The bobby pins stuffed into my hair loosen their grip as I clamor into the house. Although I never intend to make an entrance, my clumsy nature makes it impossible to enter a room quietly.
Jaye rests in the living room, so quiet and composed I have to step directly in front of her armchair to be sure she’s there. She’s wearing her pink pajamas and fluffy slippers with that characteristic smirk on her face. Were both humored by the irony.
I am late to clean an agnostic woman’s house because church service ran past ten.
“I didn’t know you went to church?” she softly inquires as I scan the list of chores for the day.
“Yeah, neither did I.”
We both laugh and I continue to giggle in a whisper as I move around the house with a vacuum and dust rag.
I went to church with my mum a lot when I was younger but before I started working for Jaye, an unbelievably intelligent and compassionate woman, it had been quite some time since we had set our alarms for Sunday service.
I’m not sure why we stopped going nor why we started again. But one day, we just woke up and started going to church again.
Attending church has since become a regular part of my routine but my greatest reformations of faith have occurred outside of church, often in the most unlikely of places.
When I started working for Jaye in high school, she had only just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She could still move freely around the house, attend to all of her fiercely blushing violets, comb her beyond furry dogs. She could stand on her deck without a cane and soak in the immense beauty of the lake that lapped at the edge of her house. I’ve seen many beautiful lakes but this one is unparalleled in its magnificence.
Her disease progressed quite quickly and soon she was using walkers and wheelchairs and taking pills with apple sauce. But she always reserved time to sit and chat over marzipan chocolates and gluten-free cookies. We talked about Breaking Bad, books, even anatomy. And we talked about religion-its renewed presence in my life and the continued absence in hers.
She was adamant in her beliefs and I never questioned them because I felt the closest to God in her beautiful lake house, not because she was close to death but because she was kind, enigmatic, tough, and generous. She was a tremendous person that sewed a pocket of light into the world and inspired others to simply be better. Surely the God I believe in would reward a person like that with a beautiful life after death.
For a long time, too long, I’ve avoided talking about religion. I have this fear that people will think I’m trying to convert them or question their own beliefs. The mention of God makes some people uncomfortable and others even angry.
I write about it now because my beliefs are important to who I am and to believe in something is undoubtedly human. That is why my beliefs have always been shaped and reaffirmed by people.
Here in Bratislava I have discovered a wonderful church where people of infinite nationalities and ages come to worship and catch up with old and new friends. Back in my hometown in New Hampshire, the congregation is just as marvelous.
But any religious doubt I’ve had has always been quelled outside of church, usually by a person who has no interest in religion.
I accept the perplexity of my beliefs but if there is one thing I’m certain of it’s this: I once stood by a velvet pool of water and watched the sun discover its perfect shade of gold while the slender pines circling above spun clouds into swirls of silver. And I soon realized that this divine picture was simply a mirror that reflected the face of a woman dressed in pink pajamas and agnostic ideals. A tremendous woman who was loved, who loved, and wore the face of God without even realizing it.
So after I have embraced the sacred beauty of a church’s interior, I step outside to where the people are, to where God is truly abundant. And as I walk past small pockets of strangers I’m reminded that every day, I look upon the infinite, imperfect, and all the more extraordinary faces of God.
So ask me about religion and I will simply say this:
I believe in God because I believe in people.