“The journey of the soul into God, was to learn how to see the unity of all being, how to look for this partially hidden God, and how to honor those footprints everywhere once you could see them. It was surrender to gratitude—and also to immense confidence that you are a part of something very good." Richard Rohr
"God comes to you disguised as your life." Paula D'Arcy
Last week during the Thursday meeting of my Clinical Pastoral Education group at the hospital I sat in wonder as one of our gang asked another, "How do you experience God in your life?" It was such a simple question and so deeply profound, too. It's the question I've been seeking to answer for myself ever since I began this hospital chaplaincy in October, and, too, through the writing I'm doing for my class at UVM. I entered into these experiences with a sense about God -- a feeling, but not much in the way of description. I wanted to be able to wrap some language around the beliefs I hold about God.
In that moment, last Thursday, without thinking, the answer -- my answer -- came to me: God is in every breath I take.
Last night in my class at the University of Vermont, Writing to Make Meaning, I read a few of my essays out loud -- an experience which is normally anxiety-inducing for me, but because of the warmth and safety that has been created there in our group, it felt OK. It felt good to share some of my stories. When I was done, one of my classmates asked a smart question: "What do you get from writing these stories?" As a writer, I don't often think about myself. I write with readers in mind; I write in the hopes that someone somewhere might be moved in some way. My answer was this: I write to make sense of God in my life, and when I write, it reminds me to keep paying close attention to my life.
We are socked in today by a very blustery winter storm. It's as white as can be outside, but still I can feel Miss Spring making her way; I can feel her taking hold inside of me. The language I was seeking is blooming in my heart; the words I had hoped to discover are surfacing. Life of late has asked something important of me: it has asked me to keep moving beyond what I once thought were the limits of possibilities for me. It's scary, it's lonely, it's weird, but there have been so many moments of beauty and grace and surprise and joy that, honestly, I can't imagine any other version anymore.
We have many things to look forward to in the O'Brien clan in the coming months: two high school graduations in June: a baby for the California crew in July and a wedding in August. How perfectly these celebrations will balance out the many deaths I've witnessed in the hospital this winter. Life, it seems, is a magical, mystical wonder and the God I love and honor is woven into each and every drop. I'm getting it, by golly, I'm creeping up on it: God is not in a church or within any churchy dogma; God is not a man in flowing robes; God is not something or someone I need to go find. God is right here, in every moment, sacred and profane, boring and enchanting, empty and full. God is in the curiosity that propels me onward, through my desire to turn back to familiar ground and into new and startlingly inspiring places. God, especially, is in the relationships we carve out with each other on this journey; in the spaces we create for each other to buffer against the reality of how very hard this life is.
God is in how much we believe in each other's dreams and in the attention we pay to one another's existence.
We are, indeed, all a part of something very, very good.