“What if God Were One Of US?”


"Eagle" Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005

(“American Eagle”, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 200o)


“What if God were one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on a bus

Trying to make His way home

Back to Heaven all alone

Nobody calling on the phone

Except maybe the Pope in Rome…”

—-Joan Osbourne, “What if God was one of us?” lyric on album, “Relish”, 1995

There are some things that bond us to another.  This song is one of them.  Years ago, when my son Christopher was about 18, he sideswiped a car (my car…) and had to go to ‘learn to drive right, idiot school’.  It was way down in Macon, Ga., about an hour or more from Atlanta.  I drove this time, and on the way back we played Osbourne’s album on the then-working cd deck.  No kidding, I was really pissed at my son for the damage and having to take my time to do this.  But this song turned a lot around that day.  We were moved to hold hands and sing along and frankly, it is one of the most memorable moments in our lives together.

Last night Christopher called and we talked about this memory and it had impacted him as much as it had me.  He’s 29 now, and a fine young man and a much better driver.

Childhood wasn’t easy for him.  We adopted him at 3 years, the month we came back from an extended stay in Europe.  I was supposed to be going to school at the University of Edinburgh, but the countryside was so beautiful, I couldn’t sit still.  So we travelled all over the UK and painted in the pouring rain.  When we got back, Christopher was ours in a month.  My mother visited about 2 months later.  I heard this cry from the upstairs bathroom, and racing upstairs, found my son on the floor, crying his eyes out.  Her handprint was blazing across his cheek.  “He spit at me.”  That was her excuse for hitting him. She was non apologetic, very casual about it.  A 73 year old woman and a three year old child who had come from a ‘failure to thrive’ foster home.  I should have frog marched her out of my house, and sent her back to the airport. Actually, I should have dropped her out a window to land amongst the daisies.  I don’t know why I didn’t react, but I didn’t.  I guess I was afraid of her anger and excuses then.  I’m not anymore.  I got her ticket.

With a mother like that, who had shown her  emotional abuse to others her whole life, I was having my own issues ‘being a mother’ at 43.  But I learned to be a better mother than what I had  and he grew up amongst us, my husband and myself with love and devotion. My father’s side of the family were very supportive of our precious son.

But life always brings guilt and regret.  Last night talking on the phone, he said ‘he had no complaints about his childhood.”  It made me cry because I did.  To say that I ‘didn’t know better’ is a lie:  You don’t carry the abuse from your own childhood into your parenting, but it’s something you have to work on.  And the demons from the past are hard to defeat.  They keep rising up and you have to beat them down.

There are so many regrets in my memories, but mostly not protecting him from abusive teachers, strangers, and the above family member who actually is emotionally sadistic.  But he claims he is fine and has rolled with the punches.  I just haven’t.

Last night we sang the above song again, and his memory for the lyrics is better than mine.  This morning I have been playing that song at top volume as I do housework.

I don’t know that I will ever be a Believer in God.  I’ve seen the misogyny and the abuse of family fundamentalists (who rather call themselves ‘early Christians’… a nicer name than fundamentalist…or maybe it’s an attempt at a class status change) but this song has made an impact on both of us on a foundational level.

I am glad my darling boy has survived the abuse of life and the abuse of ignorant parents here.  His start was rocky as he was only 24 lbs at three years, but he has blossomed into a wonderful person. With or without God, this is a blessing.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017, with gratitude to Toni Spencer for her friendship and sensibilities.  With love.



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20 Responses to ““What if God Were One Of US?””

  1. petrujviljoen Says:

    A brave post. Kudos to both you and your son. As to why you didn’t react to your mother at the time – I’ve been having the same thoughts about various instances in my own life, when things are clearly just simply wrong and one doesn’t say or do anything. A fault I’m working on as we speak.


  2. Sherry Marr Says:

    Your title grabbed me because I wrote a poem about that some years back………..I resonate so much with your story of parenting, Jane……I have regrets too, given my utter lack of self worth as a young mom. But we did so much better than what was done to us.

    By the way I have moved and have a new email address…..wildwomantwo@gmail.com….we must catch up, I have been busy relocating back to my beloved ocean and am distracted away from my desk as the waves keep calling me….LOL. Wondering how all your kitties are doing.


  3. kanzensakura Says:

    God is God. But…he sent his son Jesus to dwell amongst us, to be one of us, to act as our advocate to us. He was the Lamb of God, sacrificed to cover our sins. I think of the Passover Lamb. The Jews would take a perfect lamb from the flock and raise it among the family. It slept in their home, played with their children. ..it knew them. Knew their voices, their scents. And when it was time it was taken to Jerusalem to be sacrificed. Then the body was brought home and consumed by the family or village, thus totally becoming part of them. God is the supreme ruler of the world. Jesus is one of us. He played with our children, ate our food, healed us, loves us.

    Trust your son. We aren’t born perfect parents. But it seens you did a good job with your son. Be thankful snd blessed. If he says you didn’t traumatize him then take it as truth abd quit beating yourself up. Jesus knows our voices our fears our angers our good. And he loves us. Accept it. Let go of the terms people us to label thenselves and to hide their black hearts. Quit worrying. Let it all go. Give it to the wind and then…live in peace and love. Read Psalms 91. It is about fear. I hope it will help.


  4. kanzensakura Says:

    Thank you for your friendship and your loving heart.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Brava! It’s a hard thing, isn’t it? We all do this, and we all (most of us…) feel regret and guilt. I guess the only thing we can do is try harder. Try to glean out lessons from these things…and act on them the next time.

    We can call it ‘faults’ and perhaps they are…but in the heat of the moment, we are shocked into silence or inactivity, or something stops us from battling with such injustice…and violence.

    And some people are just insane. And we know how they will react and we are afraid for ourselves. That has been my reaction to this woman. I can no longer call her ‘mother’. At 97…what an example of humanity! I won’t make excuses for her: she is a narcissist and I don’t believe these people react to things because they are ‘wounded’ inside, have been abused, etc. We all have choices in life. We can continue to react in these ways because they make us “feel’ better. But that’s a damn excuse. It’s convenience and mostly an issue of power and control over others. I would not trust this woman in a room alone with ME.

    Thank you, Petru, for reading and your brave comment. At least you know the issues here and know that we all can take a better stance. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Shucks, Sweetie. you make it easy to love you. You are such a wonderful woman.


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Toni. I didn’t know that story about the Passover Lamb. Now it really points out the story. Thank you!
    well, yes. My son is ok. I have a lot of guilt…but then again I guess we have to look at how our children turn out and IF they love us. I don’t love this old woman because she is dangerous. I tried but I think there is no reason to love evil. And that is what happens to people who have no real integrity. I remember reading M.Scott Peck years ago, his seminal book: “People of the Lie”. For a couple of years, others had begged me to read this book because they knew this old woman and they thought it would give me some answers. it did. It also made my brother send a letter to me saying :”We are watching you.” LOL! Talk about the ultimate Big Brother (actually I am the big sister.) Peck struggled with this issue of evil. Psychology had no way to define what he and others in the field had come to understand as evil. It was the territory of religion, theology on this issue of evil. But Peck saw this over and over with certain clients. Like giving a gun to a younger son, the same gun that the older son used to kill himself. The excuse was that ‘they were too poor to buy a new gun.’. What the fuck/ Giving a gun as a present? to a child who just suffered the death by suicide of his older brother. Some would think this ‘thoughtless’. Peck saw sit as plain evil. I agree. His 27 count listing of what narcissism was and did was an eye opener.

    Funny, this morning, sitting in the bank line outside, I asked for relief from this anger (at this old woman and her family) and the stress I felt. Then I went to Dunkin Donuts and had that sweet and salty cold brew (something I wouldn’t have had before now) and croissant egg and cheese. Came home and all of a sudden! I felt a great sense of relief. I felt better. (maybe the croissant.) I felt lighter. I also felt gratitude. I have been struggling with this woman for over 40 years. God take her, please. And soon. LOL! I’ll read Psalm 91 tonight. Thank you, dearest of friends.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sweetheart Sherry! I am so glad you are where you want to be…back by your ocean. I am so envious of you!
    parenting: yes…the brutality done to us in different ways sticks to the ribs. We can’t but feel guilt and regret, but look at the fight for personal integrity that we finally were able to come around to. Our self-worth was stripped from us. There was no concern about this from our parents (as you have told me before about them) We just survived…mostly. And because we didn’t have great examples we made many bad choices. I for one, went from the mother narcissist to a first marriage which was my mother with a dick. No change at all. Of course she doesn’t see that he and she (and his mother) were exactly alike. But I did…though it took many years to realize that my choice was no real healthy choice at all. In this marriage I suffered emotional abuse and some physical abuse. for 13 years. But! I got a better choice in the next marriage though it didn’t look good at the beginning. My poor husband suffered some of the same emotional abuse from this old woman at the start of our relationship. I am surprised he didn’t bolt. One girlfriend of one of my brothers did and told me that she was afraid to marry him because she thought his mother insane. LOL! Hindsight….

    Well, yes, I am very glad you are settled. I worried about you knowing that this winter you were in flux. Tht is a great blessing. And I have your new email and we will catch up. Blessings of all kinds on your head. and Willow , the crippled kittie yesterday got his nuts removed. he’s very docile right now. LOL! I let him out of the cat room this am…and just hoped he would come back…and there he was….under a lawn chair..and I chased him back in. He’s purring as I write. LOL! Thank you for asking. I have a deep lung infection since before xmas but I am on antibiotics…and woke up with a nose bleed. Maybe this is a good sign. LOL~


  9. ladynyo Says:

    You,by your loving nature…make it easy to love you.


  10. christopher-duncan Bartels Says:

    A very moving, and quite meaningful lament of memory’s. Though I have regrets in my life, I don’t regret my childhood. Of all the memory’s that I have that I may not like there are many memory’s of my childhood that I cherish and will never forget. One of my most favorite memory’s is sitting on the porch of the old John Chandler Harris house reading from his book Uncle Reamus with a box of Krispy cream doughnut at our feet. And as to your mom, its probably a good thing you didn’t push her out the window into the daisies……she would have made bad fertilizer for the garden I have so many more memory’s on!


  11. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Thank you, Sweetheart. I am reading your beautiful and thoughtful comment through tears. You don’t know how glad you make my heart, not only in this comment, but in your existence in our lives. I remember that day on the porch of the historic Joel Chandler Harris house…and do you remember our ‘classes’ with your friends, the Parks from down the street when I read Uncle Reamus? “My Grandpa’s Riding Horse” was one of the ones that had us all laughing our heads off. I can still see them there. This is a wonderful memory for me. Angelo I saw the other day and he is still so sweet and serious. He said to say hello. I am so sorry about Mr. Swint dying. I know he was a mentor to you and he always asked about you when you were in the Navy. “Tell him to make us proud” he would always say before I left the feed store. Mrs. Swint sent her love to you, and we laughed at some jokes last week. She looks good, but said the hardest thing was to learn to live without him after 66 years of marriage. Thank you, son, for reading and your wonderful comment. I agree on the bad fertilizer issue. LOL! Love you very much and you have made us proud.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Do you remember “Lock, Unlock”? And me tucking you in bed as a burrito? I remember coming in when you were fast asleep and kicking the bottom of the bed just to make sure you were still breathing. LOL! The things a mother does. Do you remember racing around on a big wheeler and Daddy on your tricycle? In the house??? LOL! Both of you were very bad boys and the floors didn’t do well, either.


  13. petrujviljoen Says:

    Bless you too Jane.


  14. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Petru. I’ve been thinking a lot since that post. And what was wonderful was the response from other readers, talking about their own lives and struggles. I think all of this is just part of the human condition. And we do have choices: we will be known for what we do, how we act, and this is the foundation of our integrity. Some people never have much of it. I was especially touched by what your wrote. And it isn’t easy, either. It’s a life long struggle to build this. I think some people will be know at the end…their legacy will be just cruelty. We can put makeup on what we do and how we treat people but the truth will usually be found out. Sometimes not in these lives, but what they leave behind is telling. One of best things to come from this post is also my son’s comment. He was a foster child, given up to the state at 12 months. he was not even 13 lbs. He was starved and the foster home was substandard. They only fed him baby food, even at 3 years because the other children would take his food. When we got him at Xmas, he was just three and weighed 24 lbs. He looked like a concentration camp survivor. In a way he was. He also had significant learning delays. We home schooled him because he was picked on in school and severely injured at 6 there. But he has turned out to be extremely compassionate, full of empathy and kindness…sometimes misplaced. A month ago, riding his bike to work, he was hit by a truck…the back wheel…and the guy begged him not to call the police because he would lose his job. Our son had a leg injury but he didn’t because he bought the guy’s story. It was wrong in my opinion, but he made a decision. He is funny, lighthearted and glad we are his parents. He wrote this comment on that post and it made me cry. I wish I had the heart he has but he stands as a good example to me. Thank you, Petru…this whole situation with that old woman has taught me some important lessons. We will be mourned by what we do in life to others….not what we think we have achieved.


  15. petrujviljoen Says:

    Glad your son turned out the guy he is. Tell him brava from me. Life is hard, life is terrible and we certainly are shaped by how we’ve been treated and how we choose to treat others. Any others. Be well Jane.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    You are right, Petru. And I will tell him brava from you. The real tragedy is that it is children who come into the line of fire of destructive people. Adults have choices, children have none. They are shaped by what they see. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. petrujviljoen Says:

    Lucky you were there. 🙂


  18. ladynyo Says:

    He could have had better mothers, but I was the one chosen by the state. LOL! Only because our name was first alphabetically….”B”. On the list of potential parents. Really.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Bodhirose Says:

    What a touching story, on many levels, Jane. I loved that you told how you and your son shared that song (that you and I had talked about a few days ago) many years ago and revisited it with each other. Very meaningful. All parents have regrets over the things that we “failed” at but no one is perfect so how can we expect perfection? I think parents and children learn from each other, it’s not a one way street is it? You’ve even learned from your ‘mother’ that her path was not one that you wanted to follow. You’ve been brave enough to make your own way with your own beliefs even though the tide was against you. Brava to you, Jane!
    Gayle xo


  20. ladynyo Says:

    Oh Gayle! It’s so good to hear from you! And yes, we were just talking …last week about Joan Osbourne, Etheridge, etc. LOL! Funny how fate works!

    Yes, the tide was very much against me, and the price was rejection and isolation from my birth family, but I know now that to bow down to their control would have been the death of me…certainly my creativity. I remember that sister in law who said many years ago, that when I became a ‘Christian’ I would paint bathing suits on all my nudes. considering there were only two nudes in my entire work that struck me funny on a number of levels. But most of all, I see the Inquisition alive and well in these ignorant people. But I should lay off her: she claims to be from Spanish origins so the Inquisition comes naturally shining from her eyes. I pity her, actually. She is so hidebound.

    You got that right. Parents learn from their children, too. Maybe more. LOL! I remember when he was growing up, the wonder I had that I could have a childhood again with him without the issues of both of my parents. It was a magical time and when Christopher and I talked on the phone the other night, it was all over again. The hope and yearning on my side and the growth and budding adventure on his was a lovely union.

    With all the mistakes on our part, it was a magical time. Thank you, Gayle for reminding me that it was so.

    Yes, and as for that old woman….this all reinforced how much my path was my own. And that is how resentful she is…or why in fact. But further, she has no other way to sum up anything ‘different’ than her: that is the root of path. narcissism. They see the world only through their own eyes: if it doesn’t serve them, they dismiss it. And that is why they are narrow people. They might be creative, but their ‘expansion’ is really limited.

    I love how my son, so fragile in the beginning, has grown into a good and moral young man at 29. I love his ‘concern’ for the daises…dropping this old woman into them would be bad because she is bad fertilizer. I howled at that statement of his!

    We raised Christopher in the Quaker faith. Here in Atlanta, it’s a mish mash of beliefs: and that the congregations was full of lawyers, doctors, professors, privileged people, the jockeying for dominance in many things was not Quaker like. Or perhaps my expectations of Quakers was misplaced. But something good stuck to his ribs. Perhaps it wasn’t anything theological. perhaps it was just his shining, humanistic nature! And further, I now understand the contempt and rage fundamentalists hold humanism. They are so hidebound that they can’t breathe free. Thank you, Gayle, for reading and commenting. I think it wonderful at you and I were just talking about these musicians, and these songs. For me, this is Amazing Grace!
    Love, Jane xox


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