There has been an influx of posts about spirituality in my corner of the blogosphere these past few days, and I feel like I have to say my piece as well. In the past six months (to the day – time sure flies when you’re blogging too much), I believe I’ve only written about spirituality and religion once. So here we go again.
In France, it seems like the whole country is Catholic. Almost everyone is baptized (my “family” excepted), and the churches are all works of art, but remain rather empty save for tourists. The French word to say that someone is a “practicing Catholic” is croyant/e, literally meaning “believer.” Whereas we in the States would say, “He’s a Christian, but he’s not practicing,” the French simply say, “Il n’est pas croyant”: “He does not believe.” There is, therefore, no French way to describe what I am, which is a non-practicing Catholic, who does, actually, have some faith, in spite of only going to church once a year, on Christmas Eve.
In college, I chose to hang around with a Christian group I dubbed the “Jesus Buddies,” even though my own faith had been recently shaken by the unexpected death of my childhood choir director. I liked the JBs because they were so darn nice all the time (and because when I went to their Friday night services, I felt like one of the best singers in attendance). I liked that I could be honest about my doubts – with some of them, I could even own up to thinking they were crazy and that the Book on which they based their whole lives was outdated – and still they accepted me. I liked that there was one girl who always wanted to come over to my dorm room and pray for me, and that she would offer to read Christian sexuality books with me, so that I could try to reconcile my own budding sexuality, which I was quite enjoying, with my deep-seated Catholic guilt.
In the end, though I remained friends with some of the Jesus Buddies, I opted to continue being largely non-croyante, using church mostly as an excuse to sing pretty hymns in public (hence my love of the Christmas Eve Mass), and enjoying the Bible as a piece of well-written historical… fiction? (I’m still not entirely sold either way.)
There have been two moments in my life where I feel like God, whatever His incarnation, has spoken to me directly – that is, not through the words or actions of one of His well-meaning followers. The first time was when I was young – maybe eight or nine, kneeling in my parents’ church after Communion one Sunday morning. I was looking up at the skylight in the church, and suddenly had a very clear vision of what heaven looked like. There was a maypole in a field of dandelions, and Jesus Himself was there, skipping around the pole with all the children. Although I saw this in my mind’s eye, not with my actual eyes, for years I believed it to be an exact representation of the afterlife that had been shown especially to me, and I called on the image often in times of childhood unrest. Some part of me still believes this endless frolicking awaits me after death.
The second time God showed Himself to me was about three weeks before my would-be due date. I had been reading a book a coworker lent me, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, which suggested very strongly that I begin writing down my dreams immediately upon waking, to see what intuitive messages they might have for me. Besides the fact that this is a very tall order for someone who regularly wakes up at 4 a.m. to go to work, I don’t usually have dreams I can remember clearly – sometimes I’m left with just a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, or a bad-taste-in-my-mouth sort of feeling. Sometimes I’m left with nothing at all.
On this particular night, March 26, 2009, my dream was short – really just a single image and a single sentence – but it was loud enough and powerful enough to wake me up fully and instantly.
I am standing on a wall at the edge of the ocean – the waves are crashing violently, but non-threateningly, below my feet. Although I am alone, I get the sense that someone has asked me about the nature of my beliefs, and suddenly, I shout: “I don’t believe; I am grateful!”
When I woke up, I knew it was a message from God/the Universe, but it still isn’t one I fully understand – although it gave me a great deal of comfort and strength at a time when I needed it. For the past two years, I have been trying to make sense of this moment. I just can’t put it into words other than the exact ones my dream-self defiantly screamed into the sea.