I have this picture in my head, of what it looks like to have faith. It is me, standing on the edge, right at the top of some impossibly high mountain, the sky a deep cerulean blue, luminous and rich, the air crisp. I stand, poised, ready to leap. to soar and fly and float and land, without doubt, in absolute certainty, to rest gently in the palm of God's hand.
I do a lot of standing.
Faith is tough for me.
I want to leap. I want to have that certainty. I want to rest with God, be carried through. I want it desperately. Sometimes, I feel it, a tiny trill of anticipation tweaked with fear and nerves and excitement, radiating out weakly from my center. Fingers and knees tingle, and for a moment, just a moment, the barest whisper of a moment, I gather myself and breathe and
Stay. Stuck. Wistful and regretful. And safe.
Like I said, I want to leap. Sometimes that level of faith is beyond me.
And yet, every once in a while, I soar.
And I find God's hand, outstretched, waiting for me. Every time. Without exception. Every time I leap, there is God, waiting for me.
I wish I could remember that, that God waits. Just for me. Always. Patient, comforting, with a hint of the eternal. I don't though. I stay, wrapped in my doubt like a blanket, sure (sure-ish) that fear and doubt are safer than that split second of free fall until I find God's warmth. I hear the echo, ever and always and first, of the only prayer I had for a couple of decades: "Fuck you, God." I wrote that prayer at a young age, sure that God had abandoned me, left me to struggle in pain, to drown in my loneliness. I declared my apostasy loudly--- "There is no God!"
Of course, the louder I shouted, the more I could drown out the whisper that slips so softly in my head, the idea that, it was not that I did not believe in God, it was my undeclared certainty that God did not believe in me. It was that certainty that kept me rooted, poised and still. I cannot leap, because I am afraid that God still has His (Her?) ("It" just doesn't seem right) (some genderless pronoun to encompass God)--- I cannot leap because I am still afraid that God has His back turned away from me.
No redemption for you! Ha!
And yet, I have leaped and soared and slipped gently into the ever-present outstretched hand of God. My struggle, my disbelief, my lack of faith is just that: mine. My holy and sacred quest is a shadow dance. God is enthusiastic spectator in my solo performance. God watches, applauding my every effort, laughing in all the right places, waiting for me to lose myself in the moment.
It is not what I pray. It is that I pray. That's what matters. That's what makes God dance.
This past weekend, I got to learn something about faith. Again. I get to learn this particular lesson again and again. God laughs and waits and applauds for me. Every so often, God dances and catches me, pillowing my fall with grace.
I was at a retreat. It was possibly all about music. Or maybe about prayer. Or God. Or community. Faith, perhaps. All of the above. Certainly, music was the base, a foundation of sorts. Shabbat Shira--- Sabbath of Song. A few dozen people came together to learn and stretch and grow and teach. Silly me; I thought I was there to learn more about Songleading-- using music and song to lead congregants in prayer. Simple stuff.
What I learned was all about love, and community and faith. Yes, faith. That damned elusive thing, that spark of God and hope that I chase with all the singularity that a drowning woman chases a life preserver floating just out of reach on a dark and wave-wracked sea. Throw in a bit about vulnerability and truth and honesty and you have the weekend. Our teachers stood before us, offering themselves, whole and pure and unafraid, without pretense, and made a glorious noise as they lit a path to God. I followed. We all did, joyously, surrounded by love and faith and hope.
How? I asked. I demanded. I pleaded. How do you do it? How do you show up, vulnerable and raw? How do you give? How can I?
And really, that was my prayer. My quest had gotten me this far: from "Fuck you" to "How can I?" I want to serve. I want to give. I want to be an unsheathed flame, dancing along a path to God, letting others in to find their own paths, their own joy, their own prayer. I want to leap. Please God, let me leap. One more time, let me learn the lesson of soaring. Let me believe that I will be caught.
And my teachers, every one of them, whether they stood in front of us in service or beside me in prayer (because everyone at Shabbat Shira was my teacher), they all answered so simply, so stripped of artifice: you just do.
It is not what you pray; it is that you pray.
It is not what you do, it is that you do.
It is not what you sing; it is that you sing.
Do. Act. Pray. Sing. Serve. The grace (and gracefulness) will follow. God will catch me, soaring or stumbling in the dark., God waits to catch me And, after I have rested a bit, caught my breath a bit, then God and I, we'll dance.
Dedicated to my friends and teachers of Shabbat Shira 2010.
Thank you <3
- I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.