th of 2017 in that old wooden box being buried. This story made me feel an anger I’ve felt but couldn’t or was hesitant to express to family and friends. I think being the oldest of my existing relatives also made me feel like I had to put up a sunny, positive front. You know, had to be a good example and all that blarney. But what I actually needed to say, out loud, is “I’m a good person and this shouldn’t have happened to me!” (While inside my head I’m thinking, “Why NOT you?”) I had never admitted I felt like that before.

She does go on to lament how after the initial surprise of the diagnose there were many folks around to support her, but that eventually when, things settled down, other people got back to their normal lives (which is as it should be, by the way) and stopped checking in so much she began to feel lonely and depressed.

And in the end the whole experience definitely is a reflection on her/my faith. Having been born and raised in a wonderful church back home in Ohio, I made a decision to follow Jesus when I was fairly young. But as with a lot of us, as we grow and mature and begin to individuate from our families, we feel much freer to question what’s going on around us in our lives. Some of us never leave our “faith” behind, some of us wander away for good, others continue to explore but come back to their faith with much more understanding.

As for me, the title Agnostic denotes the struggle I’ve had in my return. I have often referred to myself as a “bipolar believer!” I’m stuck somewhere in between agnostic and believer. But while I often question even the existence of God, there’s a part of me that believes whole-heartedly what Romans 8:38-39 says in scripture:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (romans 8:38-39)

No matter what I do, how I question, scream or cuss at “God” (yes, you heard that right, and I can cuss with the best of ’em), I will always pay attention to that spiritual life that’s inside of every one of us. It may look different from one person to another, but in the end I think that’s what makes our souls complete — to pay attention to that side of us and how it affects our lives, the lives of those around us, and our society in general.

And, finally, about the bit at the end, I believe that when I don’t know how to pray for myself, the Spirit is always there inside my heart to do it for me. Scripture says:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)

So there you have the rest of the story. I’ve never written something that took me quite by surprise. But after reading what I wrote and letting it sink in, I did allow myself a couple of days to ponder how it all made me feel. It was very cathartic. I know most folks who follow this blog regularly have their own ideas about “God” or doubt the existence of such a Creator. All I can say is “Good for you!” As long as we keep asking questions we keep learning. And I think for me that’s what this little exercise in our Space for God class was about.

Thanks so much for reading…

PS. If you look at the little curved handle that is sticking out from under her feet, you can figure it’s a chamber pot! Very fitting!


Picture Sources:
Van Gogh — Pinterest
Victorian Mourning Dress — Pinterest
Inexpensive burial —Victorian Monsters – WordPress.com