Have you ever had one of those days that makes you question what the fuck this is all for? Today was one of those days that really caused that question to race through my head. It wasn’t just your average everyday kind of frustrating. This was a special kind of frustration.
You see, I’ve been strolling around on this little blue speck of dust as it has flown through the emptiness of space around the sun 42 times. For those of you that didn’t understand that analogy, it means that I’m probably way too young to be talking about such a deep subject. But you know what, fuck it. It’s been that kind of day and I’ve probably needed to write this book for a very long time.
So, I’m going to call this book “God Wasn’t There.” Now, I want to make sure that if you have this book in your hands or you are listening to the audiobook that there’s no confusion about this title or the subject matter of this book. This is not the kind of book that is going to bash you for believing in one religion or another. I have not the interest nor the patience to attempt to persuade you away from or towards your God. I don’t give a shit if you go to church and pray every day. It doesn’t make a hill of beans to me.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. You are riding along in your body, and you are perfectly capable of making your own decisions about the existence or lack thereof of whatever God you may or may not believe in.
But I would also like to make you understand that this is not a self-help book. I am damn sure not qualified to teach you about self-improvement. No, this book has nothing to do with you. That is, unless, you’ve lived a life like mine. Because ultimately, that’s the basis for what this book is about. However, I wouldn’t quite call this an autobiography. More like a grouping of lessons learned. If you don’t like the aforementioned title, “God Wasn’t There,” you can think of this book like a gospel. And since every gospel has to have a name, we'll call this “the Gospel of Brian.”
Hey, that’s actually kind of catchy.
GOD WASN’T THERE.
The Gospel of Brian
Since every book has to have a beginning and all stories have to start somewhere I guess that we may as well start this story at its beginning. I don’t see much sense in telling you any kind of back story as far as my parents were concerned. I never really knew it to be honest. I mean, sure, I got mythical glimpses of it in short little spurts of stories from my mom, but later in life, I found this to be a bit one-sided. You certainly don’t need to know any intricate details about my creation or birth.
Two people got it on, some cells multiplied, my mom squeezed me out of her womb somewhere in a shit hole state named Florida (no offense, Floridians). Around 5 to 6 years later, my brain began to wake up and I started developing memories. I mean it’s pretty anti-climatic. The good shit doesn’t even start until about my sixth revolution around the sun. There’s only really one important detail that you need to know about what happened in those first six years that will have anything to do with the forward propulsion of the story. But I caution you, while this event is quite common in most people’s lives, it carried very heavy ramifications in mine. So what is this prolific event that happened to me so early in my life you may ask?
My father left my mother.
Not such a big deal, right? Well, you might want to pull up your socks and hold onto your hat because that one event had the same effect on my life as going full throttle in F-16 with no landing gear. I believe the kids these days use the acronym FML.
But I’m not ashamed to say it. Fuck my life.
At six-years-old I was a scrawny little guy. My platinum blonde hair had begun to turn brown. My body was slender, weak, and clumsy. As far as children of that age go, I was pretty lackluster and certainly did not stand out from the crowd. When you’re that young, things tend to change pretty fast, though your perception of that time makes things seem like they’re going to last forever. Between the ages of six and eight, we would move a couple of times. I remember moving from a place on the outskirts of Birmingham to a spot that pretty much didn’t even exist back then. My parents decided to take us to a place called Pinson.
Yes, you read that right, I said my parents. At this point, my brother and I were in the custody of my mother and she had taken up a relationship with a man that was a few years younger than her. We’ll get into their character profiles and the roles that they played momentarily. However, I think it is important to let you know a bit more about this location that we had transitioned to.
You see, Pinson was not your average, everyday little redneck town. It was the mid-80s in backwoods Alabama and that made Pinson the kind of place that was stuck in 1483. Forward-thinking did not exist, religion controlled everything, and even as a child, I could see the stupidity was abound. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are some highly educated, incredibly progressive people that were living in that small town at that time. But as I imagine I would do myself, they probably hid away from the larger populace.
Pinson was truly the kind of town at that time that your nearest neighbor was never closer than 500 to 1000 yards. Life moved incredibly slow, you couldn’t buy alcohol on Sunday, and if you didn’t go to church, you were bound to be in leagues with the Lucifer. It was originally a town of rednecks that blossomed into a small town of farms and homes; however, he never evolved much further beyond that. It had a few schools, everyone went to the same grocery stores (I say that in the plural sense because there were two), all the old biddies knew each other and talked shit about people, and all the old men hated everybody and thought that the young generation was a plague on the planet.
So essentially I had been relocated to Mayberry.
It was an honest move. No doubt the decision by my parents to take us to this forgotten shit stain of a town had everything to do with the need to escape the rat race, pay the bills, find new opportunities, and prosper in life as a whole. But sometimes catastrophic events are born from the best intentions. This was really when the shit began to hit the fan.
I have a few memories of my mom going off on massive rants and violence-filled lectures prior to this move. I have some vague memories of my stepfather losing his shit over some pretty pointless things. At one point I remember him seeing my bicycle in the driveway, purposely running over that bicycle, blaming me for the damage that it did to the car, and roughing me up a bit as a way to vent his anger. But all in all, the crazy shit didn’t really start until we made that move to Pinson.
The first location that we were at in Pinson was about a 1-acre plot of land. And on that 1 acre, they parked a double-wide trailer (I know, cliché right? A trailer, in Alabama). I would attend a small elementary school as would my brother. My mom and my stepfather would work various jobs to pay the bills. From the outside looking in, life was normal.
But like the title of this book says, God wasn’t there.
You see, things were already starting to boil underneath the surface of my parents. Keep in mind it had only been five to six years since my father had left my mother. My stepfather had only been with my mother for a few years. He was pretty young at the time and certainly wasn’t prepared to be a father to two kids that weren’t his. To make matters worse, the first signs of my mother’s instability began to show in that time.
Here’s the part where I tell you how bad their relationship was and why they didn’t need to be together to start with.
Let’s start with my mom, shall we?
I don’t really know much about my mom prior to my father leaving. I know my grandfather was a twin. I believe they both died of bone cancer. I know my grandmother was an alcoholic. Apparently, she was full of rage and venom and transferred that onto my mother and her siblings. They of course never played much of a role in my life as they were all dead by the time I was 10-years-old. Literally all of them.
For all intents and purposes, I truly believe that my mom’s goal was to be a good mother. But there were things stirring around inside of her that would take her down a much darker path. Psychologically, chemically, emotionally, she was not prepared for where the next 20+ years of her life would take her. My bio dad leaving sliced a wound into her soul that would never heal. I think it was because she fell really hard for him, gave him two children, and then he left. Leaving her with two kids was kind of a death sentence. To this day at 42-years-old, I have still not spoken to him.
It wasn’t like a swift death from a bullet, or a rope, or poison. It was more like one of those crazy moves you see in the old 70s kung fu movies. You know, the one where they hit you with like three or four nerve points and then you die like 10 years later. It was like that, except in the process of dying over those 10 years, Satan infests your soul and you go above and beyond to physically, emotionally, and mentally destroy anyone that comes in contact with you. Yeah, that’s what it was like.
My stepfather was a very young man when he met my mother. It’s my understanding that when they got together he was roughly 19-years-old. He had come from a home where his father was physically abusive to him as well as verbally abusive. I’m sure there was some emotional abuse in there as well, but back then people didn’t talk about their emotions. They just swallowed them and let them turn into cancer. He’d spent his entire life in a mechanic shop learning how to repair cars. At the time, it was a good profession.
I would like to take a moment here and speak to the amazing mechanical and engineering skills that this man had. He couldn’t sit down and talk math with you and had absolutely no intentions of discussing anything else but to this day, I’ve never met a man that knew more about automobiles of any kind and how they worked. That having been said, fuck that dude.
While he had absolutely no control of the way that he was raised, this young, impulsive, uneducated, and often violent human being was in no way a good match for my scarred, violent, and emotionally unstable mother. It was like taking a bowl of nitroglycerin, throwing it on top of a mountain of explosives, and then lighting the whole damn thing up with a flamethrower.
Our household was a powder keg that exploded on almost a daily basis. And as time went on, these two vile individuals would go from screaming, cursing, and hitting each other to screaming, cursing, and hitting my brother and me.
There are some shitty people in this world. Some people do things that are evil and unspeakable. Unforgivable things. But I believe that people that break children are the worst among us. I’ve been told I should forgive. But forgiveness is something that God does.
God wasn’t there.
I’ve often found myself trying to forgive. Seriously, I’ve given it a good go but I just can’t bring myself to make that kind of excuse for those people because I honestly don’t feel they deserve it. But more on that in a moment.
We spent about two years on that little one and a half acre plot of land. I have some vague memories of it most of them are bad. After that, there was a dramatic change in our family's life. My mother and stepfather had managed to get a small amount of money from his grandmother in order to procure a decent sized plot of land. It was 18 acres nestled deeper into the backwoods of Pinson.
When they first got the plot of land, you could only walk about 15 feet from the road before the thickness of the woods made it difficult to move. They had it in their minds that we would set up a trailer here, clear the land, and turn it into a farm. This all sounded well and good and could have proved to be a beautiful beginning of a great life for two growing boys. However, things never went as they were supposed to and shit got dark fast.
I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but we were pretty poor back in those days. There was money for food, sometimes for bills, and never for anything else. As a young man, I didn’t really understand the concept of money, but back then the lack of it proved to be the perfect kindling for fires of hatred and anger.
More often than not, a quarter of the way through the day’s work, my parents would begin to argue. They would scream violently and storm away from each other which left my brother and me in a very precarious position.
You see, we were not allowed to stop working. 10, 12, 14 hour days. It didn’t matter how hard or how long the day had been. We were expected to keep pushing forward and keep working. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing. Hard work for young boys builds character. I have come to convince myself of that over the past decade or so. But when you have two bosses and those bosses argue amongst each other, and then decide to walk away from each other, that argument doesn’t necessarily stop. The focus of that person’s anger then gets transferred onto the person or persons closest to them.
In this case, it was always us. Within seconds of my two bickering overlords walking away from each other, the whip would be cracked harder, the patience would be completely nonexistent, and there was always a chambered fist or foot ready to fly. Couple that with the ridiculous amount of verbal abuse and you had the perfect cocktail for destroying a child’s will.
Now, let me be crystal clear about this: there were no days off. This was the norm for years.
It was right about this time that I really began to contemplate the existence of God. I had heard rumors. Back then you could watch Sunday services TV. I had friends in school that were avid believers and anxious to convert those around them. Everyone that was associated with God at that point in my life was constantly telling me about how great of a guy this God person was. They would say silly things like “God punishes sinners,” or, “Jesus loves you, you just need to accept him into your heart and all will be forgiven.”
Even at that young of an age, I recognized bullshit when I heard it. Honestly, it was hard to appreciate the words that came from anyone about this God person when they were living pretty comfortably with loving parents. Why the hell would I need to accept Jesus in my heart to forgive me for some shit that I wasn’t even doing? We were on the receiving end of the shitty stick, and it continued to hit us over and over and over again. I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone with this statement, but a God that punishes little children because they don’t worship him isn’t worth his salt.
Looking back on it, I can see a couple of flaws in my thinking. My friends that were preaching this to me and attempting to convert me over to their religion didn’t really understand the ways of the world and truly had no concept of what I was experiencing at the time. So it was really no fault of their own. They were only attempting to minister to someone in need the best way that they knew how. Kudos to them for that. But all I ever saw in any of it was irony. And realistically, their version of God appeared to me as highly fictional and therefore not worth my time. After all, there are more pressing things to deal with, like figuring out how I was going to avoid my mother’s next tirade.
You see, the flaw was not in their concept of God. It was more in the fact that that version of God had not been thoroughly thought through. He was a God that rewarded those with money, and those with privilege. And even in that time, I was able to see that they were not molded in God’s image, rather God was molded in their image. He conveniently shapeshifted to fit their ideas of what was just and none of them had the ability to explain, through God’s voice, the struggles that I was going through.
This is my first encounter with the Republican Jesus.
That kind of a realization is difficult for a young man to choke down. To be able to see the hypocrisy in so many people at such a young age was really a catalyst for many of the things to come. It would only be a couple more years and I would enter my preteen and teenage life. Not only was I poor and not able to dress the part or look the part of the average, everyday teenager, but I was also trying to digest and process the violence, intimidation, and abuse that was happening in my home life. Furthermore, I was ridiculed on a daily basis at school and not liked by the vast majority of its student body. The school stuff alone was enough to make me an angsty teen, but looking back now I can see the signs of much heavier problems that went undiagnosed.
The only thing that kept me from becoming a massive school shooter was the fact that we were too poor for me to have access to a gun. I literally hated everything at that point in time. Can you blame me? There was nowhere for me to go and no way for me to escape the darkness that was building inside of me. My home life sucked. My school life sucked and to make matters worse, I was having a ton of nightmares. There was literally no escape. Without a doubt, I was swimming in a highly depressive state and no matter which direction I looked there was no light to pull me out of that darkness.
I once had a friend tell me what the definition of hell was. He said, “Hell is the absence of God.” Where I was at was absolute hell because there was no God to fly in on a magic carpet and take away the pain, struggle, and emotional torment that I was experiencing.
No, I don’t say all this in order to get a "woe is me" reaction from you. This isn’t about pity or trying to make you feel sorry for me. I took you down this dark path in the very beginning of this book to give you a glimpse into why my view of God is different than everyone else’s. When you start out in a dark place like I did, you immediately become adept at thinking differently. At that point in time, America was a place where thinking differently made you an outcast. It made people look at you like a piece of trash and it made them think that their God could never love a person like you.
That was just the world we lived in. Much like today, you could not change the mind of the religious or sway the faithfully blind. Those that wanted to help did so from a place that I perceived as ignorance (not stupidity, use a dictionary).
In the face of all of that, the violence, the abuse, the bullying, being an outcast, having people show pity on you from a place that you thought was fake, and trying to cope with your situation without being given the proper tools to do so, there are only two things that happen.
You give up on God, and you search for power elsewhere.