But what if I occupy the space between?

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”     – Charles Bukowski

But what about if I occupy the space between? I do and I don’t believe in God.  I want to and I don’t want to.  I am drawn to and confused by the divine all at once.

I cannot forsake the legacy of faith that I inherited, but I have made that faith my own, and now it is unrecognizable.  I hate street preachers and people that hand out tracts, but I could also live in the wilderness, barefoot, and talk about Jesus all day with locked hair, eating locusts and honey.

I feel like there is no space for a person who aches for justice and loves the prophets.  There is no space for me as I love mystics and meditation.  I wish that I had enough time in this life to learn Hebrew so that I could read the holy texts for myself.  I could also study in Tibet under Buddhist monks, shave my head, and wear saffron robes.  It feels right to stop what I am doing, abruptly set up my mat, and face Mecca to answer this global call to prayer.  I worship the moon and the tides and protons and neutrons and quarks.  I believe in science and evolution and germ theory and I believe that Ezekiel saw the wheel and that Jesus’ spit and mud were a healing salve.  I believe in the holiness of blood as I watch a child born.  I honor my visceral instinct to worship mothers and their sacred wombs.  It makes me want to have a glass of wine and remember how this holy blood was also the life giving force that was shed for me.  I feel God when I read about deoxyribonucleic acid copying and editing itself and when I think about how mitochondria were once living things outside of our cells.  I feel fire in my bones when I sing counterpoint.

I know that I cannot go inside the walls of the church, the church that I dearly love and miss, and belt its hymns at the top of my lungs.  I can speak the language and get by.  I know all the right words to use and I nod my head politely.  Eventually I betray myself.  I can see that I am a heretic.  I take my Torah up with me and leave.  Yet I know I am not welcome in academia with my eucharist either.  They eventually see that my gut reaction is lay my hands on everyone.  I leave the Ivory tower, leading a small parade of the prophets behind me like ducklings.

I have grown comfortable with ambiguity and inhabiting the in between spaces because I have to.  But it is lonely here.  I am lonely here.

I have grown comfortable with my faith.  But my faith and my body and my mind require community.  And I don’t know where to find my people.  I would love to belong somewhere.

Safety Not Guaranteed

For as long as I can remember God has been my center.  I knew this even as a small child.  Now, as an alleged grown person, I wonder what that means.  I was raised with a simple faith.  I do not think my family meant to give me such a flimsy faith, but they could only give me what they had.  I was told to put a Bible under my pillow to protect me from bad dreams (it has never worked and I still suffer from bad dreams).  I was taught that you pray.  I somehow absorbed that if we pray we can get everything that we need.  This is simply not true.
 
I have to tell you that every single time I realize that there is no safety net as I walk this high wire, it is as if my body is being slammed onto a brick wall at a high speed.  It just sucks that there is no protection for us.  So I have always struggled with prayer and to figure out who this God is that I am drawn to, whom I beg to stay by my side.  
 
Dear God, please be with me.  
 
I always thought that my safe passage in this world was guaranteed because I was in the God club; I was saved.  Isn’t that what saved means?  As a girl I had many prayers: that we could live in a house, that the scars on my knees would go away, and that my dad wouldn’t have cancer anymore.  My dad died of cancer.  I never lived in a house with my dad.  My knees are still banged up.  

God, I am so tired.  I need strength.
 
So with my heart and guts wrenched out, why is it that I still find myself praying to this God?  
 
God, you have thousands upon thousands of angels.  Can you send one in please.  I know you can.  
 
So what the shit is prayer for anyway?  I met a girl in college who I grew to love.  I knew that I could not live without her.  But I was so afraid of her dying.  She was so sick.  I wanted to pray for her healing.  I wanted to ask God to let me keep her.  I knew prayer did not work like that.  I prayed anyway.  My prayers were always frantic and beggy.  They still are.  I wept and sobbed.  I carry with me so many stories of unanswered prayers: stillborn babies, orphaned children, uncured illnesses, burned down and flooded homes, small wounds that led to amputation because there wasn’t enough money to see a real doctor, a starving mother with twins who only has enough milk to nurse one baby.  I hold these tragedies in my heart, and carry them with me wherever I go.  My natural inclination is still to pray.  
 
Please, God.  Please help.  Send help soon. 
 
[cricket chirping noises]
 
There isn’t anything else to do but pray.  That is why I still do it.  I get so mad sometimes that God brought me into this world.  I did not agree to the terms of this life.  Yet here I am- alive.  This life on this earth is so very, very, painful.  I have lost things I cannot live without.  I will continue to lose people I cannot live without.  We are subjected to great suffering here.  
 
God, I am so tired.  
 
Why am I still here?  Because I can hear God calling me to stay.  It feels like I am treading water in the cold open ocean and the sharks can smell blood.  Every now and then, I feel warmth, I get a deep breath, someone lets me rest my head on their shoulders and swims for me.  The girl I met in college is healed.
 
God, thank you.  Just- thank you.  Help me hold on to this relief.
 
Before I feel rested I am back to treading water again with salt water up my nose, chapped lips, and a sore body.
 
Ugh, God.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
 
I still hesitate to pray.  It is hard to ask when the answer seems to so often be a still and silent- no.  I just cannot resist prayer.  Even when I am filled with doubt, my mind does it anyway.  I ask for the easiest way out of things, and the only thing God gives me is God.  I am not promised safe passage through this world.  I will continue to have my heart wrenched out of my chest.  God will continue to be there by my side like a faint whisper.