Lately it seems that trust in deities has become a hot topic. Should you trust your gods completely? Should you work on your negotiating skills and (try to) read the fine print? Should you not trust at all because they’ll probably screw you over no matter what you do? These are not easy questions to answer.
Most of us carry on with the belief that deities both care about us and know more than we do. Like parents, they may ask us to do things that we don’t like, but they do so with a greater understanding of the world we live in and the possible consequences of our action or inaction.
Then we must wonder if our assumptions are true. Do they really know what is best? Do they really have our best interests at heart, or only their own? Even if both of these are thought to be true, the way in which the gods present the relevant information, or no information at all can try the patience of a saint.
What is a mortal follower to do?
I’ve heard plenty of stories about followers being tricked by their deities into one thing or another. I also hear that most, but not all, of these stories work out for the best in the end. Maybe the deity really did know what they were doing. Maybe they really did have the followers best interests at heart as they led them across the metaphorical hot coals. I also hear that communication is a huge issue, that if the deity had actually explained and asked nicely first, things would have been different and less bitter. “Perfect love and perfect trust” sounded like a nice idea back when I was starting out, but in actual practice it doesn’t seem very practical.
I have been all around the map on this issue with my experiences with Ra. He hurt me badly years ago, without asking first, without any explanation, and while I was actively screaming at him to stop. I hurt myself while trying to fight him off. And yet, to this day, without a direct explanation from him, I go back and forth between calling it abuse of the worst sort, and thinking that maybe he had a good and justifiable reason for it. It actually is possible that he thought he was helping. Maybe he actually was helping. The only thing he has ever said on the subject was, “The Thunder Beings made you strong enough to accept my gift.” Frying me from the inside out was a gift? Maybe it was, but damn it hurt.
Needless to say, this led to a huge ball of trust issues. He kept asking me if I trusted him. He wanted me to trust him. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I could work with him. I felt obligated to because I swore an oath sooner than I should have and without fully thinking it through. Well actually, I went ahead with the oath because it felt like he already owned me so what difference could it make? The difference is that I didn’t feel comfortable just walking out when I really wanted to.
In the process of working with him, I learned more about him. I understood him more. I understood both his strengths and his failings. He really believed that I could do good and amazing things and he wanted to help me do them. I realized that he did not have a good grasp of what my limitations were. I also realized that I really wanted someone to follow who validated me, and I was slower to say no than I should have been. What good is a safeword if you don’t know when to say it? Not that we had one of those. The god did care about me, but he didn’t understand me as well as I thought. Still I opened up to him. I let him in more and more. I tried to overcome my misgivings. That didn’t end well.
Now I’m giving it another try. He knows that if he screws up again I will leave. Heru will back me up. Djehuty will back me up. It’s good to have powerful friends in these circumstances. Certain things are not his to touch. I had to decide what those things were. I had to stick to them even when I wanted to surrender again like I used to, because doing that would not help either of us.
And now, after the lines have been drawn, now that I know he will be held to those lines, now that I feel confident enough in my own judgement to defend those lines, now I trust him. You see, it wasn’t just about him behaving himself. It was also about me not giving away more than I could afford to give. It also helps that there are others who can step in if something goes wrong. I trust him more now than I did before, because I’ve made a decision about what he can have and what he can’t. I’m not going to offer everything and then feel betrayed when he takes it.
Relationships like these are complicated. I’m not judging anyone for how theirs has turned out. I’m not saying that drawing lines in the sand will solve everything. It probably won’t. My solution was a bit more complex than I’ve laid out here, and I have no idea what it will look like a year from now. Will it actually work? I don’t know. He does have the power to screw me over again if he so chooses, lines or no lines. The difference is that now, I’m more likely to trust that he won’t.
I’m actually pretty excited about working with him again, because despite our past issues, I still think he’s pretty awesome.