Meeting God in the Sea of Loneliness
It was just after the dawn of the new millennium, and the entry into my third decade. I found myself alone, recently relocated and divorced after a short and tumultuous marriage, in a town way out on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. It felt like another planet. The only thing that seemed familiar was my sweet little home that I had bought and cultivated into my own little sacred sanctuary. It was a very small custom built home by a master wood craftsman filled with exotic, sustainable woods with spaces and design that resembled boat life. This was commonplace way out here on the waters of the Pacific Northwest. The town was filled with beautiful wooden sailboats and wayfinders. This became the unplanned intention of my jaunt in this far out place – to find my way through the largely unexplored seas of my own inner landscape.
It’s not like my inner world was foreign to me. To the contrary, I had spent most of my lifetime on a serious quest of inner discovery. It’s just that there were some dark and uncharted waters that I had not yet dared to explore. I ultimately longed to know every nook and cranny my presence on the planet had come to occupy, and how my presence was in relationship with what I understood as God.
Since a very young age, I have been internally driven to discover and know God. Somehow, I intuitively began to recognize that not only was God bigger than me and was something indescribable outside of me, but that God was something awakening through me.
I am not sure if this idea came from something I learned in my Jewish upbringing. I mostly associated Judaism with our weekly Friday night Shabbat dinners at my Grandparent’s house with our extended family. I would eagerly anticipate Grandma’s proverbial kiss on the head as she went around anointing each grandchild with her weekly peck after saying the prayers over the candles, challah and wine and her sing song way of declaring “Good Shabbas!”. But mostly, it was the fried chicken and french fries that housekeeper, Mary, would make each week that honed in my Jewish affections. (Later, we had to accept the shift to baked chicken and potatoes when fried things went out of nutritional savvy.)
It was my inner longing for intimate connection with God that kept me searching throughout my life. I explored many different religions and spiritual traditions to open myself to the possibility of connecting with God’s presence from many angles. I didn’t want to miss out if there was a more direct or satisfying way to commune with what I longed for, though I am sure I could never have articulated what that was throughout most of my growing up – or even now.
There have been numerous luminous moments throughout my life that have brought me to the center of my longing. Moments that took my breath away, but mostly moments that revealed my longing in deep and indescribable ways. Experiences that I never could have planned or even would have ever wished for in the challenging and unexpected ways that they showed up. One such moment was a day just after my divorce in this special town of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula that I was at the time calling home. It was on this day that I was feeling particularly lonely. Painfully lonely. The kind of lonely that feels all consuming and difficult to navigate.
I sat down on an antique pine bench I had in my tiny living room, exhausted from the inner turmoil going on in my head. I was in the midst of wrestling with the Divine by proving my gathered collection of laments, losses, betrayals and feelings of abandonment to a point where I felt I could take no more. Then, something inside of me suddenly gave way.
With the weight of my head hanging heavy in my hands, I felt a wobble in my posture of resistance. There was a shift in perception that led me to declare out loud, “Fine! I will allow myself to surrender into the feeling of loneliness. I will no longer fight the weight of this.” And, with that, I dropped like an anchor to the bottom of the ocean of my loneliness.
When I hit bottom, I was astounded with what I found there. There weren’t minutes of waiting and looking around for what I had come for, nor drowning in the sea of my sorrows. What I experienced was an instantaneous explosion of fullness, connection, trust and utter contentment. It was a feeling of intimacy I had never known. There was not even a need for question with what or whom. It was clear. I was ecstatically full with the presence of God.
The feeling was so amazing and filled with life as I had never known it before. I felt grounded, receptive, radiant and present – like a wildflower in a high mountain meadow that just opened into full bloom. I felt the flexibility of sway in my stance, abundance in my mere presence, while feeling rooted in a ground teeming with nourishment, stability and life. I knew I had to go out in nature and celebrate what felt like the most profound marriage I had ever had the privilege of witnessing – let alone experiencing!
I went out on a run to the beach I ran almost every day along the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Each day, I typically encountered the town’s most unusual resident. She was a large homeless woman who wore rugs draped over her back and a purse always perched upside down on top of her head. She was obviously schizophrenic as she was typically engaged in conversing with unseen others in her seeming imagined presence. I never once, in the few years that I had lived there by this time, heard her make a coherent statement – let alone interact with others in any sort of reality that makes sense to most of us.
I typically gave her a brief smile as I passed her on the beach where she lived, and I ran each day. Admittedly, I was a bit leary of interactions with her, with her imposing size and unusual behaviors. But I liked to acknowledge her presence when I passed her.
This particular day, she was walking along the shore coming in the opposite direction of my celebratory run. I was looking in her direction to give her my usual smile of acknowledgement, when she paused right in front of me and literally stopped me in my tracks. She looked me straight in the eye – and clear as day said, “You look different.”
I knew in that moment that she could see the luminous experience that I had just embodied. I felt honored and seen in a way like never before. I knew that only a person of her stature, with a psychotic aperture that obviously opened her to experiences of the Divine in ways that most of us don’t quite understand or recognize in our daily lives, allowed her to truly SEE me in that moment. I consider this one of the greatest moments of connection in all of my life. I thanked her graciously, mostly with the deep gaze of my eyes into hers, and continued on with my run with a profound sense of astonishment, wonderment and utter peace, all at the same time.
I have continued to be nourished by that deep and courageous dive that something inside pressed me to take that day. It laid a solid foundation of divine trust that I have been able to buoy myself and land on in subsequent adventures across the dark and murky waters of uncharted and challenging territories that life inevitably continues to present.
Though those challenging waters typically stir the sea of loneliness – never again will I feel truly alone.