The person who asked me this question was a long-ish term resident of one of the psychiatric units at the hospital, and we were several minutes into a visit. He wasn't being intrusive or inappropriate. Far from it, in fact, he was asking me a question that I had just asked him. And I had to admit to myself that in this situation turnabout was fair play.
True confession - I had asked my patient this question because it seemed an appropriate way to explore his particular spirituality. In the hospital I am learning to do this - to assess where people are and what language they are comfortable using when talking about their values and spiritual beliefs and then do my best to work within their frameworks without imposing my own. But this was not a question that fits comfortably within the framework and language around spirituality that is most comfortable and natural for me. (long story, different post maybe.)
Here is something else I am learning - I cannot bulls--- psych patients. There is no way to really describe it, but something about the deeply mentally ill demands authenticity from me. This patient's question was sincere, without artifice, and so I stopped and thought about it. And realized that I had an answer.
"What I am hoping for," I said slowly "Is to keep looking for God, and to keep finding God. I think I just don't want to ever think I've got God figured out. I hope that I am always looking, finding, and being surprised."
What surprised me, just then, was how right that particular answer felt for me.
I've been thinking about that ever since - how it is easy in any relationship to stop all of the looking and finding that goes on when things are brand new. And, it seems, the older the relationship the easier it is to forget to look and so fail to find what has changed, how the other is different, what it would mean to find each other all over again.
Maybe this is especially alive for me because I spent the last week on vacation with much of my original nuclear family - my mother and brother and the people they have brought into the family unit we all share. As Andrew and I walked around Disneyland toward the end of the week - the only time we had just the two of us - I mused aloud about the envy I sometimes feel toward his family situation. His parents live close by and their lives are woven into ours in a much more regular way than is possible for me and my folks. We rarely need to re-adjust to each other, whereas I often experience a rub with my family the first hours or days we are together as we figure out again how to be who we are with each other, this time around.
Now I am wondering if this re-discovery tension is actually a gift of a sort. I wonder if I look for my own family in new ways and re-find them in ways that I would not if they lived next door, if we shared more of the minutia of daily living.
|From my Gran-book, my mother and me.|
And here is something that I believe with all my heart - the looking and finding of the Divine is, for me, part and parcel with looking again and anew at all the world that my tradition tells me this Ultimate has dreamed/is dreaming and has made/is making. My hopes for my relationship with God are inexorably bound together with the miracle of connecting with the people that God has given me to love - both those who I meet in bonds of mutual care and loving forever and those who, like the man who asked me the question, enter into my care for just a moment and remind me to look again and see what the One who loves me best of all has for me to find.