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San Francisco. I lasted three whole weeks with Marissa and Steve, hunkering down in their comfortable but tiny guest room, long phone conversations with the lawyer I’d found in Denver, someone I’d picked out of the phone book. When he found out how well-heeled Dale was, he perked up, but I wasn’t interested in that. I felt like I had gum on my shoe. All I wanted was to scrap off that life and move on.
Steve was a decent guy, but as a minister I guess he felt obligated to talk to me about, well, Life, God, all that. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Wanted to be anywhere but there on their couch, listening to a version of Life and God that was clearly well-intentioned but which didn’t manage to lodge anywhere near the vicinity of my battered soul. Not wanting to offend them, and all too aware that I hardly possessed any credentials to debate theology with anyone, I just sat there, mute, the World’s Biggest Loser.
But why was I cringing away from all Steve’s God talk, when my heart was secretly crying out for God – some God, any God – to show himself. Herself. Itself. Whatever.
In fact, I could hardly bear the spiritual hunger, this hole inside that demanded filling, though it was all mixed up with the shame I felt at my own stupidity and failure, and the reflexive fear that still gripped me. Only now, four states away, could I begin to notice just how afraid I’d actually been, for so long. Only now did I actually catch myself mid-flinch when I heard a raised voice, bracing for someone to yell at me, reflexively panicking, looking for a bolt-hole.
Here’s what I knew, what I’d always known, though I would never have admitted it, not then, not even to a nice and Godly guy like Steve. Even as a child, I’d heard what I could only describe as the Call. The call to be something …more. Or some subtle sense that there was something more, that I was inherently something more, or that there was some meaningful purpose earmarked just for me.
I remember one night; I must have been about nine. That would make it the house we had in Houston, the one a few blocks from Rice University. There was a terrible electrical storm, the kind they have in the south, lightning cracking so close there’s not even a heartbeat between the light and the sound of thunder that followed on its heels. Wind whipping the tree limbs almost to breaking point.
For some reason, I didn’t cower in my bed that night, like I often did, all alone. My parents weren’t the kind to come in and check on me, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I could invade their sleep just because I needed comfort, or felt afraid.
That night, I heard and felt the storm. I got up and went to the window – probably a stupid thing to do, lightning like that does strike houses in those places. But I stood there, watching, hands pressed to the glass, as if I was at the very center of the storm.
As if God itself was talking to me through these crackling bolts of power.
I always remembered the experience of that night, always carried the memory of what it felt like to be a …child of the universe, like that poem, Desiderata.
But then, like another poem, Wordsworth’s, put it, I lost it again, all that “splendor in the grass, glory in the flower”, lost the wonder and reality of the moment. I grew up.
But now the hunger was back, big time. I only wished I knew what it was I was looking for, like that silly but catchy song that kept running through my head said, something… untried but true.
So, for some reason, I didn’t want to admit to my concerned hosts that I was haunting the New Age bookstores during the day, spending money I didn’t have, squirreling away in my purse books I didn’t want anyone to see as I looked for work. Journaling fiercely, trying to understand… everything.
Trying and failing.