Thursday, January 7, 2016

Motherhood & God

Snuggles at one-month old
{We've come a long way already, baby.}

I’ve always believed in God, though I’ve not always used the word God. (I've used words like Energy, Universal Wisdom, Goddess, Great Spirit, Life Force, Love, and others.)

But I’ve always believed in that Special-Something-That-Exists-Beyond-This-Physical-Realm because I’ve always, always felt its presence and guidance in my life. 

I remember being a very young girl, tucked in bed, talking to my Unseen-But-Profoundly-Present-Friend. The one I just knew was there, in that way children just know things. The one who answered me not in words, but in sensationsgoosebumps (truth shivers) on my arms, a warmth slowly spreading from my belly to my chest, a buzzing in my ears, a tingling in my body.

My unshakeable belief in God led me, as a child, to love Church. 

I didn’t go often, but when I did, I loved it. I loved the smell of the incense and the burning of the candles and the lessons hidden in the stories and the breaking of bread and the sharing of communion. I loved confession. I loved, above all else, the story of Jesushis birth and his life and his death, but mostly his birth. It was all so magical and beautiful and made me believe in angels and search the skies, on a regular basis, for the brightest stars. (Where might that one lead if I followed it?)

But then I learned about religion (specifically, my religion, which was Catholicism) and how it excluded some people and how it was responsible for incredible hurt and abuse and war  in the world, and the magic faded a little before it faded a lot.

I went to University and took a Religious Studies class and decided, conclusively, that religion was not for me. Even though I still loved Church, I stopped going completely. It didn’t feel right anymore. I didn’t understand all of its rules. I didn’t agree with many of them.

But I knew then, as I know now, that God did not live in Church and that, even though Church no longer felt right, God still did. 

So I found God elsewhereusually (almost always) in Nature.

While wandering through a forest in Ontario or hiking up a mountain in Japan or descending into the Grand Canyon in Arizona or snorkeling in the waters of Mexico or watching the sunrise with humpback whales in Hawaii, I have felt my cells come alive with what I can only describe as a profound awareness of God’s presence (and presents). 

We’ve shared a lot of moments, over the years, God and me. We speak on an almost-daily basis. I often feel close to Him (or Her, or Divine Love, or whatever name feels right in that moment) after meditation, when the turbulent waters of my mind have become still again. We always hang out at Christmas. 

We’re connected, but we’re casual. I’ve not made any effort to deepen our relationship in any sort of consistent or ritualistic way and, up until now, this nonchalant approach to God has been enough for me.

But, eight months ago, I had a baby.

When my miracle baby was born and put on my chest for the very first time, the first words out of my mouth, travelling straight out of my busted-open body and heart, were “Oh my God.” 

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD. 

I must have said it at least a hundred times. 

Because to give birth to a brand new, sparkling human beingto see a perfect little person emerge out of your own bodyis nothing short of a holy experience. 

It’s incredibly human, yes, but it’s also incredibly non-human. There is magic in that room. There is a hush in that room, immediately after the baby is born, that sounds like the exhalation of angels. There is God in that room.

God was in that room.

I knew it in that way mothers just know things. We were not alone. The very same Unseen-But-Profoundly-Present-Friend, who used to visit me as a child, was with us,  as our son arrived Earthside.

And He has not left us since. He has taken up permanent residence in our home. His presence is felt at all hours of the day and night. 

I feel nourished, now, in a deep, deep way I have not felt before. I feel more resilient than ever. I am alone, a lot of the time, but I rarely feel lonely. Some days, I feel like there is a glow all around me, even when it’s wet and gloomy outside. Other days, when I feel too tired to even take a step, I feel a force filling me up and pushing me forward, a sort of echo reverberating inside, telling me that “I can do this and I can do it well.

This is not my own echo. These are not my own thoughts. My thoughts are more along the lines of, “More sleep, please.

It’s all so very interesting. And a bit jarring. But, mostly, it’s incredibly, astoundingly comforting because, you see, there is just too much love for me to hold right now.

There is too much love for my human heart to hold. 

Even though I strive to share the love (because love isn’t meant to be kept inside, it’s meant to be sprinkled around like fairy dust), every time I look at my baby, there it is: TOO MUCH LOVE filling up the chambers of my tender heart, often tumbling like an ocean out of my eyes. It's amazing and life-affirming and excruciating and exhausting.

And so, I turn to God. I ask Him to please take some of that love and to carry it for me. 

To love my boy. To keep him well. To keep him safe. 

These are my morning prayers: Love him, keep him well, keep him safe. But there are others, too. I pray much more than I used to. I find myself having random conversations with God throughout the day, often in the shower and at the kitchen sink. I say thank you a lot (like, a lot a lot).

Thank you for this miracle on my lap, for the light in his eyes, for the life in his eyes.  Thank you for another sunrise. Thank you for another moon. Thank you for the food on this table that nourishes my family. Thank you for the incredible ride that is life on Earth.  Thank you for my husband and the dream we are building together. Thank you for my parents and their health and the love they have for their grandson. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for making me a mom. I take none of it for granted.

Having a child changes you, at the molecular level. I am a different human now. My cells have been altered. My priorities have been reordered. My worldview has shifted. Everythingabsolutely everythinghas shifted in ways I expected and in ways I most definitely did not expect. 

And through all of this shifting, it seems a sacred space has been carved, deep in my heart and in my life, for an intimate relationship with God.

And, maybejust maybefor Church too.

Because through all of this communing with God, I have started thinking about Church again.

About how much I used to love it. About how peaceful I used to feel after a particularly inspiring sermon. About the comfort of community and the power of prayer. About the magic of the Christmas story. About the little (extra)ordinary family that was Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. About sin and forgiveness. About grace.

I know, as well as anybody does, that God (still) doesn’t live in Church. And yet, and yet, and yet, I am being called to seek Church. I am having dreams about Church. I am being pulled to connect with churchgoers and to ask them, “Tell me about your Church. How did you find it? Why do you love it?” Something is stirring inside.

So, I’m opening myself up, now, to the possibility of Church in my life. To the possibility of (gah!) religion. I have no expectations. None. Just a whole lot of curiosity and an aching, open, filled-up-to-bursting heart.

Maybe I’ll find a Church that feels like homeone that is enlightened and built on pillars of love. Maybe I won't and I’ll end up in a forest of pine trees and realize (again) that Nature is the only Church that is right for me and my family.

I don’t know. 

All I know is that 1) I have learned not to ignore the heart-calling when it comes and 2) funny things happen when you become a mom. 

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