Looking for God

Hasta plants growing skyward by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, who is looking for God in her garden sanctuary.“You’re a week early for the memorial service,” the woman in the parish house at Saint John’s Church told me. She must have seen I was crushed, standing there shrinking in my best clothes, under a raincoat. I’d missed a hike to attend this memorial. “But the organist is in the sanctuary practicing for next Saturday, if you’d like to sit in there for a while,” she offered. And then, for some unknown reason, I tiptoed in and silently slipped into a seat.

A statue of an eagle wearing a cloth scarf stood between the organ player and myself, hiding any view of the only other person in the sanctuary. I looked up and around at the high wooden Gothic-arch-vaulted ceiling and the stained glass windows while magnificent music poured from the organ. The sound was almost physical. It filled the hall, reached out and upward to the sky, and yet hovered over, hugging me. It vibrated through every inch of me. Some chords seemed to hang in the air forever. It felt like I was part of the music, like some part of me was being lifted. The word ‘glorious’ came to mind. What was I doing there, alone in this church? Me. Born Jewish, never found God, rejecting religion because it divides people.

The strange thing is I cried. I don’t know why. Maybe it was something I was missing in my life? Maybe because if I could imagine God singing, that’s how it would sound? Maybe it was because for years I’ve shunned churches and anything to do with God or love or faith, yet I envy those who are comforted by these.

Everyone needs a place they can come to, to feel welcome in, to find hope, find peace, and inspiration. My church is the hills and woods around Ithaca, New York where I hike several times a week. My sanctuary is my garden where greenest stems and leaves grow ever skyward, following the sun. The heavenly one I pray to these days is my daughter who died. I’m no longer looking for God. Grateful that not everyone has had to scramble around like I have, to find spiritual peace, I worship the earth. The planet I live on. It doesn’t matter who or what created it. I am a part of it.

For well over an hour Saint John’s was my own private church. And then I walked out into sunlight, drove home, and shed my raincoat and best clothes into a pile for next Saturday. Coming back for the memorial will be different. But worth missing another hike for, I decided.

 

Where do you find—glorious-ness? What is God and where is God to be found?

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Looking for God

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Thanks, Robin. This is gorgeous. I think I shared this one a few weeks ago. Life flies by in a blur as I deal with learning to hear again, so I resonated with sitting in silence in that church. Soaking in silence is the most profound experience for me.

    Reply
  2. pam

    Also, Robin, it’s enlightening to read your description of the statue with scarf that blocked your view. The statue has layers of liturgical symbolism. It’s an eagle Gospel lectern, the eagle being the symbol of the apostle St. John (the Evangelist). From memory, it represents both (in this case) the particular church’s namesake saint and the proclaiming of the gospel that takes place when the scriptural Gospel is read from that lectern, as it always is. The fabric piece around it is called a stole, similar to the stole worn by preacher, minister or priest who reads the Gospel at a service. (Wikipedia says the stole was once thought to have been copied from the talit, or may have been derived from a scarf worn by certain Roman officials, so that’s not far off!)

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    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you so much for this, Pam. I meant to look into it further as there was nothing about this to be found on the church’s website. That scarf on the eagle really intrigued me, did indeed remind me of the Hebrew prayer shawl, I believe called a tallit. Neat how it is all related. I’m beginning to get a tiny appreciation for religions, when they seem to converge or embrace similar missions. Do you know if the eagle has a name?

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      1. pam

        Well, this eagle has a distinct lineage, we might say: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/465937
        I’m not sure if you mean that particular eagle on that lectern, or the eagle as St. John’s symbol. Each of the four Evangelists (Ss. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) has a creature representing him and each has wings (see this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Evangelists, ‘Symbols’ paragraph). The eagle’s wings were already ‘built in’ as it were. Rather than a name, I think it has a symbolic meaning, so that when worshippers see it they think of the particular gospel according to St. John which has its differences from the other three. There’s probably more to it than this, though.

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  3. Pam

    Hi Robin, How evocative it was to read this about the very church where my parents were married, 70 years ago today exactly. Though they are both gone now I will always think of June 14, 1949 as ‘their anniversary’, I imagine. Your experience of being ‘in contact’ with another reality there was I think very valid, and a reason for the tears.
    Pam

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    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It was such a hauntingly beautiful place, Pam. And I can’t even imagine counting the ghosts there. What a great location for a wedding, for a memorial, for simply sitting in the pews gazing at the warm wood ceiling while the organ played. I was at peace and happy even. Tears are signs of my peace and well-being these days.

      Reply
  4. Lynne Taetzsch

    Thanks for sharing this spiritual experience with us, Robin, and for calling it “Looking for God.” I facilitate an open (all are welcome) meditation group every Sunday from 10:30 to noon at the Foundation of Light on Turkey Hill Road in Ithaca. We tend not to use the word “God,” but our search is a similar one, and we share maps and signposts. It would be wonderful to have you join us some Sunday, but I understand the desire to carry on your search in the hills and woods.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Some stormy Sunday, it would be neat to join you, Lynne. I’ve always been curious about the Foundation of Light. Maps and signposts? I wonder what names or words everyone comes up with? I’m making a note of this in my calendar. Cheers!

      Reply

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