In the summer, the graves of indigenous children were discovered at residential schools all over Canada. I felt angry, shaken, small, and helpless.
I leaned into the fragile slowness of living through the pandemic, allowing myself grace. I hugged the friends I hadn’t seen in months. I cried in my car on the way home from work, thinking about God and the ways Christianity has betrayed so many people. I decided I don’t believe in the Christian God, and I don’t know if I believe that Jesus was the son of God, either. However, I did still have a great respect for Mary and the saints.
I don’t know what my spirituality is or means now, a complicated concoction of things I like or wish were true. I love the God I find in the ocean and the roses, who presses gently against my heart when I am weary. I think about the experiences I’ve had with Her throughout my life, and I know there has to be more to this life than the great, terrible evils humankind brings to this world.
I think God is the feeling I get when I hear soft music. I think God is my growing confidence, the wisdom acquired that I didn’t think I’d need, but use years later. I think God is the cat sleeping at the end of my bed on long, rainy nights.
In many ways, my spirituality outgrew Christianity; perhaps this was inevitable. I used to enjoy Catholicism and find great meaning in it, because I thought there would always be more to it, more saints to read about, more ways to know it emotionally, readings and prayers I hadn’t touched yet and beauty I hadn’t yet unveiled. But so much of it, in recent months, has seemed limiting and toxic.
I rested through the first year of the pandemic in a liminal space, not attending mass, not paying attention to the livestreams when I did watch them. Yet I learned more about my connection to God than ever before. I found Her in the places I did not think She would be, more easily and more beautifully than anything Catholic has ever been. If Her creation, vast and endless, is where She can be found, and so also in my heart, then I will never run out of ways to speak with, find, and love Her. If She is everywhere, in everything, then eating lunch is a prayer; asking for a promotion is a prayer. Yelling Taylor Swift songs while driving on the highway is a prayer.
If all this is true, then surviving the pandemic, physically and emotionally, is a prayer. Coming through it a different and more confident woman, steady in my yoga stances and strong in ways I wasn’t before, is the most beautiful prayer of all.
Late summer, I began been reading cases for atheism and asking myself, well, who would I be without God? If there truly was no God at all, I would still be kind and smart and strong, and isn’t that enough? If I do live this life and come to the end to find there’s nothing after, will I have wasted the time I spent believing in Her? Not if it made me a happier, better person.
That would be enough. My soul would rest at the end even if she faded into a peaceful darkness and nothing more. I knew this when I was Christian. I knew there was always the possibility She did not exist. But there’s also the possibility that She does, and I want to live for that. Just as well as I can read cases against God, I have 25 years of solid experience saying She is there. I felt Her. I don’t want to let go of that.
I worry about who I am now, and who I become, if I’m not a queer Christian, if I give up something I identified with so strongly for so many years. But I’m still a kind and compassionate person, a good friend to many, with much love and joy in the life I built myself. I long for God when I cannot see Her, when I read things or hear things that make me doubt She is there, outside the limitations of Christianity.
I worry about becoming a stereotype, that well-meaning homophobic Christians will use me to prove a point, to warn others about the dangers of leaning into feminism and bisexuality. I worry they’ll try to diminish the beauty of my soul and her connection to the divine, the parts of me that are so much more than I can put into words.
I assumed I’d believe the same thing my entire life, patiently unaccepted in the spaces I grew up in. When I wrestled with the fact that the Church murdered indigenous children, I also found the anger for myself, my own LGBTQ+ community, that I had let go for so many years. The Church hurt me, too, and I let it.
I used to find great mystery in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. Now that I don’t think priests have any more of a connection to God than anyone else does, so why would they have the power to create the Body and Blood of Christ when no one else does? I think I find closeness to God by consuming any of Her creation, if God is in everything.
First Nations have it right when they say we are all connected to the earth and everything that comes from her, and must treat her gifts with deep respect. Therefore, I’m consuming something sacred when I eat a tomato, a strawberry, or chicken. Anything that nourishes me is a gift.
Autumn came, then winter, and I felt more and more like my prayers were obsolete. I’m desperately searching for a job, a renewed purpose, more money. Things are slipping through the cracks, my friendships becoming frustrating, my bank account remaining in overdraft.
When I pray these days, I don’t know why I’m doing it. I began to ask, why is everything a prayer if none of them are answered? If I pray when life is easy and wonderful, I’m optimistic, eager for my future to come. If I pray in the fall and winter, when I’m cold and exhausted, I feel as though my prayers are not answered, nor the prayers of those around me. I want to skip to the part of life where I’m in my 30s, established and well-adjusted and with actual money in my savings account and a few thousand dollars less debt. I want to be older and wiser and skip the desperate, lonely parts of life, even though I know they’re the parts when I learn the most.
I am so tired. I’m watching other people get the jobs, do the travelling, and go on the dates I want for myself. I’m dealing with problems I didn’t think would catch up to me. I’m asking God, if She’s still there, how do I trust Her now, after all of this?
What if I don’t need to pray? No one said I had to. If a prayer is an ask, I’m angry at the number that go unanswered, not just of mine but of the world. People pray every day and terrible things still happen to them. I’m angry that people won’t get vaccinated and billionaires hoard wealth while so many people live in poverty. I’m angry that I don’t have a new job yet, and haven’t been sleeping well, and that I’m frustrated at someone and can’t speak up for myself.
So it’s not an ask. It can’t be an ask. If the divine has no power to change things when I ask, then I’m not mad at Her for not changing them. If She is, instead, just a force of wisdom and love that flows through me, the God I find in the small, beautiful moments and things, then I’m not mad. If God is everywhere, I’m privileged and grateful to be in Her presence, in whatever way I can find Her. She feels the same way about me, but neither of us have control over this life. We help each other out; She carries me and in return, I help people see Her. I love who I can. I present my authentic self to the world. I work hard and learn to stand up for myself when I am wronged. I tell myself, over and over and over: “If you can get through this, you can get through anything.”
So I’m not asking anymore. I’m commanding. I’m taking action. I’m grieving the versions of myself that the pandemic took, and celebrating the woman I’m becoming in spite of it. I’m taking my time and embracing this liminal space I find myself in. What other choice do I have?