I went to church today. I know, normal people wouldn’t make that kind of proclamation, well, at all. Because it’s part of many people’s lives. I am, however, a wretched soul who has always been ambivalent about spirituality, faith, and religion, so I don’t go to church often. I have discovered through the years that I am more spiritual than religious.
I wasn’t a huge fan of my understanding of God. It seemed to me that no matter how hard life was, no matter how much I prayed, neither my loved ones nor I could catch a break. I started to think “My God, how bad was I that NONE of my flipping prayers could be answered??” So I didn’t know what to make of things.
Throughout my life I’ve searched for answers, for meaning, to settle into my place in this world. I have always approached the world through an intellectual framework–I think through my life. I can intellectualize and rationalize anything. It’s only been recently that I’ve started to learn to feel my way through life and trust my gut. It’s really hard for me. Because one feeling is pain. And it hurts.
It should come as no surprise then that my search for spiritual meaning and nourishment was couched in intellectual pursuits. I looked for answers through history, facts, dogma. What did the synod say about that? I tried to understand intellectually. I compared religions, tried to understand religions’ places in the history of world civilization. All interesting, but not all that helpful for me.
Things started to shift for me a few years ago as I began to live more mindfully. And slowly, I discovered kindness and grace and forgiveness and mercy in my life.
But I still fight religion. Yet I rediscovered God in Glennon. I love her God. He is a kind, forgiving, loving God. This God makes me cry. Good tears. It is this loving God that resonates with me. But I’m still afraid. Of what, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m afraid to believe wholeheartedly that I am worthy and good enough to be the recipient of unconditional and lasting and forgiving love. Perhaps I’m afraid of surrendering and trusting. Perhaps…well, I don’t know. I’m running out of reasons.
So in a moment recently of feeling bruised and shaky and unsure, and just not good, I went to the place that helps me think and settle. I sat on the beach. With God. He likes the beach too. And in my moments of flailing about through life, I tried accepting the concept that God has been waiting patiently for me to stop flapping my arms about being hysterical. I tried accepting that perhaps preschool lessons generalize through life–that I get what I get and I don’t get upset, instead of expecting to get the desired outcome of any specific prayer or plea. We had a good time on the beach, God and I, getting reacquainted.
I have always had a reverent respect for God, but never FELT Him like I’ve heard people describe. I believed, but in a detached and matter-of-fact way. So when I started living more mindfully, my friend said I was having a spiritual awakening. I bristled and denied it. I was meditating, I told her! Now I understand.
When things are going well, my heart swells with gratitude and thanks and love, and understand in a feeling sort of way what people mean when they say “God is Good.” When things are not going well, when my heart is heavy or my body is filled with anxiety, or the worries make the air heavy, I can still feel God. I feel Him by feeling an undercurrent of calm and knowing that lies beneath the anxiety or sadness or worry. It is the feeling and knowledge and belief that everything will be alright, and gratitude that I know this. And gratitude that things were not worse. Gratitude that in the midst of hardships, I was still full of and surrounded by love and grace and mercy and kindness.
The writer Anne Lamott says there are three basic prayers: Thanks, Wow, and Help. I understand this now. Thanks: this is my continual practice of Gratitude. This state of being of feeling so appreciative and thankful and grateful for so many things in life. Wow: This is is my practice of being Present. There are so many WOW moments when I am able to just Be. And the Wow usually leads to Thanks. And then there’s Help. When I’m begging for Help, it’s my cue to Breathe.
Is this a spiritual awakening, is this a renewed faith in God, or is this something else entirely? I don’t know. I liken it to the recent disagreement by several doctors of whether I was suffering from a Mysterious Headache Syndrome, or Post-Concussion Syndrome. No one was ever able to definitively diagnose it one way or the other. In the end, it didn’t really matter what we called it.
So this brings me back to today. I was struck with a sudden compulsion to go to church today. Because I am feeling bruised and lost and empty and sad and confused and well, wretched. I spent the day meditating, being, breathing. But I needed more. And because God met me on the beach, I went to His House today. And I asked for help. All I asked for was peace.
So do I care what I call this right now? No. I do know how to ask for Help, and how to say Thanks. Wow.