I do not consider myself religious in the traditional manner. I have attended various churches over the years, often searching for community and clarity, yet none of these institutions have presented me with any sense of peace. Public displays of faith often cause me to wriggle in my seat. Cognitive dissonance pokes at my messy brain. Every time I hear, “Let us pray,” the little stubborn girl in me with scraped knees and crooked bangs stomps her foot and cries, “Make me.” Just the term “organized religion” makes me question everything it represents. Faith, to me, is mysterious unanswered questions that cannot be contained in human-built cathedrals. It is private and personal and non-compulsory.
My quiet pleas in the dark, after the television goes off and the covers are drawn close, seem to give me the most hope. These silent prayers have evolved from begging for a boyfriend to pleading for more money to watching over my children and grandchildren. They are my confidential petitions, asking the universe to gently shower love over all whom I adore and even that which causes me to twitch and squirm. They also contain confessions of my brokenness and failures, requesting directions on how to navigate the sadness. They are exclusively mine and not open for public consumption.
I recently reread Anne Lamott’s book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. She defines prayer as, “…talking to something or anything with with we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken. (In fact, these are probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.) Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history we are loved and chosen, and we do not have to get it together before we show up.” She then suggests three essential prayers we all have in our arsenal: Help, thanks, and wow. They are simple devotions, communicating honestly with whatever deity we feel we have a connection.
Help. Help me pilot this journey with grace and kindness and truth. Thanks. Thanks for good coffee and true friends and warm, flaky pie. Wow. Show me the wonder of the universe, whether it is experiencing the grandeur of fog coming in over the Golden Gate Bridge or being there for a beloved cat as she takes her last breaths.
I acknowledge I am stumbling through this spiritual odyssey of mine. I find glory in great literature, faith through any song of James Taylor’s, and sacrament in dazzling sunsets. I’m angry at injustice. I do not tolerate blatant lies. I march when I can in the name of love. I make mistakes. I struggle to forgive others and myself. I question everything. I know I am a mess: a beautiful, crazy, complicated wreck, yet I still throw back the covers every morning, put my feet on the cold floor, and figure out how to live this day in love.
I ask for help. I offer thanks. I bask in wow.
“Love falls to the earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun also rises.” ~Anne Lamott