Dear God

I need to believe in the possibility of you and of you listening.
...both small and infinite...
...both small and infinite...

Dear God, 

I said your name aloud in prayer tonight for the first time in a long time. My father’s face, as familiar to me as my own, expressed his hope that I’d be the one to say the blessing over the meal. His eyes met mine and I could see the ache there, the wondering. I know he worries about whether or not I still talk to you - if I even believe in you anymore.

So I volunteered to pray. And after saying the words Heavenly Father out  loud, I couldn’t say anything else. Unexpected tears came, but no words did. I could feel my parents’ concern for me in that moment, their wish for me to feel what I used to feel and say what I used to say.

I remember what it felt like to know with a surety that you were there listening, to be filled up with a warmth that wrapped me whole and quieted my fears. I miss that feeling.

What my parents don’t know is that even though it’s not spoken aloud around the dinner table anymore, I still pray to you. All the time. I honestly wouldn’t know how not to.

There is still a sense of reassurance when I see good in the world. And there is so much good. But there are also things I had no idea about then. Terrible things. Things that make me miss the conviction I once had that you were always there watching over me - over everyone. The firm belief that no matter what, it would all work out in the end.

I think now about Jewish children in Eastern Europe during the war and how they must have held to that belief with a devotion beyond my understanding - the crucibled devotion forged when everything else is taken from you. They must have yearned for you with a longing beyond words as they stacked their shoes in rows and placed their glasses in intricate piles that reached to the ceiling, piles nearly as tall as the ones their bones would make.

And the children who were shipped here in cages from Africa, with chains around their wrists and ankles, only to have the fingers of small unshackled hands stain the cotton of the Antebellum South red in wordless protest at the end of days longer than any child should know. They sang anthems to you under the cover of night, crying out to be delivered. I think about their hope becoming as calloused as their fingers when deliverance never came.

I didn’t think about these things when I was a child. I didn’t have to. There was food on the kitchen table every night and presents stacked under the tree on Christmas morning. And when we asked you to bless and watch over us, I knew beyond doubt that you would.

But tonight as I said your name out loud, as I had countless times before, tears filled the space where belief once was. I thought about how much bigger the world has become to me, and how complicated.

What I wish I could have said, if my words hadn’t been swallowed up in my parents’ hoped-for meaning behind my tears, is that I am angry. Angry about a world in which drone strikes are still ordered in areas with children in them by a man who is one of the most beloved and respected  leaders of my lifetime. Angry about a world in which his potential replacement wants to build towering walls between nations, and incites violence, and says people with brown skin or who wear headscarves and  face east five times a day to pray must all be our enemies and need to be kept out of the country, or worse.

I’m angry that children playing in parks and holding their parent’s hand while waiting for the train and sitting in classrooms with arms stretched high to answer questions are torn apart by people whose bodies become bombs, people who claim to murder children in your name.

All I know is that being able to talk to you is what has, since I was a child, made me feel less alone in the world.

And I’m scared. Scared that my parents are going to die and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see them again. Scared about bringing children into a world where I know I won’t always be able to protect them.

What my parents don’t know is that even though it’s not spoken aloud around the dinner table anymore, I still pray to you. All the time. I honestly wouldn’t know how not to.

Maybe I need to believe in the possibility of you and of you listening, because the idea of taking my last breath only to then see my mother’s face awaiting me in some place beyond this one fills me with indescribable joy. Or maybe it’s because I believe any God worth his salt would be able to handle all my anger and fear in stride, and would never stop loving me for it.

All I know is that being able to talk to you is what has, since I was a child, made me feel less alone in the world.

This may not be exactly what my parents were hoping to be assured of regarding my beliefs as they waited for my words to break through the anxious silence of my tears, but here’s what I would have said if I’d been able to get the words out:

Heavenly Father,

I believe you are the awe I feel when I look up on a cloudless night and know I’m both small and infinite. I believe you are the aged woman’s hands leading girls out of trafficking and into a reclamation of worth. I believe you are the song rising up from the soul in need of grace. I believe you are the infant’s hand instinctively closing tight around my finger.

I believe you are forgiveness and charity, hope and kindness. And I believe your face is my mother’s face when she looks on me with such love and pride that I can’t help seeing within myself what she does. I believe that’s the real meaning of divinity - being able to see you in each other. 

Amen.

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