My image of God doesn’t emerge from a church pew

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona 2015

inside Sagrada Familia, Barcelona 2015

It took Him about 45 minutes to appear. To my eyes anyway, as I’ve no idea what anyone else in the room was seeing. The image isn’t fixed, or distinct. It’s devoid of an outline or any sharp edges, and comes and goes in stride with my level of focus and ability to surrender. The image of God that comes to me hasn’t changed much over the years. He’s draped in white robes, seated lotus style, with a slightly tilted, downcast chin and hint of a smile. His eyes are sable and bond to mine in a way no mortal’s can. He can see his creation – Me – in its entirety and send waves of unconditional love that replenish my body and soul every time I’m fortunate enough to see Him.

And I don’t see Him in church. Never have. Probably never will. Not that I haven’t tried…

When I move, He arrives…

As a child, I was too fascinated with the joy of transitioning between the hard bench and padded knee rest and back again to pay any attention to the Priest’s words. Ants in her pants, is what my parents and everyone who knew me called it. I tried to sit still, but come communion time – for which I was too young to participate – I’d had it. If I can’t move down the center aisle and around the perimeter with the rest of the congregation what’s the point? I can’t just sit here.

Even during middle school years when I attended weekly bible study gatherings with other kids at a large, urban Presbyterian church (the parents transitioned out of the Catholic church for a time) I just couldn’t garner an image of Him (or Her). Loved the pals I made and learned how to pitch a tent at a bible camping retreat, but the scripture and songfests failed to procure an image. I felt His presence, but just didn’t see anything.

Until I went for a run. Not by choice, but by punishment from a hot-headed 7th grade P.E. teacher (sadly, this guy’s angry image is clear as day) who’d had it with our obnoxious antics on the basketball court. “Run! All of ya! Around the school and the adjacent field!” So we ran. And to my total shock, I ran my ass off, passing all the stronger kids who loved to shove me on my ass every time I came near a ball. Not today. I saw God. Looking down on me, promising that yes, I was an athlete too.

But Christians are supposed to go to church…

Five years ago in the crumbling midst of a heartbreaking divorce I visited my local Presbyterian church and tried to sit still in the fifth pew between an Auntie Em-like woman who patted my back and an Asian-American professor who squeezed my hand as tears rolled. The minister implored us to consider our every action – from the moment we woke up until the lights clicked off – and whether it came from a place of love or selfishness. A worthy message indeed, but in my emotionally-crushed state I could only squirm around in an attempt to break my mental fixation on doubting whether I was a decent human being or rotten scoundrel who failed at her marriage. No image of God to be found here…

Portland Marathon 2010

Portland Marathon 2010

I could have given that church another shot, but as I was running 50 miles a week in preparation for a marathon, I encountered His image several times. As my heartbeat, foot gait, and breath joined into a harmonious synchronicity, He came to me at least once during every run. Sometimes at mile 3, others as my quads burned around mile 15.

These days, I see him during daily yoga practice. Unlike running, where my mind frequently wanders into anticipation (what’s for lunch afterward), expectation (am I keeping it under an 8-minute mile?), or blank space, my yoga practice gets me completely present. Nothing but breath, posture, Dristhi (focus). During Tadasana, where I stretched my heart, eyes and arms to the sky, He came to me.

God comes to many in the beautiful churches, temples, mosques, and other houses of worship created in His honor. But for me, He appears when I’m moving. Rejoicing in this amazing physical form he created just for me. And for that, I’m grateful.

Even if I can’t sit still on a church pew. Because I know He’s cool with that.

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