On December 28, 2012 I went “public” with my desire to explore religion.
I had no idea what I was getting into.
I thought I’d have a little op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times about how I was visiting lots of places of worship. People who read it might think “that’s nice,” and then toss their papers into the recycle bin.
At the bottom of the op-ed, the editor asked if she could print the internet address for the blog I had just begun. I was only toying with the idea of doing a blog; I didn’t cough up the internet address until the very last minute.
It came as a complete surprise to me when that original article was re-printed in other newspapers. It popped up in Dallas, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Atlantic City.
People from across the country—and around the world—logged on to my blog. Some began to follow my journey and comment along the way (I love you, dear readers!). Others wished to send me a note telling me a bit about their own journeys—in, out, around—religion.
Many who sent messages said they would pray for me. A few said their entire church group was praying for me. In my secular lifestyle, I’d rarely had anyone say they were praying for me. I thought it sounded nice, like they would place my name on a gentle breeze. “Thank you,” I typed back to each and every one.
When the numbers who said I was in their prayers climbed, I started to get nervous. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean: my entire nervous system began to jangle. I felt caffeinated even when I wasn’t. I had trouble sleeping. It was hard to concentrate. I had heard that praying can be a powerful act: all that thought-energy directed at a single source. Now I believed it. I thought too many people must be praying for me. Then I thought they were simply praying too hard. This wasn’t my name on a gentle breeze; this was a bolt of electricity to my poor synapses. I wanted to write them again and ask if they’d dial it back a notch.
Perhaps all this praying was a bit presumptuous. Was my soul in such a sorry state? A week or two into January, it dawned on me that I had unwittingly become a poster child for the “unchurched.” I fancied myself a “religious explorer” but, apparently, that’s not how others perceived me. One morning I looked in the bathroom mirror and glimpsed what they saw: a face of the “Godless” masses.
How had this happened? And, more importantly, why?
After some initial wallowing, I decided to buck up about it. If this was my calling, I would accept. See, world, we aren’t so bad. Some of us are even curious.
People sent me letters and packages. I got books and expansive thesis statements. I received CDs of sermons. I spread out these gifts on a table near where I write. Something about my little essay had spoken to people and inspired them to affix postage to envelopes that appeared in my mailbox. These kind people were sharing with me words and ideas that rang true for them. I committed to reviewing every last item even if it took many months. Who’s to say God wasn’t giving me a message through some sweet lady living in Milwaukee?
Many of the people sending me stuff were, in their own ways, encouraging my journey: they wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something they held dear. Others, perhaps, thought such an exploration sounded unnecessary and were hoping to save me the bother. They had found the right answer and were passing it on to me.
One DVD I was sent is entitled “The Biggest Question.” I put off watching it for fear it might provide the answer.
A few days ago, I finally popped it in…