I attended Quaker meeting by myself today. The past 18 months I’ve attended maybe 3 times, never alone. I’ve been feeling the pull to come back recently. Not sure why.
The meeting has an interim pastor I hadn’t heard speak before. I liked her style. Scattered thoughts, loosely connected, but full of interesting questions. Today, she asked us to imagine that outside the church door was a surprise, just for us. It’s the thing you’d be willing to climb over pews, and shove people out of the way for. And when we think of that surprise, what comes to mind?
I had various things come to mind as what kind of surprise would prompt me to scale the pews and run. Most prominently was a mind that contained joy and peace, but was not susceptible to anxiety or fear. I would climb mountains to reach those heights. I considered a life of no responsibilities, where my days were spent in conversation with people I love, or was curious about. I’ve always wanted to retire early so I could pursue that kind of life.
It took about 20 minutes before I realized the thought that hadn’t crossed my mind; An existing God.
When the absence of that idea dawned on me, I’m pretty sure I froze for several minutes. And then I hid my face with my hands, and sobbed for several minutes in the back of a church, by myself, hoping nobody would notice.
I’ve been fighting the good fight with atheism for a long time now. The pursuit for something outside the natural world has been a good friend to me. It sent me on long, wonderful journeys. It introduced me to new people and ideas, and provided several of my best friends.
But I’ve been aware for over a year that I needed to let that question go. Searching for God had stopped making my life better. I once wrote a poem about sitting on top of a flight of stairs, always hoping God would show up and open the door (link here). I used to imagine I’d be on those stairs forever.
Today, I realized I’m not there anymore. The question, and the need for the question, have left me.
In my tears today, I held that question, the question that had tormented me for so long. I gave it the respect it deserved, thanking it for keeping me company on some painful and dark days.
And by myself in the back of a church, I let it go.