I’ve always believed in God. Even as a small child I loved going to church and learning the scriptures. I loved the feeling of community it brought. The idea of being part of something older than time that guided you and gave comfort. I was fortunate that I had my neighbor who would take me when I was too young to go on my own. It established a foundation of belief that has carried me for my entire life.
When I was ten, our pastor was Reverend Hickey and I was his shadow. I’d do gymnastics and watch him work on cars. He taught me that God isn’t in a single place but in everything beautiful. The air we breathe, the trees, the animals, in the smile of a child, at the heart of every kindness. He helped me understand church was not the only place God dwelled.
After losing my mom, I never felt connected to a church. I felt rejected and abandoned. Not by God but by those who portrayed themselves as loving Him and doing His work. I was told mom was in hell for killing herself. I never agreed with that assessment and vowed I would never let anyone else feel that hurt if I could help it. I’ve recently had that conversation with a family who lost their son/grandson/nephew. The mother worried about where he was since leaving this place. I told her I knew without a doubt her son was in heaven feeling God’s embrace and watching her and praying for her to take care of herself. I could see the relief wash over her, just by hearing me say that.
That was a powerful feeling. I have always known in my heart that God holds each of us in His heart every moment we draw breath. I’ve always known that He loves unconditionally. I have struggled and fallen and do things I shouldn’t. I know I do many things that please Him but I also do many things that break His heart. While I know He loves me, I’ve often thought that even though I try my best, when my time came, I wouldn’t feel His embrace because of my poor choices. That my sins, even though I was sorry and truly repentant for them would send me to feel a warmth that was very different than God’s embrace. It made me ashamed.
Recently I was given a gift I don’t ever think I could repay and his simple words took me back to Reverend Hickey and being ten years old. My friend and I were discussing my theology class I took shortly after mom died and how the theory was mom committed murder and would therefore burn in hell. She sinned and there was no two ways about it. He said simply and with such an understated conviction I was speechless because I’d never had anyone tell me this. He said sin does not send you to hell. No where in the bible does it say that. Not having a relationship with God and not believing He is the Messiah is the failing that could get you to hell. Remember, there was only one perfect human.
But it makes sense, God wants us all with Him. He knows we aren’t perfect. He rejoices in our triumphs and sheds tears at our failures. He is all around me; In the air I breathe, in the work I do and in the friends who love me. My destination is not hell and just a few words spoken in a normal conversation helped me realized that. I can never repay that kindness other than to do the work I do and raise it up as best I can.