Ask Father Cathie

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  Question: Why do you believe in God?

Answer: The short answer is, because God believes in me. I am not being flippant. God is as real to me as you or anyone else is, I know God loves me, and so I can't help believing in God. In some ways, it is not even belief, I guess. For me, God is reality.

Ever since I can remember, I have felt God's presence and heard God's voice. When I was a child, I used to wander around outside in the woods behind my house (back when you could do that without triggering a search party). I would talk with God, and God would talk with me. It felt incredibly normal and natural. I never told anyone about it, because I never saw it as out of the ordinary. Sometimes I would talk to myself, sometimes I would talk with God. I often felt lonely in a lot of ways, troubled by things I did not understand. And God would say, 'This is not your real life. Your real life will start some day, far away. And it will be wonderful.' And I didn't understand, but I believed. And now that I am living that wonderful, far away life, I do understand.

Right before I graduated from college, I went on a silent retreat. I sat in the empty chapel after everyone had left worship one day, and I heard Jesus' voice say, 'Do this in remembrance of me,' the words he used at the Last Supper with his disciples. I knew in that moment that I was called to be a priest. That I was a Roman Catholic woman at the time made this somewhat confusing, but I didn't question the voice. Ten years after that experience, I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

I don't always hear God speaking in complete sentences. In fact, those are the two most memorable times, and they might be the only times that has ever happened. But I feel God near me, and sometimes I sense God pulling me in a certain direction. So for me, not believing would be extremely hard. I do have plenty of doubts and fears, though. Not of the presence or the love of God, or that things are all going to be good news in the end. It is more like, as a member of my Bible study once said, 'I am not sure I believe that God will take care of me in the manner to which I am accustomed.' I do fear suffering, and I know that belief in God does not preclude this. I do fear death, my own and others', even though I know that it is a certainty, and even though I believe in resurrection.

I guess it is easy enough to doubt God when we see the suffering in the world, or we see how people twist God's words of love to inflict harm on others. But to me, this is the manifestation of sin, which is the inside-out manifestation of love. We can't have one without the other (because love wouldn't be a choice then). It seems to me that if God didn't exist, we wouldn't have either. And despite the suffering and fear, there is so much beauty and grace. So I think I would believe in God anyway. But I am extremely fortunate that God is often at my shoulder (and very often in my dreams, as well), reminding me of God's presence and love. And I cannot turn away from this or reject the gift and miracle that it is. And so I believe.