A couple of months ago I had the privilege of attending the Collegeville Institute alongside a dozen other spiritual writers. Over the next couple of months you’ll meet some of these artists, either through books they’ve written or through a series of essays about faith entitled, “Where Art Thou?” Today, I can’t wait to introduce you to Catherine Hervey, a Chicagoan whose fiction writing makes me SWOON. Enjoy!
It feels like there are two people inside of me–someone who can be with God and someone who can’t. The one who can is doing okay right now and picking up a lot of slack, actually. Praying for other people, praying for guidance when something doesn’t make sense, praying for provision when something doesn’t work. This one is also able, in being with God, to receive things from Him–comfort, closeness, a gentle nudge of insight when it’s needed.
The other one seems to be about two years old and commands enough rage to want to burn down the world to make Him sorry. This one is holding a hefty pile of receipts that prove beyond any imaginable doubt that God has betrayed her and likes to torture her for fun. Often people point out to me that this one is a heretic, which I have found unhelpful.
She has no doubt about God’s existence. In fact, it’s odd when I think about how very iron-fast sure she is that He is there. She just thinks He’s mean. She took a chance on Him a few years back, a big chance, and if you ask her how that went she will tell you (waving the pile of receipts under your nose) that it went badly, just as she should have known it certainly would. She will also tell you that she will never, ever forgive Him.
I don’t seem to have a lot of control over which of these people I am in any given moment. It can turn on a dime. The okay person continues to sing hymns over her children as they fall asleep. The not okay person went on a communion strike for a few months last year, and her furious despair only intensified when God did not seem to mind. She has threatened many, many times to walk away and never come back. She has told Him He is going to lose her if He lets this go on another day, week, month. But the other one can’t let go of Him. The other one (or sometimes it feels like the same one, maybe) reaches for Him so instinctively it happens before conscious objection is possible, and I find myself in the middle of prayer or in the middle of God’s presence before I’ve had a chance to think about what I’m doing.
I would love to let go. It often feels I would be safer if I let go, but I can’t. So I receive the gift of God’s presence and express gratitude for it, and then I spit fire at him until I wear myself out or something else requires my attention. It’s not fun, but I will say that lately it has begun to seem like the okay part of me is gaining strength while the not okay part is…well, not getting smaller, exactly, but concentrating. Concentrating itself down to a graspable essence. There is every reason to be hopeful.
Catherine Hervey has written for Books and Culture and The Curator. She is currently a contributor for Ruminate. You can connect with her on Twitter. Now, Cara here again: I’m so excited for this series …and so grateful to Catherine for sharing her thoughts with us today. Leave a comment for her below – meanwhile, be on the lookout for more “Where Art Thou?” essays in the coming months!