Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Caryl writes: The Nature of God

Well, it snowed again this week—and again-- and again. It was the seventh, eighth and ninth storms of the new year for New York. Everybody’s talking about the weather but no one’s doing anything about it—as the old joke goes. I myself can’t complain. I am living on memories from a beautiful week I spent in Tuscon, Arizona mid-January. This is truly God’s country, not just because of the expansive blue skies and the vast desert landscape with its statuesque army of saguro cacti. Not just because of the saturation of stars at night or the brilliant full moon that traded places with the sun each day I was. For a brief stretch morning and evening, both the sun and the moon there occupied the same sky. Nature always makes me a believer in a higher power.

I have always been a seeker of truth but I have been resistant to religion. Maybe it's because the faith I was brought up in continues to be unwelcoming to women and unaware of the moral dilemmas of modern life. Tough for me to get onboard. Nevertheless, more and more lately, I have found myself offering silent prayers of gratitude: for my own health, for the well-being of my daughters, for the riches we all share. And then there are the prayers of petition: jobs for my kids, safe travels for all of us and in moments of grandiosity, world peace.

I spent my week in Tuscon in silent prayer at a retreat center in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas mountains just a mile or two from the Safeway where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 20 others were injured or killed. I arrived there five days after the horrendous shooting, and the psychic wounds were still raw. Did you ever notice how during senseless events, there is much talk of God: From haunting questions (“How could He have let this happen— to a nine-year old girl? Jesus Christ!) to heartfelt pleas (“Dear Lord, help us during these difficult and painful times.”). Even the President of the United States relied on scripture in his healing speech in Tuscon. Referring to Giffords' fight for survival from her serious brain injury, he quoted: "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day."

In my second life, I have been thinking a lot about faith and doubt. And so this year in the second decade of the new millennium I am devoting (note word choice) a part of my time to thinking about the Big Questions. I met a man at the retreat center who is himself embarking on a second life. At 70, he has left a thriving design business in northern California to embark on a masters in divinity at a seminary just blocks from my home in New York City. He has agreed to be my spiritual director. It turns out that part of his course work this semester is to counsel a directee. He was wondering where he’d find a candidate since he knows no one in Manhattan. But we found each other in a quiet pocket of the Sonora desert. I don’t know but I see God’s hand in our meeting.

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