I didn't really come up with any answers, though, so yesterday I said well, heck with it. It seemed what I had really been craving was an experience of worship, so I just put on my headphones and tuned into the Worship playlist on my iphone.
Yesterday was a very emotional day. My oldest daughter had left that morning to move out of state, and I'd been very, very, very happy for her because she is going to a good place, but also very sad because I will miss her. I'd had a talk with my youngest daughter about her own "soul sadness," which made me feel sad and yet also hopeful for some really weird reason involving a really honest faith that life will work out for the best regardless of the bumps she may encounter. So with this inner swirling of feeling of happy and sad, worry and hope, I put on my headphones. I washed the dishes, and when that was done I wandered into the living room. I stood looking out my window at my famous view of the San Francisco Bay area. The sun was just setting, still a fiery ball on the horizon, but dipping behind the hills across the bay as I watched, leaving a fiery glow across their tops.
A song came on at that time by Grace Williams. Who is Grace Williams and how did she get on my iphone anyway? I really, honestly don't know. I'm not saying that this was some sort of heavenly plant. I have no doubt that I put this album on my itunes at some time. I just don't remember it, and don't remember ever having listened to it. I don't actually listen to music all that often, and when I do it's always one of my playlists, and never the one labeled Worship. So when the song "Don't Ever Let Go" came on, I was completely unfamiliar with it. It was a gentle, repetitive song, just kind of meditative. I am including a youtube video of the song so you can hear what I heard. I don't, by the way, know who the person is who posted it, and I don't necessarily recommend visiting his website cause I haven't visited it myself and I don't have any idea what's there. But the video has the song playing to the background of photos of sunsets, very much like the one I was looking at.
There just happened to be a Bible on a table near the window, so I picked it up and opened it randomly. It opened to Hosea, one of the minor prophets, not one with whom I felt any kind of intimate acquaintance. I started reading, and of course being the rational, intellectual person I am, I started at the top of the left hand page. Blah blah blah, something about judgment and punishment, just exactly the sort of thing to turn me off. But before I closed the book, I recognized that the first place my eye had been drawn was almost to the end of the facing page, to chapter 11. This is what I read:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called, the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.
They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.
The sword shall rage against their cities,
consume the bars of their gates,
and devour them because of their own counsels.
My people are bent on turning away from me,
and though they call out to the Most High,
he shall not raise them up at all.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
They shall go after the Lord;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars, his children shall come
trembling from the west;
they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes,
declares the Lord.
Now okay, that has a lot of that judgment stuff in there as well. But at that particular time, the song I was listening to changed gears. When you get to about 3:30 in the song, you can hear it yourself. Instead of Grace Williams singing to God not to let her go, suddenly she was calling to me, telling me that God was holding me right now, touching me right now, holding me in his arms of love, and that combined with the Bible passage above, which felt like it could have been about me ("the more they were called, the more they went away"), well, you know, it was like one of those moments in life when you just feel that God is talking to you. Was I being called to return to him, like a dove from the land of Assyria?
My answer? I looked into the sunset and said, "But God, I don't even know who you are!"
I spoke briefly to a former pastor I have always loved, and I told him about all my questions, and basically all the reasons I couldn't embrace the Christian faith, and he just told me that faith was about a relationship with God. Well, okay, that's a starting point.
I will tell you this also, that I woke up in the middle of the night scared to death by all this. I woke up in the morning thinking, no, no, no, I won't go. I don't want to go. Yet I started thinking about it, wondering what it would look like, if you get what I mean. I have changed a great deal since I last embraced Christianity. I am not the same person I was then, and I do not want to go back to being that person I was then. I am a much better person now, I think, and also much nicer. So who would I be, if I believed? What is it that I would believe? I don't think there is a church in the world that would accept me as a member if they knew all my thoughts. Well, at least not a church that I would want to attend, which is a kind of a funny thing in itself.
I am not saying here that I am going to do one thing or do another. I have no idea how this will pan out. I do know why I like that song "Who Am I?" by Casting Crowns. I am without a doubt a wave tossed on the ocean. Right now I've gotta say, I feel a little seasick.
I'll keep you posted, and as I've said before, I loooong for your comments. I am just sitting here, waiting for someone to point out the way to solid land.