“God spoke to me, and he said ‘I am the one who will decide which kingdoms will rise & whose will fall, and I say that I love & cherish these people as my children and they will flourish'”.
As I stirred creamers into my tea I did not look up at the man speaking, but I felt the hairs bristling on the back of my neck all the same. Inherited rage against the church of my father. It was late in the afternoon and the diner was mostly empty except for me, and these three church folk conversing over pie and coffee. There was something about the self-congratulatory confidence which this man’s faith spoke with that grated my nerves. Even as I felt the tension & irritation rise in the bile of my stomach a calmer voice reminded me to let it go. He meant no harm by his story, he was no threat to me in my booth, and who was I to judge his experience of the unknown.
“Father Clearey looked at me astonished as I spoke these words, for he knew that I would never have said such a thing! I was fed up with being there. There had been so much resistance, so many set backs, and they had just run out of money to pay us. So they called an assembly with the children to see if any of them had access to money. I was ready to throw in the towel, I was sure that these people were past hope and would be wiped out under the heel of God. So I said to myself, well I know what I think of these people, but God what do you think of these people?”
As I listened I felt the knots in my stomach relax into unexpected calm. Certainly this man was not perfect, he barely concealed his inherent racism & disdain for “those people”, but when that voice answered him he was prepared to listen against his own judgement. A small bead of hope settled in my heart. Here was someone whom I would normally consider beyond hope, a Christian missionary with an agenda. With Trump the President-Elect spitting his hate speech from the television in the corner of the diner these church folk stood for everything I thought was wrong with the world. Yet, here he was acting out of divine love to support people he had deemed beyond hope in circumstances that would try the most loyal ally let alone a bigot.
In that moment I thought about the reasons I had hated his faith, how similar they were to his own reasons for hating the faith of the north, how little any of our reasons meant in the face of so much pain. Humanities pain. My pain. The pain that I had been in when I walked into the diner to sit at my favourite corner booth where the waitress comes to sit on her breaks and cheers me up with stories of her weekend. She gives the best hugs. How I needed one of those hugs today because I was feeling so lost. There is no way to adequately describe the emptiness of depression. A real absence of care. Of faith. I questioned why I had turned away from all overt forms of faith as an attempt to prove that I was an intelligent, capable, grounded person in my father’s eyes. I noticed how much my heart craved that faith now. A faith that is open to receiving signs from beyond my own understanding of the situation. A faith that acts out of the best interests of those involved against my own petty judgements. A faith that loved deeply & fully with no expectation.
I was reminded of the one-step plan we had discussed in my yoga training. Give life. How impossible it had seemed when she had said that to me. Shed everything. She said that we were already on it. Over to God. I couldn’t understand how. One step. Over bagels & tea I understood the blessed simplicity of that sentiment.
There is no reason why that man should have had a change of heart. There is no reason that I should have stepped into this diner at this time to hear him tell it. There is no reason any of this should occur, and yet that is all the reason that I need to restore my faith in humanity. My faith in happy accidents & divine interventions. My faith in my own ability to keep going. My faith. There may be a divine reason too complex for my understanding, or I may have arrived here by a series of happy accidents, or gifts from the god as another teacher refers to them, either way the results are the same. I am sitting alone in the corner booth on a grey steely day stirring cream into my tea when I experience a change of heart. I can not measure or quantify the experience, but my actions change as a result. My thoughts change as a result. Love enters my heart as a result.
As I walk back to work considering the unlikely probability that I would hear these words at this time and have them land in my heart in such a way to momentarily lift the veil of apathy I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for magical mistakes & mysterious meetings. As I walk the one step at a time path through depression I see all the other tiny steps that have got me here. I see that we are each walking the one step path together, and whether we waver or stumble, we are moving through it as one. One step. The rhyme or reason of it is whatever we each choose to weave between the lines, but the result is the same. We walk together.