Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God of the Gas Tank

I remember the night I Googled "Carol Balizet" and found cults. I read about the Attleboro sect, and this one strange incident where they ran out of gas and spent three days "laying hands" on the car, praying the Lord would fill their tank. This was at the beginning of my process, and I was still in a lot of denial about how bad my grandma's teachings really were. Then a couple weeks ago, during my first bout of "no internet", I read this in her book "Born in Zion":
There was really no gas at all. The needle was way down past the "E" and even with the great milage the van gets, there was no way we could make it to Lakeland. Bertha closed her eyes and put her hand on the dashboard.

"We're your servants, Lord, and we want to go where you send us, but we can't make it without a miracle. We ask you to meet our need now. In the name of Jesus, let there be gas," she prayed and the needle on the gas gauge jumped up past the quarter-full mark. Glory! Then she put a paper napkin over the gauge so we couldn't see it, and we started out. We drove all the way, singing and laughing, both of us absolutely positive we'd make it to Lakeland without a problem. We did.
The Attleboro followers were no crazier than my grandma, and in fact they were basing most of their lives on her teachings. I just hadn't realized she'd taught "God will fill your gas tank" so explicitly. She also promises that labor will be painless (throughout the book, she refuses to refer to a laboring woman as in "pain"; she prefers the word "discomfort"), that having a homebirth will strengthen your marriage (despite half the people mentioned in the book going through divorces by the time the second and third editions were printed), and that - as long as you are in a "blessable" position - God will give you absolutely everything you need, right down to gas in your tank.

In many ways, fictional god was the most loving parent I had, or thought I had. My mother was extremely detached during my early childhood, and I barely have any memories of her at all prior to moving away from Gig when I was 9. She swears she was around more, but I don't remember it. I remember her being busy writing her dissertation, and I remember standing outside her bedroom, staring at the closed door.

Gig was insane. She was also a lot of fun, and I enjoyed running errands with her and just sort of basking in her presence. She was so charming and disarming, she could insult you and get you to laugh right along with her.* She would hold me in her rocking chair and sing "Peace, Peace" to me when I had nightmares or was upset. Yet I know she didn't love me, or anyone else. She made a deal with God to kill my mother during her labor with my brother (he reneged). Just as my mom watched me struggle to walk with a limp and a cane, so did she. Just as my mother ignored all my emotional, mental health, and physical needs, so did Gig. The difference was that Gig drank her own Koolaid, but my mother didn't; she just served it to us.

No one made sure my teeth had been brushed, or my homework had been done. I could scarcely get the adults to notice me, but they told me that God loved me, that he was always with me, and that he knew me intimately. The illusion of god was more loving than the reality of either of the women raising me. God was supposed to do everything for me that they didn't - care for me, heal me, comfort me, love me. I can't be the only one that held onto God because he was better than the alternatives I'd been given.

A lot of times people make comments about religion being for the poor, but for me religion was for the poor in spirit.** "A broken heart and a contrite spirit, you have yet to deny" I sang in church and "He's got the whole world in his hands". So I believed and I prayed for the things I needed, instead of finding them some other way. I prayed for money, for a boyfriend, for a better car and better job. I prayed for my hip to get better, for my suicidalism to fade, for god to take my freewill away from me, so I wouldn't offend or disappoint him further. And when god failed to do those things for me, I turned the blame inward and sought out - How am I not blessable? What am I doing wrong that is preventing God from moving in my life?

I thought if I just got right with God, I'd have enough gas to make it home.
* Example: Gig told an African-American nurse she worked with during the 60s "Well, they say black is beautiful but you're kind of brown, so I guess you're just pretty."
**There are atheists in foxholes and below the poverty line.