What can be measured but not seen?
What is always coming but never really arrives?
What finds you when it was your job to search?
Time. Tomorrow. God.
I’ve found God in a handful of places, none of them the usual suspects. To name a few: A sunbeam on a snowy hill. In the faces of high school students. On a yoga mat. At the bottom of a lake. On the radio. In my car.
I grew up Catholic. This means I’ve additionally searched for God in countless suspect places: At a church. On a retreat. In a choir. At a volunteer event. At a Catholic college.
Usually, when I search my hardest for God, what I end up finding is myself, searching my hardest for God. This ends up a fruitful endeavor, as I see myself humble, questioning, and open. But it misses the mark. My true experiences with God seem unrelated to my efforts. Strangely, I am beginning to think that maybe I cannot find God at all. Perhaps, it is God who finds me.
I recently read a piece by chaplain who has worked her entire career administering last rites to the dying. When people die, she said, they do not talk about their religion. They don’t ask her about absolution or where they go next. They talk about love: who they loved the most, how they loved most, and opportunities they had to love more and failed. To her, God is love. Love is found in our relation to other people. In this, I am inclined to agree.
If we equate love and God, there are some interesting scenarios to consider. How many people have a carefully planned, precisely executed love life? How many have scheduled their love to begin at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning and decided that at 11:00am they would eat a donut and get on with their other plans? No one, because we can’t will people into our lives like that; we can’t package up something so permeating. Love, when it comes, sweeps us off our feet and we “fall” into it.
Lately, I have been trying to date using an online app, and it feels about as effective as trying to find God in a one-hour block on Sunday morning: stilted, expected, and boring. Not to mention horribly forced.
I suppose what I am trying to get at it that these measures are ineffective, and we have no way to increase their effectiveness because these things are simply beyond our control. This forced dating, this forced Sunday morning. This love, this God.
Ego says: “Ouch.”
Knowing this, how can we go on? How do we proceed without hanging onto false belief that we actually have control?
The answer is, for some of us, that we can’t. Some of us are too scared to put one foot after another blindly, trusting that it will all work out, and must pretend. Often, I find myself paralyzed in this way: I feel that my purpose, my love, is an eon yet only an inch away, and that if only I could move one step to the right, divert my path just a hair, I would find it. I tear my hair out and dream about losing my teeth, imagine the power I have gained and lost and where I will go next, if only A, then B, then C. But mainly, there is this feeling of not knowing.
The only solace I can imagine is that we never know about the opportunities we miss; we only sense them off in the distance, like the smell of a dinner cooking in a house you don’t know as you walk down a city street at twilight.
The fact of the matter (and a fact I usually try to forget) is that we are not in charge. Try as we might to cultivate our life just so, we are at the benevolent mercy of the force of our lives, which is always working and coursing in ways deeper than our comprehension.
Many people throughout my life, totally unrelated and speaking to me at different times about different life situations, have told me not to ‘push the river’, to stop trying to control things over which I have no control. This advice is true yet nearly impossible for me to enact. I maintain that I am the captain of my life, my career, my relationships, even my weight. All the while, the life force is flowing underground, beneath me, often rendering my exhaustive efforts useless.
For 2016, my resolution is to let myself be rendered useless. If what I strive for can’t be striven for and my gifts cannot be earned, then the most valuable work I can do is to simply be grateful for the path and for the life force, for the water flowing underground that carries us when we don’t want to be carried and carries us beyond the point at which we are incapable of carrying ourselves.