"It would be incorrect in every sense to say that so near the end of his life he had lost his faith, when in fact God seemed more abundant to him in the Regina Cleri home than any place he had been before. God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees. God saturated the hallways in the form of a pale electrical light. But now that his heart had become so shiftless and unreliable, now that he should be sensing the afterlife like a sweet scent drifting in from the garden, he had started to wonder if there was in fact no afterlife at all. Look at all these true believers who wanted only to live, look at himself, clinging onto this life like a squirrel scrambling up the icy pitch of a roof. In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future; instead, Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that all the bats had been put back behind the closet door. God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn't see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light. How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy. We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God and in his life Father Sullivan had seen it miraculously for eighty-eight years. Why couldn't it stand to reason that this had been the whole of existence and now he would retreat back to the nothingness he had come from in order to let someone else have their turn at the view? This was not the workings of disbelief. It was instead a final, joyful realization of all he had been given. It would be possible to overlook just about anything if you were trained to constantly strain forward to see the power and the glory that was waiting up ahead. What a shame it would have been to miss God while waiting for Him."
-from Run, by Ann Patchett
Thank you, Ann Patchett, for saying so many things that I believe, so much better than I could ever have said them myself. The bold print is my emphasis, to help me remember what God looks like to me, when it gets fuzzy, as it does sometimes. It's not that I believe or disbelieve any certain story of God; it's that the question seems irrelevant in light of the daily details, where God always is. I love stories, and I love questions, and I love pondering, but when it comes to God: they seem beside the point somehow. I only want to slow down, to notice, to celebrate.
Tonight, God came in the voice of a dying Catholic priest in a novel discovered in a borrowed Kelty backpack. Of course, I'm pretty sure it was originally a gift from my mother. Aren't all things, ultimately, originally gifts from our mothers? Now how to share this gift with my children? If we don't go to church, or belong to any kind of faith community, how do I teach them reverence for life? How do I help them discover God in the details? This, much more than what precisely I believe, is the question of my faith. See, I simply don't care very much what, precisely, I believe. All I need to believe is that God is Love. That's more than enough. But how to teach it? And how to celebrate it regularly without the structure of a church or fellowship?
My son is almost two. My
daughter next one is on her the way. I want to at least begin, but when I think about how, I flounder. And so perhaps I will pray.