Sun 11/01/20 at 11:27 am

I found this entry while culling my miscellaneous Word documents:

For years, long before I knew what it was, I lived in thrall to magical thinking. For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, magical thinking is the irrational belief that one can bring about a circumstance or event by thinking about it or wishing for it. I’ve since learned magical thinking is common in early childhood. I can, for instance, vividly recall a time when I would run as fast as I could and then leap into the air fully expecting I would escape the gravitational forces that made my flight impossible. It took me decades to outgrow the belief I could somehow use mind control to alter someone or something’s behavior. These beliefs were reinforced by sermons throughout my adolescent years based on Matthew 17:20:

[Jesus] said to them, . . . “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

And I believed.

When I was fourteen, my Mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Throughout her illness, I tried to summon the faith that would effectuate her recovery. I’m fairly certain my faith of what God could do exceeded the size of a mustard seed. Nonetheless, she died, and for a long time, I believed my lack of faith killed her. In the fullness of time, I came to the realization this statement is untrue. I still flush with anger when I think of how cruel this statement is, and what psychological damage it has inflicted on those who believe it. Everything bad that happens in an individual’s life is their fault because they lack the requisite faith to make it better. Talk about blaming the victim.

During the ensuing years, I practiced many variations of magical thinking, often in the form of a prayer. At first, I employed the Norwegian Lutheran “if it be Your will” approach. This methodology involved praying for a certain outcome, but always with the qualification that I wanted it only if it fit into God’s plan for my life. I was thrilled to learn from my Catholic friends that one could ask God for specific things and leave it at that. When prayers went unanswered, I accepted that sometimes God said “No.” I have since come to regard prayer as a manifestation of the hubristic belief I could bend the universe to my will. These days, after decades of resistance, I have come finally to accept (with occasional lapses) I cannot control people, places, or things.

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