When I was growing up, my family had a Sunday ritual. On Sunday, my mom made pancakes and we listened to Kenny Rogers on the record player. I was very little, certainly under 4. I remember the sun coming through the windows, the smell of the maple syrup and my impression that Kenny Rogers' voice was the voice of God. I knew what he looked like from the album cover. I liked his voice and I thought he was handsome. For many years, I talked to God every night as I was falling asleep, sharing my worries and my gratitude, and when I pictured the face of God, I saw Kenny Rogers.
As a teenager, I came to know God as something to fear. I had a group of friends that invited me to a Baptist church camp. I wasn't as interested in the church part as I was the camp part. My first night there I learned that I was going to hell unless I walked up to the front of the room and said I would accept Jesus as my personal savior. What they were telling me sounded pretty scary. Deep down it didn't feel like truth to me, but scary won out at the end of the day. Several years later, I walked away from church and quit talking to God altogether, pretty angry at the scare tactics that were used to draw me in. My understanding of God became intensely personal for me, something I didn't want to discuss.
The last few years have been hard for me. The people in my life who love me could see that, and many of my religious friends offered me what brings them peace: prayers and Christian reading materials. They did this in the spirit of offering comfort and not to try to bring me around to their way of thinking. It was 100% love, and I accepted every bit of it. There were valuable nuggets of truth there for me and I allowed those to soften my heart and bring me peace. I also kept reading When Things Fall Apart, a collection of Buddhist teachings, a chapter a day every day. I have read it many, many times and learn something new each time. I picked up Anne Lamott and sang out loud to my Sarah Bareilles cd. I found truth, love and peace from different ways of thinking about God and the human condition. I am learning to sift through information and find what sounds like truth/God to me and what sounds like "human stuff". Call it what you like, prayer or meditation, getting quiet and tuning out the noise is a useful practice.
As so often happens, I come full circle and make it back to where I started: finding comfort in sunshine, pancakes, a happy family around the breakfast table, music and the voice of God. There is so much joy in finding that I have always had what I needed, whether I knew it or not.