Notes from the search for God

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In today's episode of my search for God, I found myself in sitting at a Quaker meeting. For over a hour, I sat in a room with thirty or forty other people, quietly, concentrating. Two men got up and spoke, each for no more than a couple of minutes, and I listened closely to what each of them had to say, then pondered what they said, looking for a message in it, looking for shades of something that I needed to hear. Before anyone spoke, I concentrated hard, first on the list of people I had brought with me that I wanted to pray for, and then on myself, praying for faith.

Once again, faith didn't come. If God was present in that room, God did not make its presence known, at least not to me. I sat there, trying from the inside out to open my heart and make room for faith, but faith did not come. As I attempted to meditate on faith, I concentrated on the word--faith. I saw it in my mind like the screen saver on a computer screen, bright, swirling letters. And just as soon as I saw it, it turned from "faith" to "fake." As in, I am a fake for sitting here with my eyes closed, trying to pretend I am one of these people. These people feel God in this space. They feel community. I feel my ass against the chair, my feet on the floor. These people are somewhere inside themselves, pondering on the things that are important in their lives, talking to their gods. I am sneaking glances at the clock, looking around the room, counting the panes in the windows. God wants nothing to do with me.

So here I am. Again. Disappointed. Wondering if this search is worthwhile. Wondering if searching is even what I should be doing. After all, if God wanted to me to know it exists, why wouldn't it just TELL ME rather than sending me on this wild goose chase? What am I supposed to be learning here?

I've looked for God on my own in more ways and on more occasions than I can count. I've done rituals, I've prayed in song, in speech, in writing. I've looking for God in nature, in the faces of my friends and family, at the graves of those I have lost. And I haven't been able to find God alone. Thinking maybe that I just needed help, or structure, I've looked for God in a Lutheran church, a Universalist Unitarian church, and now at a Quaker meeting. And I've seen no inclination of God in any of those places either. What now? Should I try Episcopalian? Should I stop picking churches based on their social values and service work and just force myself to sit through services at the Baptist church down the street? What if God has been hiding there all along, only a few blocks away?

Lord, I Have Made You a Place in My Heart

Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart
among the rags and the bones and the dirt.
There's piles of lies,
the love gone from her eyes,
and old moving boxes full of hurt.
Pull up a chair by the trouble and care.
I got whiskey, you're welcome to some.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart,
but I don't reckon you're gonna come.

I've tried to fix up the place,
I know it's a disgrace,
you get used to it after a while -
with the flood and the drought and old pals hanging out
with their IOU's and their smiles.
Bare naked women keep coming in
and they dance like you wouldn't believe.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart,
so take a good look - and then leave.

Oh Lord, why does the Fall get colder each year?
Lord, why can't I learn to love?
Lord, if you made me, it's easy to see
that you all make mistakes up above.
But if I open the door, you will know I'm poor
and my secrets are all that I own.
Oh Lord, I have made you a place in my heart
and I hope that you leave it alone.

-Greg Brown


I think the Quakers would claim that the deity/spirit is within you, even though it may manifest itself in meeting. But I don't know. Maybe you could ask them stuff or something. I doubt very much that you could feel much community in any setting the first time you visited it, especially if its practices were unfamiliar to you.

But here's the thing. I'm an atheist--I was raised that way, and I've never had any good reason to change those beliefs. What I think you have to ask yourself is what a deity provides that you can't get any other way. It's true that I don't understand "faith" in anything like the way that deists do--it just doesn't make any sense to me, whether it's requiring me to believe things for which I have no evidence, or whether it's attributing cause to things that (to me) don't have a cause, per se. Why do you want there to be a deity? What will happen if you don't find one?

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