In listening to my “Loving the Two Halves of Life” mp3s Sunday (my personally designated day of house cleaning and spiritual mp3 imbibing) I was introduced to a wonderfully bright star of mysticism, theology, and wisdom–Edwina Gateley. She said a great many things that I will have to go back to again and again to fully absorb but she concluded her first session with the following questions. Which, serendipitously enough, I have been reflecting on a lot lately. So I thought I would answer them.
Who was God for you as a child?
God, for me, as a child was magic. It is probably more clearly described as mystery, but the word that came into my childish perceptions and imaginations was magic. He was everything-ness and nothingness, he was boisterous and secret, but close to my heart like a parent. He was the man I whispered to in nightly prayers, and the hidden “thing” behind the altar at mass–heavily guarded by the gatekeepers in their drapes of fabric and scepters of protection.
He was the thing I most wanted in the whole world, but I had no idea how to hold him. Trying to capture God in my imagination was like trying to catch fireflies in a jar–every time I thought I caught a piece of light, I would slap the lid on tight, only to realize that it had disappeared into the night.
What was the Church for you as a child?
When I was in elementary school, I would sit in the pews at church and watch the movements and rhythms of Mass. I saw the ceremony and outfits and it all seemed like a beautiful, dramatic play for God. I would mime the words to the priest’s “part” like I was studying for an audition–certain that if I got all the words right one day I could be up there, part of the ceremony, part of the play. I am not sure when along the way I realized that in the Catholic Church I couldn’t have that role–I just know the dream faded with dissipating innocence, and a more elaborate understanding of the system.
As I have returned to church, sitting in the pews of my Episcopal Church, I sometimes find myself mouthing the words, along with the priest. For a while I thought it was just an old habit returning–but part of me thinks it is the renewal of a long lost yearning to be on the other side of the service. Either way, when I catch myself doing it, I smile at the memory of a child’s imaginings on church.