I’m not really sure when this happened, and it’s quite out of my comfort zone to speak in this way, but it feels really important. Sometime in the past few months, I have really begun to notice God and feel my faith, but not really in the ways I thought I would.
I was raised in the church, and as often happens with anything one is exposed to for a long period of time, after a while it began to lose meaning for me. I still “believed” everything, but it really didn’t hold a personal meaning for me in the way I know it can now. I thought I was pursuing it, but my dogged pursuit somehow made it even further from my grasp. It eventually became such a foreign thing to me that I grew a distaste for it. I actively fought against it. All the while, in a small hidden corner of my heart that I kept trying to forget about, I knew I still longed for it.
I’m not sure how it happened. Perhaps through the gentle encouragement of friends. Perhaps through heartbreak. Perhaps, simply through time. But now, I feel my faith. It is this thing that shapes me and inspires the way I want to be in the world, but it is a quiet thing. I know it confuses those close to me who don’t hear me talk about it much, but as with many of the things that are nearest to my heart, I feel the need to protect it from an overdose of explanation.
I don’t know how to pray in the typical sense, but I find myself repeating Anne Lamott‘s advice often, saying things like, “Help- I don’t know what to do;” “Wow- that sunset is breathtaking.” I don’t think I really believe in an “ordained path” for my life, but I feel the weight and volume of all the thoughts that come in to my head and heart day after day, and I pay attention to them, tuning myself to their music, and I sense that God is somehow showing me something about myself. When I am lying anxious in bed at night, wondering what to do and praying my “Help” prayer (which is really more of a shy whisper), I feel the cool breeze from the window wash over my face and somehow I know that God is that breeze, soothing my mind, telling me to just breathe. These days, I’ll see a bird perch and sing on my balcony railing, and my own heart soars with the thought that the bird and I are of the some creation, so I too should sing. When I am cooking dinner in the evening and smelling the fresh-earth-smell of the peas and the sun-drenched skin of the tomato, I am reminded of the beautiful earth that was created to bring me life, beauty, and enjoyment, and to which I have been instructed to care for and love. I feel God in those vegetables. I feel God in the sun rays that shine through the tree branches on a Sunday morning when I’ve skipped church to read in the park. It feels like God is delighting in the fact that I am delighting in the sanctuary of his sun rays, and tree branches, the sanctuary of his creation. I even (maybe crazily) feel God when I am shopping and put on an exquisitely made dress or shoe, and marvel at the creativity and craftsmanship that someone had to make this piece of beauty; for aren’t all things good and perfect from God? However commonplace they may seem?
Every time I am thankful for the beauty around me, every time I notice that flower, or the bee, or pause for a moment on my walk to work to feel the morning sun, I find God. And these days, almost every time I take those moments, my eyes well up with gratitude that I am on this earth. That I am finding a faith that celebrates a God of love and beauty and creativity. That I am learning to see the other people God is trying to show himself to. And I find myself more and more whispering to God at night, as that cool breeze comes through my window, that I want to be that person that people find God in. Not through sermons or denials. Not through rhetoric or campaigns. But through love of the earth. Love of people. Respect. Patience. Kindness. Diligence. Passion. Pure, childlike joy. Wholeheartedness. Care of creation. Celebrating life and beauty. This is how I want to show people my faith. Because it has become a steady rhythm within me. I feel it affecting everything I do in a way I never have before, and while it may not have the fanfare of a parade, I feel it just as strongly- settling into my bones, wrestling to come to the surface, to shine it’s face out into the world.
All of this sentiment, however true for me, feels odd to express. Faith is one of those things we’re not “supposed” to push on people. And I don’t feel like I’m pushing, or evangelizing. But I really feel that it’s important for some people to know that God can be found in breezes and flowers, tomatoes and laughter. Of course, there is so much more to faith than just that, but for me, these moments and treasures are my prayers. They’re the places where heaven meets earth, where there is that seamless overlap where we may find a few stitches of God if we are looking for them. It’s easy to be in a hurry, and popular to be cynical these days. I’ve spent plenty of time being angry and skeptical, and while it may seem normal or even a sign of intelligence to some, I’m learning that I’d rather be happy celebrating and living in beauty and the God of love and be seen as simple or naive, than to walk around with a chip on my shoulder. It takes a lot of effort at first to slow down and give yourself space, and someone else time, and everyone patience. It’s the opposite of the way our culture says we should be. But is our culture really doing so well? Are we really happy? Isn’t it worth it to fight for the beautiful and true, to struggle for meaning? I believe it is, and so I will continue to sing with the birds, to whisper my prayers at night, and to marvel at how I have begun to feel God in flowers.