Sunday, September 19, 2010

The god of lost car keys

If you read many blogs, listen to many podcasts, frequent many forums, or even attend church you start to hear people referencing believers who pray about lost car keys. Whenever those types of believers are referenced I kind of cringe a little bit because I used to be one of those people. I absolutely believed in God and one of the reasons that I believed in God was because he had helped me find my car keys so many times before.

I had a process I would go through. I would search for a lost item, retracing my steps, and when I had exhausted what I felt was my own ability to find the keys unassisted I would pray. Low and behold I always found the MIA item.

I took this sort of process and the finding of the lost item to be an answer to a personal prayer and evidence that, yes, God existed and that he loved me enough to take time out of his busy schedule and help me out. He cared enough to help me avert various personal crises such as being late to work or missing appointments.

Believing in a god that helps you find your car keys is really a behavior that speaks to a strong belief in a personal, hands-on god.  The sort of god is really the loving father type of god that we learn about in primary. I know that it sounds silly but for a long time the remnants of my faith hung on prayers that were answered by the retrieval of lost items. This process has been repeated with success so many times in my life that even now when I have lost something I have the urge to kneel and pray about it which always makes me laugh a little bit.  

The problems with believing in such a personal god are many. The number one problem that people tend to cite is that the existence of such a personal god does not account for all of the suffering in the world. God cares enough about you to help you find your car keys but children are suffering and dying of AIDS in Africa, cancer is running rampant in the world, etc. Why would your car keys be more important than these larger issues?

So the question I have been confronted with lately is how is it that Mormons and of course other believers reconcile the suffering in the world with their god of lost car keys. This has been a huge source of cognitive dissonance for me over the years but it definitely became a larger issue in my mind when I moved to Louisiana and was confronted with people living in poverty for the first time.

At one point I remember standing in front of my fourth grade class, looking at the faces of these beautiful children wondering how God would allow them to be born into the conditions that they were born into. I was exhausted trying to teach and catch them up. I was exhausted dealing with behavior issues that stemmed from their lifestyles. I really did not understand how the same God that loved me and blessed me did not seem to be loving and blessing them. They were so smart, they were so brilliant and yet the choices and opportunities that they had available to them were so limited and those opportunities were limited not because of anything they had done but rather by circumstances and systems that were outside of their control.  Why would God care more about me than them?

I think that a lot of people who believe continue to fall back on the “big picture” idea or the idea that suffering is temporary and that this life is a test. Tests are hard but tests are used to weigh, measure and prove us and that we all have our own “crosses” to bear. The belief that all things happen for a reason and for our ultimate good allows some to see the suffering of the world and continue to believe but the more time I spent with my students the less that it held up. There is a lot that I could say about the suffering of the world, and there are other cases that believers could make for why it makes sense that God helps us find our car keys but continues to allow so much suffering to exist but really none of them hold up.

Ultimately we find our car keys because there is a finite number of locations where it is possible for them to be. Once you have stumbled upon the location that it is. I think that we find things that we are primed to find. We believe things that we are primed to believe. When we pray we are priming ourselves to find answers and really there is nothing wrong with that. It is almost a problem solving strategy. Prayer really allows a person a chance to talk things out and think things through and then of course when solutions and answers pop up in our lives we are prepared to recognize those answers. Most often though with my new agnostic leanings I really see it more as self fulfilling prophecy when prayers are answered rather than result of supernatural intervention.

This post seems a bit sad, a bit negative, but really it is not. When you start to realize that you have answered all of your own prayers through analyzing, acting, and searching it becomes empowering. When you realize that you can solve your own problems that is an awesome moment. 

8 comments:

  1. I know what you mean. It's odly comforting to know that things happen or don't happen just because that's the way it is. Not because God thought he would help some people but not others. It really doesn't make sense when you think about it.

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  2. yeah.

    as you know, i lost my remote the other day. i was feeling sick and needed to just laze in front of the TV (we have dish--so yeah, needed the remote)

    finally, after much seeking my husband found it. and no, not a one of us prayed.

    that said, i do have my own lost keys story. i was trying to get my butt to institute and was going to be late. i said a little prayer and lo! i had a vision!

    they were in the trash.

    i'm still a little hung up on this, but eric says people in stressed out situations (however small) tend to have experiences like this. i dunno.

    i do think it's funny how everyone has a keys story, though, and then has the audacity to dismiss questions about AIDS sufferers and impoverished children by saying "eh, we all have our crosses to bear."

    wtf?

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  3. I lost my keys this morning! And I found them because I kept looking, or as my mother used to say "They're always in the last place you look". I didn't pray. I have never prayed. And I've always found the keys-eventually. I've never had to dispose of a car simply because I lost the keys an was too stubborn to ask 'the lord' to help. Once I had to use the spare set for a few months until I found the originals INSIDE the lining of my favourite chair (yes I have kids, how did you guess?)
    For me it's right up there with clairvoyants - you find proof to believe want you want to believe- if a clairvoyant tells you about ten specific things that will happen to you tomorrow, and ONE of them happens (note I didn't say 'come true') and 9 DON'T, if you believe in clairvoyancy (one hopes you do if you part with your money for the "service"),you will probably see that as proof. But I digress.
    If you believe you found your car keys because of some divine intervention, whatever.

    Sidenote: when I finally found my keys and started off to school, I only got around the corner and I saw our neighbours walking! I pulled over to offer a lift and she told me "I can't find my keys!"- Spooky! maybe this is 'god's' latest test???

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  4. Turns out the catholics have a patron saint of misplaced items! Saint Anthony!

    http://www.luckymojo.com/saintanthony.html

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  5. That is so awesome. Of course there would be a patron saint of lost items! LOL. For awhile there he was the only person I was praying to.

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  6. What an insightful post, Kiley!

    Who's to say why God does the things he does....or doesn't do?

    Why do some people suffer more than others?

    I suppose only God knows the answer to those questions!

    Oh, and get a dish to put your car keys in, silly girl!

    -Dean

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  7. Exactly the same thing happended with me few months ago and i was really disappointed, one of my friends suggested me to try key replacement service they will definitely do something for you then after lots of research about lost toyota keys i got a good solution.

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    ReplyDelete

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