Pining for a God

When I was younger, Friday nights were filled with divine silence. My family became less and less religious as I grew up for some reason, so it is the earlier days that are filled with the kind of memories I am thinking of. I too, young and impressionable, was filled with a God that emptied out of me as I filled up with life. When God was plentiful, he was everywhere: Mother would cook dinner before sunset so the sabbath would find her hands free to flip the pages of the hymnal; Father would be outside scrubbing and hosing down the car for the following day’s pilgrimage; my brother and I would be catching up on the week’s lesson for youth class, maybe picking out an appropriate outfit(no jeans). After all these things, we would drift to the living room after dinner and sing a hymn, read a verse, and invite the spirit to join us in fellowship.

Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

John Newton

I think this is why sunsets, to me, are about newness. The sky lights up with a sunset of oranges, pinks and purples, marks the end of one day and the beginning of a new tomorrow – just like when Friday night came and I knew that Saturday would bring more and only more. As I got older and slowly lost my belief in God, these simple recollections kept me grounded. When I now look up at sunsets or think back on those nights, filled with fireflies, thunderstorms, singing hymns and quiet meditations; I come away knowing that grace will still keep me close and grant me another morn.

There was something special about those nights, a sense of peace and tranquillity that was hard to find elsewhere. I didn’t have school the next day. I would see friends the next day. I would find fellowship the next day. I would dress up the next day. I would sing and dance the next day. I would have a family lunch at the same exact restaurant we did every couple weeks the next day. Looking back I now realize that all these things, together, were God to me! They were God.

The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

John Newton

So now, as I tap away at a keyboard on a Friday night, plans falling to the side because I kept pushing the agreed-upon time back to finish just one more thing I had been asked to do, I remember a time when Friday nights were quiet peace, when they were filled with something I think I would then have said I liked. It was God, of course, that had filled my family’s Friday nights with such a sense of peace and joy. Why can’t I have him now?

In many ways, I miss that sense of connection to something greater than myself. I still find myself drawn to the idea of God. I will never be able to recapture the same sense of wonder and awe that I felt as a child—I do not believe in God, I do not believe in sabbaths. Sometimes, I even forget to believe in sunsets, in newness itself. Sometimes I think there is nothing to life but life itself.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

John Newton

But then I remember that Fridays are still special. They are special because they once were and now aren’t anymore. They are special because they are and still can be. They are special because they are Fridays, and God is God, and no matter how much I decide I do not want him, he flits around the edges of my heart and mind forcing me to have some thought about him. I do not believe in God, but I think about him. I do not have God, but I think about having him. I do not love God, but I think, deep down, that I know what loving him is like. And I get it. Trust me I do, I get it. What a wonder, this God, that he is so much. He is everywhere I want him and not.

I think I am pining for a God, and I hope it makes sense why. I want to be comforted, even though I do not understand what that might look like. Something in me seeks out a deeper understanding and connection with the divine, beyond mere belief. Perhaps this longing for God is intrinsic to who I am—an ever present reminder of my innermost yearning for meaning and purpose. No matter how I feel, no matter what doubts come or go, I find myself constantly contemplating this elusive unknown — a God in whom I do not fully believe yet still seek to understand. God is my hope, my despair and ultimately, my mystery. And here I am on a Friday night, pining for God and pining for a God.

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