Craggy, dark, and broken.
On the evening of Good Friday, I got to participate in a Stations of the Cross service at my church. At one point, when I was standing in the main aisleway of the church, maybe around the 12th or 13th station, listening to our rector share the reading for that stop along the journey, a thought flashed through my mind that surprised me.
I can’t even tell you what the actual thought was. I don’t remember it.
But it had something to do with God, and it was a way of thinking about God that felt quite old, like it was reaching its way to me across miles and miles and belonged to another age. It recalled a sense of God as imperious judge, someone closed and narrow and cold and certainly harsh and wrathful.
And I realized:
That’s the image I carried of God in high school.
Suddenly I was back there again, and it was a moment of feeling myself caught on the plane of an alternate existence, my heart and mind stretched backward nearly 20 years, back to a very young and undeveloped view and experience of God and myself.
I’ve been reconnecting with the 15- and 16-year-old version of myself in this new place, revisiting some acute memories and remembering what it was like to be me in those exact moments. I remember the scratchy, stretchy fabric of a favorite fitted blouse I used to wear then. I remember the color and texture of my living room carpet. I remember the grandfather clock that stood in our entryway and how it lit up at night. I remember how it felt to walk into my bedroom.
And now, I’m remembering how I felt about God — and what I believed God felt about me.
It was a confusing time, but I didn’t know it at the time. And now, here I am, revisiting it.
Here’s what I’m learning: It’s messy in here. I’m finding that sometimes I can’t think straight here. I can’t feel straight, either. It’s wordless, this place, sometimes. Just a jumble of memories and impressions and fumbling for my own response. In the place words should exist, I see black boxes instead, covering up the words. Coherence becomes impossible.
And so, right now, I’m sitting with that.
Going backward in order to go forward — returning to the broken places — means that we might find ourselves believing in old and outdated versions of God. It means that we might feel like a confused, jumbled, wordless mess.
That’s just the way it is right now, here at the beginning.