There was a time that I doubted the existence of God.
Hard to believe, I know. To be totally honest, it was less that I didn't believe in God and more that I wasn't quite sure that God believed in me. I wanted the God of Infinite Compassion. What I got instead was God's Evil Twin Brother. While I had little evidence of God's mercy and love as it played out in my life, I had ample evidence of how God (or His Evil Twin) was really trying to fuck with me. I knew, from an early age, that I was lost and alone, slightly broken and beyond repair. It was all God's fault.
It was so much easier to deny God than to face the idea that I had been abandoned. So much easier to defy God than continue to hunger for a redemption that never came.
And I defied God with a vengeance. I thumbed my nose at Him, ignored Her, talked trash whenever I could. Talked loudly, and with passion. I wanted to hurt God, just as I had been hurt. I vowed to never sing again--- the one thing I had that had ever brought me a sense of peace and wholeness, the one thing that led me on a shining and sure path to God and grace. I gave that up in a heartbeat. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I drank too much, to drown out the silence of God. If not alcohol, anything: drugs, shopping, food or sex. I used everything I could to bolster my doubt, to delight in my heresy.
That'll teach Him. Ha.
I spun through my life like a whirling dervish. It was a mad dance, and I careened off people and places with equal vigor and disregard. I reveled in that frenetic, frantic motion, ratcheting up my speed in an ever-widening arc. I was a ghost in my own life: untouched and disconnected. Empty.
I carried that little pocket of emptiness with me everywhere. It was familiar, like a worn old robe that slips on so easily, draping just so against the contours of your body-- covering, concealing, comforting. I could forget about my war with God and belief and just move faster into the empty, all sensation, devoid of meaning. One night, one day, again and again, stretching into eternity, pure and empty. And it was good.
I drank my way, stumbling and reeling, with brief forays into over-indulgence of every kind, to California. Fueled by the passion of social justice, I went to work for a national poor people's organization. I flirted with the belief that if I acted with integrity, that integrity would transfer to me, by osmosis or proximity or luck. I wanted to believe I would feel unbroken at last. I hungered for wholeness, even as I drowned it with alcohol, prayed to a God I was convinced was an illusion, who could not hear and who would refuse me at every turn.
And then I stood in the ocean.
We had taken an Adventure Day, we rabble-rousers, we agitated agitators. We took a day off from saving the world and drove down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, to play and cavort and drink. We basked in the sun, let the salt breeze caress our pale skin, wandered the boardwalk without thought or care. We laughed easily, and teased mercilessly. We were released at last from the social and political battles that had defined us and given us purpose for so long. We devoured the day and wandered into the mist of evening, almost spent.
We ended where the earth ends, where earth and mist and water come together in ceaseless susurration and motion. No one had ever told me, this Midwestern child, how noisy the ocean could be. No one had told me how the ocean could excite every one of my senses, make them tingle and feel alive as if for the first time.
I wandered away from my friends, drawn to the edge of the sea. I stood there, the water lapping against my ankles, licking up my calves, the salt drenching my skin and tangling in my hair, the moon--- huge and round, the golden light skipping along the waves in a path to eternity--- the moon rising like a promise, surrounded by the laughing roar of water and sky. I stood there, amid the vast and endless sea, in the gathering night, and met God, at last.
My God: the God of Infinite Compassion, of light and sound and forgiveness. God of the Ocean.
It was all so huge, so boundless. No one had ever told me. No one told me that, in the face of all that holiness, the truest prayer is not spoken but heard. And for the first time, I listened. I quieted and calmed my heart and my fear, and I listened my prayer, a whisper of moonlight and a shout of the tide. I was so very small against that moon-kissed horizon, and I felt comfort and peace and whole.
I listened, and my prayer was forgiveness, my prayer was redemption. My prayer was love. I stood motionless, exhausted and enthralled. Empty still, but ready to be filled. Broken still, but ready to be healed. I listened a prayer again, and at last, there was love, and God.