I've been reading a memoir by Dani Shapiro called Devotion. (Here I am again, reading, always reading...) It's a tricky book to describe, but in it she chronicles her feeling of spiritual disconnect and search for meaning. Despite a lovely family and comfortable lifestyle, she is anxious, doubt-ridden, scared. A skilled and eloquent writer, she delves into the depths of a troubled relationship with her mother, baring insecurities fearlessly. I recognize the feelings she describes - the free-floating anxiety, the need to place her faith in something. Where's the time and space for ritual and a spiritual connection in today's rush-rush, technology-driven world? It's exciting to find another soul asking the same questions, praying, sometimes out loud, to a God she's not certain is listening.
I didn't grow up in an Orthodox Jewish household, as Shapiro did. In fact, I grew up nothing at all - no religion. My father emigrated from Iran in 1969, abandoning his Muslim upbringing and embracing the American freedom to practice no faith at all. My mom was baptized in the Baptist church as a child but her family didn't attend church regularly, and from what I can gather, didn't discuss God much at all. Mom and Dad later told me they didn't want to raise me in a certain religious tradition in order to let me choose my own way.
I appreciate that freedom in some ways, but I could have used more conversation about God. I could have used some instruction about the teachings of different religious traditions. I don't remember talking about God much at all as a child, occasionally going to a Methodist church with my mother in brief spurts. I felt like all the other kids in Sunday School knew what the heck was going on, and I was totally clueless. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it very much.
To create a space for the acknowledgement of the sacred is one of my main goals in life and certainly something I want to introduce to my own future children. Living life without a connection to something bigger than your to-do list is no way to live. It's an endless loop of work, eat, watch TV, sleep, and do it all over again. Room for ritual, for miracles, for gratitude, for love - this is what makes life rich.
I think quiet time is a huge part of connection to God. I know I crave silence. I didn't used to be that way. Silence can be hard - you're faced with the tape in your mind, all your insecurities, fears, worries. But as Shapiro describes in Devotion, sitting in quiet meditation stirred up "something pure and deep." When you acknowledge the small voice inside that longs for God, yearns to know God intimately, you make yourself vulnerable, open. In an almost childlike way, you're asking for help. Blocking out the need for God-space with all of the modern distractions in the world just isn't working for me anymore.
This book came along at just the right time for me. It's hard to talk to other people about God. Some people want to convert you to their brand of God. Some people think you're nuts to believe in God at all. I get weirdly touchy about God-talk - anyone who is too certain of their opinion turns me off. And yet I can't stop wondering, seeking, searching. I don't necessarily expect answers. I just want to be comfortable living with the questions.
Maybe I don't need to be talking to anyone else about God right now. Maybe I just need to sit quietly and let God talk to me.