When I was fifteen, I stopped believing in God. I announced to my parents that I would no longer be accompanying them to church. Considering that my mother’s parents had been Christian missionaries, and my father was a minister, my decision caused a bit of a stir.
I was a sullen, alienated adolescent casting about for an anchor. I didn’t feel that I fit in with my adoptive family, I knew nothing about my origins, and I had no clue how to navigate the byzantine social landscape of my far more sophisticated, moneyed schoolmates.
Sunday after Sunday, I squirmed on a hard wooden pew, the words of the sermon wafting over my head as I gazed up at the sunlight, tinged blue, green, and yellow through the stained glass. I waited for something, some sense of rightness, of calm, a sign that I was in the right place, and that all would be well. But that something never came.
So I quit God, I quit church, and I set off to search for a place to land.
When you’re adopted, you figure out how to pass. I could make myself fit in everywhere, with almost anyone, but there was no place, and no person, that felt like home.
Until I met Prince. He was smart, he was funny, he dazzled. I was swept up in his trail of fabulousness, and I skittered along behind him, eagerly gathering the nuggets of splendor he cast over his shoulder. His family embraced me as one of their own, showering me with gifts, and a matching warm-up suit. I had been drafted into Team Machiavelli, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I didn’t have to wonder who I was anymore. I had my warm-up suit, I knew my sound bytes, and I made sure I was always smiling.
All was glorious until my own, subversive thoughts crept in, and I started saying things that weren’t in the script. The more I said, the more my “family” looked at me like I was nuts. At forty, I was right back where I had started: confused, alienated, and alone.
The marriage blew up in spectacular fashion, and with it, my life. I scrambled to assemble what was left of it, and constructed a new one, from scratch. For years, I was terrified of Prince and his family. I was scared of their money, and their ruthlessness, and their unyielding mission to grind me into a pulp. When they drafted Luca into the cult, I went numb. But I had another child, and a crumbling second marriage, so taking up permanent residence in a corner wasn’t an option.
There were mornings I awoke practically drowning in dread. So much dread, in fact, that I couldn’t believe I could live through it. The shakier I felt, the more I blogged. The more I blogged, the more connected I felt. To readers, to other bloggers, to my friends, to my family, and most of all, to myself.
It is this sense of connectedness that I have been searching for all my life. And I don’t think I have ever felt so at home as I have this past weekend, when I shrugged off the urge to loofah, and asked people to help me raise $5000 so I could pay an attorney to help me regain custody of my son.
As I write this, it’s Easter Evening, and my gofundme campaign is just 36 hours old. In less than two days, 71 people have donated a total of $2670, which puts me more than halfway towards my goal. Some of these people are flesh-and-blood friends. Some of them are bloggers I know only through the blogosphere. And some of them are people I don’t know at all. Many reached into shallow pockets and gave money they didn’t have to spare — to a stranger.
Witnessing this level of love and humankindness has brought me as close to God as I’ve ever come. I don’t know that I’ll ever set foot in a church again, but I’ve never thought that’s where you go to find God.
Whatever God is, is in other people, I think. And on this Easter, seventy-one.