The except I’m posting is one of the chapters in Girl Meets God, written by Lauren Winner. It is such a beautiful book. I was sad when it was over. About this brilliant young girl from Asheville, NC (woot! woot!) who grew up and became an Orthodox Jew. After years of following that religion, she felt Jesus calling her heart to follow him (i love that). This book is about that journey. It reminds me a lot of Blue Like Jazz in that it doesn’t have a direct storyline, more like a wandering set of vignettes that together make a whole story. Her writing is both funny and touching and always real. Reading it also reminded me of my friend Emily’s writing, which in an odd way made me feel closer to her than the thousand or so miles between us allows. Anyways. Read it if you get a chance. Even if you don’t, how powerful is this chapter?? I’ve read it a few times now and take something new away each time.
I find it hard to describe God in terms that are other than abstract, even a God who took on hands and toes and feet. It is still hard to describe Him with words I can hold in my hand or carry around in my pocket. Most of the God-words I reach for fly away before they land, like ineffable and powerful and good. The best words I have found so far are those words that God Himself spoke, ostensibly speaking not about God, but His beloved; when God speaks about His people, He is usually telling us less about us and more about Him. In morning prayer, this first Friday of Pentecost, we read a verse from Luke 12: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” It is one of the best verses in the Bible, and one of the hardest things about God. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. The passive voice is deceptive. It appears to obscure who’s doing the action, who’s doing the giving and who’s doing the requiring. But it doesn’t take too long in God’s company to realize that it is He who does both.
Sometimes it is hard to explain what is being required. One week, I came to church late, over an hour late, after the Gospel reading, smack in the middle of the prayers for the people. I slipped into the back and started crying. I thought I was managing quiet, dignified tears, but I must have telegraphed my misery across the room, for a short black woman with a broad smile and a blue dress came up and hugged me and told me tears were the work of the Holy Spirit. You might have thought something terrible had happened – that I had just learned my mother had Alzheimer’s, that I had suffered through a terrible weekend, that my house had burned down or I had just lost my dearest friend to a car crash; none of those things had happened, but you would have suspected them all given how hard I cried in that Holy Spirit woman’s arms.
I cried, I think, because I was coming to understand in a new way just how much was required of me, how much God was going to strip away all my everything, like silver polish taking the tarnish off old forks. I cried because I know more and more how Chekov was right, how we are all running around desperate to make connections with one another, but mostly we are all just estranged. Because I know more and more that this glass here is so very dark, that this really is a long loneliness, that is both lonely and long.
Sometimes I feel God has taken a paring knife to me. I now know the way an apple feels.