Several weeks ago I received a blow to my personal life that left me emotionally unbalanced. Though I’ve gradually come to grips with this change it has left me seeking answers – why did this happen? how do I fix this? what help can I ask for? I turn to my gods and Powers because, aside from all the practical measures I’ve taken, I don’t know what else to do.
As a polytheist, I don’t demand omnipotence of my gods. I don’t require them to have authored everything in my life. This also means that I have to accept certain limits on their influence – there may be things that they can’t (or won’t) influence. Even so, I’ve seen firsthand just how perfectly things can work out thanks to Their presence in my life. I tried begging and bargaining for things to go back to the way they were, but that didn’t happen. Perhaps they didn’t want to help in this manner, or couldn’t influence the situation to any further degree, or felt it wasn’t in my best interest. I don’t know. It doesn’t much matter.
Some people pursue religious engagement when things are going well. They are grateful for the status quo and express that gratitude in prayer or ritual. When things get rocky, they abandon their practice, preferring to focus on other ways to solve their problems. Maybe they feel let down and abandoned by their Powers, and so don’t want to speak with Them until things are smooth again. Other people don’t bother with the Powers unless they are in frightening circumstances, and then the prayers and worship become a priority.
Although I don’t like admitting it, I have a tendency to be the second type of person. I’ll let my practice slide when things are going well because, well, things are great and I don’t need to do anything except show up to life. When things get rocky my prayers get a little more heartfelt. While sitting at the altar a few weeks ago trying to cope with the stress of my newly-uncertain circumstances, I looked into the sweet painted eyes of one of the murtis and felt such tender compassion.
If I wanted omnipotent gods I suppose I could have them. Some of the traditions that influence my practice and belief have omnipotent deities. And I suppose I believe in that omnipotence but it’s a divine quality that’s far removed from my perspective. It doesn’t much matter to me. What matters – now and in that moment at the altar – is not that the gods stretch out their hands to fix my problems, but that They are present to suffer with me.
Solutions to life’s problems are great, and I do feel that the Powers offer these but there is too much suffering and anguish for me to believe that any meticulous omnipotence is at work on the smallest level. (Even if I trust my teachers and think that there is, this isn’t an understanding that I grasp very firmly at this time.) Right now omnipotence isn’t a major concern. Compassion, suffering with me, is. I need gods that share my life and struggles, that are responsive to my tears, and that show their care through sacred presence freely given. Suffer with me, Beloveds; let me know that I’m not alone in these things. This is something worth believing in.