Before you write me off as a complete loon for claiming to talk to God, let me just say that 2016 was a rough year for me. Yeah, I know Donald Trump and all, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
2016 is the year my 30-year marriage ended. My divorce was final just a few days ago.
To say this has been a difficult process would be a gross understatement. Even now, I have no words to describe my pain. In talking (mostly sobbing) with friends I have used words like “shattered,” and “broken,” and “devastated.” Still, these are simply words and the pain I felt was visceral, almost primal in its ferocity.
I have cried more tears than I thought were humanly possible.
Early on I recognized that I could not handle this pain alone. I did what most of us do when we are in dire straits; I prayed. “Dear God, give me strength!” I pleaded. I suppose I was asking for the strength to endure the pain I was in. But something inside me kept steering me to ask for peace rather than strength. When I did so, waves of calm – tiny ripples at first – washed over me. This was certainly not happiness in any way that I have understood it, but when I prayed for peace there was a welcome stillness that came into my presence.
This stillness seemed to invite me in. Almost as if it had been waiting for me. “Come,” it beckoned. “Come and sit a moment. You are weary, and I am here.”
My curiosity – and let’s be honest, my desperation for relief from my suffering – led me to the Spirituality section at my local bookstore. (Oh, who am I kidding; I get all my stuff from Amazon, just like you.) I began devouring books like Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser, Peace From Broken Pieces, by Iyanla Vanzant, The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne Dyer, A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson, Spiritual Solutions, by Deepak Chopra, Life Loves You, by Louise Hay, Tears to Triumph, by Marianne Williamson, The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz, The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein, and The Law of Attraction, by Jerry and Ester Hicks, to name a few.
The recurrent theme that shook me to my core was that God was not as I had always imagined and been taught. As a one-time student of Art History and a converted catholic, my understanding of God lay somewhere between Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the rote recitation of obligatory prayers and genuflecting at just the right time during mass.
The God that I have come to know – and now talk to – is quite different from all of that. The God I talk to frankly wouldn’t care if you screwed up the words to a prayer that some dead guy wrote, and I just can’t believe that reflexively making the sign of the cross, or even going to church, affects God one way or another. (If you’re worried about lightning striking at this point you’re welcome to take two steps back. I remain unconcerned.) It’s not that any of the trappings of religion are bad, it’s just that they’re more for us than they are for God.
Or at least the God that I talk to.
Which brings me back to my conversations with God.
I have heard that in prayer we talk to God and in meditation we listen. I was interested in both so I sort of smooshed the two together, and now we have a dialogue.
For my part of the conversation I bring my sorrow, my sense of loss, and sometimes my complete exasperation. All of which overwhelm me still. For God’s part I hear – I feel – a benevolent patience as my pain and I are held with a tenderness and acceptance that I have never known. The answers to my questions are succinct yet expansive. They are gentle but they don’t let me off the hook. God’s answers make sense of my life. The difficulties I faced as a child are what caused me to make many of the choices I did as a young adult, and it is those choices that are playing out in my life now.
But in no way do I experience God as some sort of therapist. Therapy is, by necessity, objective.
God is not objective about us at all! Plain and simple, God is love. And love is not objective. Love is always rooting for us. Love always wants us to win. Love is endlessly understanding of our limitations and willing to meet us where we are. I experience God as light, a warm radiant light that envelops me and connects me to each and every soul that ever has lived or ever will live. We are each a source of the light and we are all basking in its glow.
In these quiet moments I know that we are all cherished. Each of us. I have come to understand that my divorce is an ending, but certainly not The End as I had originally thought. The rest of my life will be different than what I thought it was going to be. But is that so bad? God certainly doesn’t seem to think so. When I ask, “What do I do now? This isn’t the way my life was supposed to be!” I hear reassurance that, in fact, I am exactly where I need to be.
God doesn’t see me as broken or shattered or “damaged goods” as I told myself in those first dark months. God sees me the way he sees all of us, as whole, worthy and Divine.