My Sundays typically involve church. Growing up Roman Catholic, church was a big part of my life. I felt God in the liturgy of the mass, the rituals of incense, candles, and music. As an adult I have found that going to church regularly refreshes my soul and keeps me connected to God, my community and my family. For the past several months, I have not been feeling quite the same about church. I have been struggling with feeling my connection to the Divine. I know a lot of my struggle with my faith is due to the challenges I have been dealing with in my family life. The liturgy of the mass offers little comfort. I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg thing. Perhaps because I have been struggling in my family life, my church attendance has been spotty, or perhaps because my church attendance has spotty, I have been struggling in my family life.
My Buddhist friend, who knows my struggle, and feels my despair, invited me a lay Buddhist meeting. She talks to me enthusiastically about how her life and her children’s lives have turned around since they started chanting. We went to lunch one day and I met with one of her Buddhist leaders. It was an inspiring and insightful conversation. I have no doubt that the Buddhist faith is working in their lives. I accepted the invitation to the Buddhist meeting. At first I was a bit self-conscious about chanting words I wasn’t even sure I was pronouncing correctly. But, as the sound washed over me in community with the other women in the room I felt peace. It was a very positive experience that was both familiar and strange. It was strange in the sense, that the language was foreign and I struggled to find meaning in the words we chanted. It was familiar in the sense that the ritual of the prayer beads, the gong and chanting seemed a lot like the rituals I had grown up with and which gave me comfort.
This morning Juan and Diego had to go to soccer practice. The other kids were sleeping in. I didn’t want to go to church by myself, so I decided I would take Molly on a walk to the big outdoor church. Nature. It’s the other place I feel God. I don’t get outdoors nearly enough, but today the air was crisp, the sun was bright and I needed to move my body. I announced to my kids that we weren’t going to church this morning. I think they were a bit relieved they would have a leisurely Sunday morning.
I drove to nearby Eaton Canyon, took my car key off the ring and stuck it in my iPhone case. As Molly and I hiked the canyon I listened to a talk given by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran preacher who had visited my church a couple of weeks ago. At one point during the talk she explained how she had grown up in the fundamentalist Church of Christ, and then decided to become a Lutheran when she experienced and fell in love with the liturgy. She said liturgy feels like “choreographed sacredness” and that it was like a “stream that flowed long before us and will continue long after us so that we… can be immersed in the language of truth and promise and Grace.” Her words rang so true for me.
I listened and worshipped the nature around me, trying to feel the presence of God. It was challenging because Molly kept pulling on her leash and the canyon was filled with hikers, joggers, and a lot of dogs. By the time we had hiked over a mile,
About halfway back to the car it occurred to me that the key I had placed in my iPhone case was no longer there. You know the key? The one with the computer chip in it that costs hundreds of dollars to replace? I panicked. Whatever sense of peace and Grace I felt during my hike evaporated. Molly and I sprinted back to the spot where I took the picture. Along the way, I kept dodging hikers, dogs and the occasional horse and dog poop, all the while looking, hoping, praying to find the key.
I have lost a lot of things before. I have found them too, in odd, unexpected places. My mom is the same way. She has taught me to pray to St. Anthony whenever I lose things. Along the trail I prayed to St. Anthony again. I laughed at myself at the absurdity of me losing the key and the even greater absurdity of finding it along the well-traveled trail covered with leaves, dirt and rocks.
I arrived at the spot where I had taken the picture. I looked among the shrubs, under leaves and turned over rocks. It wasn’t there. I made the walk back to the car my eyes downcast, searching for the key, missing the beauty of nature and ignoring the presence of God around me. I thought of the irony in losing the key in my quest to find God. By the time I reached my car, I still hadn’t found the key and felt resigned that it was probably gone. I called Juan and told him the bad news, and ask that he bring me the one spare key we had left.
Juan and Nico arrived, prepared to do one more sweep through the canyon. I refused to go, saying it was a lost cause. Before we left, I decided I’d go into the ranger station to see if the key had been turned in. The ranger told me that no one had turned in any keys and asked me for my name and the key description. Just then another ranger walked into the office. The second ranger asked, “You lost a key?” Then she pulled out my key from her shirt pocket. She said someone along the trail had just turned it in.
I took the key and in a moment of evangelizing told the ranger about St. Anthony. She said I should go buy a lottery ticket. I replied that I was going to light a candle instead. Nico drove home with me and along the way we laughed and talked about the miracle. In my best Southern evangelical preacher voice I shouted, “Allelulia!” I asked him “Can I have an Amen?” Getting into the spirit of it, Nico shouted “Amen!” I enthused, “See? You just need to have faith.” Nico asked, “Well, what’s the lesson here?” I paused and thought about it. Then, I replied, I guess the lesson is that I just need to have faith that what has been lost will be found.