It’s the delicate light, the fragile first waves that have traveled from the far-flung sun, and then into my earthbound view. How can gray be so beautiful? Dawn’s smudge of gray-turning-pink is for dreams; not the sleeping kind, but the today-will-be-better kind. Dawn is for questions; metaphorical and literal. Will darkness linger, or will light make that bright, extra effort? There, in the last shadows, where old night or new day seems still a choice, I (sometimes) sense the Holy blush of hope.
Sometimes, I find God within my dog.
D-o-g, of course, within the English language, is G-o-d spelled backwards. So why celebrate the wag of a tail, the moist nose, the bright eyes ready to play, and imagine the Almighty as a furry, funny, frolicsome companion? This dog I have now—or this dog who has me—dares me every day, and in so many ways, to live in the present moment. Now. Now. Now. So much of what I think that I think I know about God comes from old books and old traditions and old people of generations past, and all of that knowledge is good. Good! And yet how often do I look back, with my best and worst memories, rather than living in this moment with sparse knowledge but with a body aquiver with expectation. See how Kynzi quivers . . . now!
Sometimes, I find God from the stranger.
Strangers surround me. I know many of the people where I work, but every day I’ll notice another and think: I don’t know them. Strangers hurry along the street. They pass my home on the sidewalk. There I sit at a restaurant or theater or park or wait for the stoplight or dash into the supermarket for an item, and the strangers abound. Then one, at work or play, in a store or on the street, whispers a kind word or stops to give careful directions. Or it’s a gesture I witness, like a young girl helping an elderly man across an intersection or a grandfather with his grandchild hoisted onto his shoulders. How amazing, this world filled with countless strangers. A few have changed my life. Many have helped me. Many more, just by gazing upon them, remind me of endless, endless, endless creation—and a bold, brassy Creator.
Sometimes, I find God under a rock.
I recall gazing at #77 in the sayings found in the suspicious and sublime Gospel of Thomas, where the Nazarene was purported to have claimed . . . Jesus said, “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth, and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” Long before reading any of Thomas’ peculiar, gorgeous Gospel, I have lifted stones, dug into the earth, knelt at the edge of granite cliffs, and experienced the Holy. But stones are stones, and whatever gifts of nature come with dirty fingernails and sweaty brows and bent knees, isn’t that mere pantheism, a wayward worship of nature? Perhaps. Perhaps I’m a misguided fool. Still, in the cool earth, on the contours of living stone and growing tree, I have felt blessing and blessed. For me, if Thomas wasn’t a true Gospel, Thomas was truthful enough.
Sometimes, I find God when wandering away from God.
God can feel absent. The day is humdrum. Each digital shift of the clock is dull. Colors fade. Sounds are muffled. I am tired, in a funk, or both. I haven’t taken my nap and my temper’s short. How can there be any meaning or mystery when facing such banality? When absence reigns, I doubt there can be any Godly love or light in the world. Where has God gone? On vacation with happy people? Joined the Buddhists, who (with my outsider eyes) so often know how to stay simultaneously still and active. Why would any God, especially the God Of Endless Love That Jesus Revealed, want to waste time with lousy Larry? And yet, even in those crummy moments, where I’m convinced my woe is worse than your woe, I have these fleeting, fragile thoughts that in the Ribald Realm of God, the awful news is never the last news. Thus, I cling: jaw clenched and heart weary, to belief in God rather than belief in my grumpiness.
Sometimes, I find God in the woman I love.
And who loves me. I was married a first time, aka, the worst time. I wish her well, wherever she is now, but I know—oh how I know—that we can choose wrong and make mistakes. Oh, how I can be such a callous, selfish fellow! Didn’t I deserve (here, God’s love fades as my self-pity rises) the agony of my long-ago divorce? Who cares about deserve! I received a second chance. Or was it the Holy Spirit or Happenstance that placed Jeanie on the end of the back row of chairs in the chapel of First United Methodist in San Leandro at the right moment? I claim God. I claim God in Jeanie’s love for me. I claim God in finding the perfect woman! (Of course, Jeanie’s not perfect, but so close that it’s worth rounding off not-quite-perfect to declare perfection!) How is it that every once in a while, you do find the right person at the right time in the right way . . . and grace is flesh and blood?
Sometimes, I find God in the grievers that I work with at hospice.
A loved one has died, let’s say a spouse of decades, and the world no longer has any meaning. She (and, sadly, it’s usually a “she”) joins the support group, weeping and angry, bereft and adrift, fearful of sounds and without a clue about how to laugh again. The group participants are the walking dead, zombies the deceased left behind and are now left alone. And yet, gathered together, on uncomfortable chairs in a nondescript room, often enough they risk sharing. They risk caring. They listen to stories worse than theirs. They sputter truths. They mutter through tears. They are as weak as they are brave. They see and sense that their pain is not so different from the person’s pain next to them. They, though there’s no guarantee of this, begin to transform. The worst pain of their lives decreases, ever so slightly, and they imagine imagining a next day. These grievers I am with teach me and bedazzle me. They are living, weeping, wounded prayers, creating a broken, blessed circle of love.
There are a million ways I find God.
I read the words and ways of Jesus and forever marvel that, as he told the parables, he rarely mentioned faith, religion, and often not even a reference to God. It was all about the encounters between one person and another, between families, between groups of people. Every parable stirs the Holy pot of hope, proclaiming the treasure of relationship. Who is your neighbor? Who isn’t your neighbor? God, infrequently mentioned, and yet always mentioned, is discovered in forgiveness, acts of mercy, tender gestures of unselfish love.
And what of you?
Where do you find God?
How has the Holy haunted, hunted, and hoisted you on Holy shoulders?
Where have you witnessed beauty, felt unselfish love, experienced grace, and have realized—in spite of all those self-critical thoughts that flood our souls—that you are truly, truly, beloved?