The Things I Want to Believe

The Things I Want to Believe April 14, 2022


I went for another hike.

At the beginning of Lent, I’d set as a penance for myself to go swimming whenever I could. The repetitive motion of swimming laps clears my mind and helps me to pray and meditate. But the events of the past few months had already badly worn me down, and then the events that went on during Lent made it so much worse. I have panic attacks when I meditate now. I don’t want to do repetitive exercise in a monotonous room that will let my mind panic. So instead of praying, I drive half an hour away from the apocalyptic Ohio River to a state park, and I go for hikes.

Nature is really back from the dead this week. Next week will be the start of peak bloom for the wildflowers in my climate, but it’s already so beautiful. You’d never imagine that the black and white photograph I saw at the state park in January is the same geographic location as the brown and green one I saw on my hike this week. There were spring beauties and harbinger-of-spring, creeping charley and violets, dandelions, luxurious carpets of warm moss and emerald-colored algae in the vernal pools. The birds were so loud, I had to stop every so often and sit on a bench so I could close my eyes and meditate on their song.

It was then that I started meditating, in spite of myself.

I was catechized to believe that the good things of this world are only good insofar as they point to God. God was the only thing worth having, and nothing else mattered in the end. Any beauty you see is either a signpost to or a distraction from from the beauty of God. This means that pleasure is suspect. Things that feel good might be leading you astray. We are in the world but not of it.

I was catechized to believe that God will bless you with the precious gift of suffering so you can be truly miserable and offer it up to him to appease him and buy back the sinners he condemned, and this is an act of love. This isn’t the only thing I was taught. It’s part of the hodgepodge of teachings I absorbed in the Charismatic Renewal, directly contradicted by some other teachings but I wasn’t supposed to notice the disparity. I assumed it to be true for a long time, and then I didn’t anymore.

I have been out of the Charismatic Renewal for so many years. The past twelve months have taught me, so much more than before, how wrong and evil it is.

I want to believe something else.

I want to believe that when God created the light, the land, the firmament, the stars, the animals and plants, He pronounced those things good. There wasn’t a thing in creation that God didn’t pronounce good, right up until Adam the first human being was created and it wasn’t right for him to be alone. So God made people, a plurality, more than one person in His own image and likeness, so that people would cling to one another. That arrangement, humans in communion with other humans in the midst of this beautiful universe, God pronounced very good.

There are two ways for a thing to be good. A thing can be good as an instrument, a tool to be used to get me the things that I really want. Or a thing can be good in itself. I learned that much before crashing and burning with chronic illness when I tried to get a master’s degree in philosophy. I couldn’t tell you much else philosophy, but I remember that.

If I believe that God pronounced creation good, and God cannot deceive or be deceived, it seems to me that everything is either a tool to get something that God really wants, or else it’s good in itself.

I want to believe it’s good in itself. And if that turns out to be a heresy, I don’t really care anymore. I don’t want creation to be good as a tool to get something else. I want it to be good in itself.

I want to believe that a flower and a bird song and a patch of moss are good not because they are resources to be harvested and destroyed to make something better, not because they are signposts pointing to some austere higher truth– but because they are good. I want to believe that sitting on a bench listening to bird songs is itself an act of reverence, because it is a sacred thing that birds exist. Admiring a flower is an act of justice because flowers deserve to be admired. Stopping to touch a patch of moss is itself important, because moss is supposed to be touched. I don’t want everything to be a fable or an allegory. I just want things to be themselves.

I want God to be so terribly good that He created a universe that is, itself, good. I want the universe to be constructed in such a way that every good thing that we do is good, not because we’re following the rules to appease a divine tyrant, but because the universe God created is itself worth doing good in. If there is a Heaven, I want Heaven to be the thing that’s already here, as long as we permit it to be here, rather than the prize you win if you follow all the rules. If there is a hell I want hell to be nothing at all, a vacuum, the void and abscess that tears open when you try to destroy something good. Not a spanking and a dose of cod liver oil from a prudish, sadistic deity. If anybody ever goes to hell, I want them to go to hell for hurting  things that didn’t deserve to be hurt because those things were good. I don’t want them to go there because they used a condom or said “god dammit” or neglected to pray their Rosary, or because they loved the wrong person.

If God Himself was tortured to death, the day before a solemn Sabbath in a desert county thousands of years ago– and I do still think that He really was– I don’t want it to be God sacrificing himself to God so that God won’t be angry at some of us for being naughty. I want it to be that God came to earth to show us perfect love, and surrendered to us when we responded to the love with violence, so He could transform that act of violence into the act by which all of creation was redeemed. And by “redeemed,”  I mean brought up into the Life of God in the most complete way, the finishing touches on what began in Genesis. I want the historic events we commemorate during the Triduum to be the act by which God pronounced Creation good: so good that He enters into creation. So good that He walks with me on the same earth I walk on. So good that He wanted to experience it with human eyes and hands and ears like I do. So good He wanted to smell it and taste it with me. So good that He couldn’t bare that evil made it less than it ought to be. So good that when evil happens to that precious creation, He demands it happens to Him as well, and in doing so makes even the suffering of evil something that has meaning because everything is one with Him.

I don’t want Jesus to be the generous older brother who jumped in front of His younger brothers to absorb the punishment our drunken Father had for us. I want Jesus to be the Word of God. And I want the Word of God to be, “This is very good.”

No other God is worth my time.

That was what came to mind as I was admiring flowers and listening to birds.

I am writing it down because I want to believe it can be true.

Right now, this year, it’s all been so hard, it’s difficult for me to believe in anything but the vindictive god of the Charismatic Renewal.

Most of the time during Lent and Triduum I’m churning out what I’ve always considered my best work, meditation after meditation on the Passion. This year I’m so paralyzed, this is all I have. I’m re-reading and re-sharing my old writings as if they’re the work of a much better person I just came across. Whoever that person is, I hope she has a wonderful Easter. As for me, I want to  go for hikes.

The only God worth my time will surely find me there.




Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.






Browse Our Archives