Because of that dumb virus, my Church has moved services outdoors. Or perhaps I should say, “Thanks to that dumb virus, my Church has moved services outdoors.” Because I really like it!
I’m almost dreading when we have to move services back indoors–until it gets cold, that is. Although I am sociable & like to meet & greet before & after service, I prefer to sit alone on the periphery of the crowd to safeguard myself & others from said virus, among other things. Today was the first day that I turned completely away from the sermon & locked my gaze on the beautiful blue sky above. I still listened, of course, but I wanted to treat today’s sermon more like a meditation session than an academic lecture. I know, I know! Meditation & Church aren’t suppose to mix, but just give me a few paragraphs to explain.
I went through a period of depression a few years ago when I was living on the coast. Rediscovering how to go about my daily activities in a life that, at the time, appeared to be filled with endless conflict & obstacles felt like the process patients describe when recovering from a stroke. I just had to learn to live, all over again. I found that it helped pacify me when I would sit on the beach for a while & just watch the waves. Typically, I’d have to pick one spot in the surf & just force myself to lock in to that one spot. If I did it right, I would escape to a place of serenity after a few minutes. All my anxiety, dread, & suffering would evaporate, even for but a moment. Although I seemed to have described “meditation,” I consider this as more a moment with God. When I was a kid growing up attending Catholic Mass on Sundays, I remember a priest had implored the adults in the congregation: “Give over your stress, your fears, your anxieties to God–just for a moment! Receive the peace that God offers; know that He is with you.” That’s what it felt like as I watched the surf break against the shore.
So this morning, I found myself looking out first at the horizon where a nearby hill disappeared into a distant treeline & eventually into a blue August sky. I was trying to replicate that sensation I had achieved years earlier along the shore. I wondered what I must have looked like to members of the congregation. I half-expected a woman to approach me & politely ask, “What are you looking for out there?” But I had my answer ready because I knew exactly what I was looking for. “I’m looking for God.”
Again, re-visiting my experience-rich childhood, my friends & I would lay down in the grass & look up at the sky. The clouds didn’t appear to be so high up; they were high, of course–taller than any tree, building, or mountain that I could ever imagine–but they didn’t seem unattainable. “That’s where God lives, I told my friends once as I pointed up at the clouds. We’re looking at the floors of Heaven from underneath His house.” My friends looked up in awe, not wishing to challenge my statement but hoping to take in the impressive sight for themselves. “Wow!” we would all say in unison.
As I grew older, I realized that God didn’t live “in the clouds.” It was childish of me to limit such a majestic being to such a localized environment of “the clouds.” But I had to grow older & even wiser still before I realized that God resided everywhere. There was a song that made the charts back in the early 2000’s. A young woman proclaimed, “I can feel you all around me.” I later learned that the song was indeed about God. Even when I’m down; even when I’m not in Church; even when I’m feeling undeserving . . . God is there. And serenity–that escape from my regrets, my weighty choices, my anxiety–is there with Him, waiting for me. I’ve found His peace in the waves when I was depressed & in the sky when I was a child. And now that I need him again to guide me through my life’s latest crossroad, I know He’s out there somewhere. I just need to found out where.
Sadly, this morning I was unable to locate the answers I was seeking. No. I was too busy with my head in the clouds.