Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Seeking Spirit

Over the past few weeks, I've been immersed in reading/listening to Anne Lamott's books on faith: Traveling Mercies and Plan B. I had two predominant thoughts throughout. One was that I envy her, desperately, her ability to have faith, to place herself and her life in other hands, to be able to find comfort outside herself when the insides are hurting. That is just what I need.

The second thought was one of pure joy: I can have this! I can do this! This is within my reach!

You'd think that wasn't something that should have taken 41 years for me to figure out. But it has. And here is why: In reading Anne's works, and in listening to the words of people I respect and whose morals and values and goals for the world mirror mine, it's recently become clear to me that religion is not necessarily, as my father used to say, "simply one man's reason to hate another man." Clearly, that's true of many people. And it has been my motto, my modus operandi, the way I've always approached all things related to god and to faith. People who talk about praying or going to church or who reference God casually in conversation have always scared me rather than inspiring me.

But now, people like Anne and Rich and others like them are opening my eyes to the fact that there are people who rage against the way religion and so-called morality have been co-opted by people who hate and discriminate and exclude. They're trying to take back their faith from those people. They're teaching me that you can be both a believer and a liberal, that you can imagine a God that is just as angry as I am about the way our country is going. They're teaching me that you can be intelligent and faithful, that you can be imperfect and yet still loved. That you can believe in God yet not despise those who don't, or who believe differently from you. They're even teaching me that you can be funny and irreverent and questioning and skeptical and full of life and smarts...and that those things are not incompatible with faith.

Those are things I've never really been able to believe. But now I do, or at least I'm starting to. And that's good, because that's just the sort of thing I need to believe in right now. I feel a very strong need to explore my faith, my Judaism, to give myself up to something outside myself a little in order to make the parts inside me a little stronger. But I've always thought that such a quest would be completely incompatible with who I am. I'm starting to believe that that isn't necessarily so. I'm starting to believe that I can be me and be spiritual. I'm starting to believe.

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