I’m not a coward I’ve just never been tested
I’d like to think that if I was I would pass
Look at the tested and think there but for the grace go I
Might be a coward I’m afraid of what I might find out

The Impression That I Get
Let’s Face It
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

All things considered, I’m pretty lucky. I have faced some tragedy in my lifetime, mostly with the deaths of my family members, but nothing that would be above the norm. The times when life has thrown me for a loop, I’ve been able to learn from the experience and grow as a person, but I can’t at this point in time think of anything that has permanently derailed me. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of challenges. I’ve had some family experiences that put the fun in dysfunctional. We’ve survived natural disasters that left us needing to start completely over. I have a chronic medical condition that, when it flares up, can feel life threatening. But overall, seriously, I can say that my life has been (and continues to be) pretty amazing.

One of the biggest problems that I have had with the religion of my childhood is that too many people put an emphasis on trials being sent from God to test us. I really struggle with the idea of a deity that would deliberately punish someone, or prevent something from happening, as a way to teaching that person a lesson. I liken it to the parent who, in order to teach a child not to touch a hot stove, places their hand on the burner. There are better ways to get that message across.

Whenever I tried to question that, someone supposedly older and wiser would retort that we can’t know God’s ways. I totally agree. I think that there are so many ways in which the mind and the substance of our Creator is both unknown and unknowable. Our little human brains can’t wrap around a concept that is so far beyond anything that we can know or experience. That being said, one of my biggest hangups is our anthropomorphism of god to reflect the way we human treat each other. I don’t think that a truly loving higher power would willingly allow us to be raped, or have a child die, or burn our house down in order to prove a point. And if that is the case, I’m not sure that’s a deity I’d be comfortable worshiping.

I think people have it wrong. I think trials are just a part of life. Part of being human and all the error and imperfection and choices that are a part of living this experience. Sure, some of these tragedies are of our own creation, through choices that we make or don’t make. But sometimes life just smacks us upside the head with a two by four for no other reason than we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I think that, rather than seeing the Universe as the one doling out the experience, I think we should shift the title from test to teacher. When everything has gone wrong, our concept of god or deity is the thing that helps us get back up. It is what gives us strength to continue, not what knocked us down in the first place. God isn’t there to throw our lives against the wall and shatter them to show us that we need to depend on Him or Her. It’s what whispers to us to rise up and keep fighting and helps us pick up the pieces.

Faith is what gives us strength and hope. I feel so sorry for those who see belief as something that will bring us tests of our will and religious studies just because some invisible man in the sky thinks this is something we need to experience in order to understand what his plan is for us. I hear expressions like, “If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.” Really? You honestly want to care for and praise someone larger than you who would deliberately put you in harm’s way so he can show how awesome he is? No thanks.

This? Not really comforting to me.

Life is the test, but faith can teach us how to minimize the destruction that being alive can bring. I haven’t ever really been tested, but I think it’s because I don’t view the highs and lows of existence in the same way as those who view trials as final exams from the harshest teacher in existence. When problems happen, I look for strength and a way of taking the situation and discovering what I can do to make things different and get through the rough spots. How do you view your deity? Is your Creator one of love and strength, or one who makes you suffer in order to be a better person? Take time to examine your view and decide how you really want to see your god. Your perception of what it means to be tested can make a difference in how you view your life.