I go to church because I like holding hands while we walk forward. We’re all lost, but we’re all walking. “We’re all just walking each other home.” It’s a good quote, and it might be right. But we’ve forgotten where home is.
Where is the Divine? Is anything sacred? Where is hope?
Terrible signposts hang on the trees around us—Our climate is ruined, and whole species are dying out. Children practice hiding from gunmen at school. Cancer is everywhere, and most of us go bankrupt because we can’t even pay to get treated. Our democracy no longer works. Our country has put children in prisons. Addiction is everywhere, and more people die from opioids than from heart attacks. And on and on.
What I know for sure is that we can only find a path if we believe there might be a path. If we think despair is safer, if we think that no path is possible, we surely will never find one. And we won’t figure it out through logic and thought. I can’t do the calculations on paper; no one can figure it out in advance. No one can outthink despair. No one can use logic and analysis to prove hope.
I know there is a path because I’ve wandered onto it several times. Not on purpose, not with planning. In my life—and I’m an old woman now—I’ve usually been lost. Like everybody else, I never really knew where I was going.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, something would tell me that God is. Not “God is… fill-in-the-blank.” Not “God is real,” not “God is Love,” or anything that defines the Divine in complete sentences. Not “This prayer will always get what you want.” Not “Say these words and you’ll get saved.”
Think instead of the mist rising at dawn and the very first murmuring of a bird. Think of the smell of stew when you’ve worked all day. Think of the sweaty, sticky kiss of a toddler in summertime. Think of looking into my eyes. Think of a surprise gift, something you never expected. These are the proofs, and they are real. Think of the joy in my mom’s eyes a few days before she died. All are signposts hanging in the trees around us, and they are as real as the signposts about despair.
Joy is as real as despair, and we get to choose. Wayne Dyer said, “When you believe it, you will see it.” We have to choose. With all the world’s negativity, we have to consciously choose joy over despair. It takes practice. It’s not easy or automatic. When we catch sight of joy, we have to shout it out so others on the path can hear us.
I go to church because I like holding hands as we walk forward. For all the brutal mistakes—and there are thousands— that churches have made, when we sit in church, we’re choosing hope. Many of my church friends are different from me, from all sorts of families and beliefs. That’s okay. Our families didn’t protect us and neither did our beliefs. We’re all equally lost.
But if we hold hands, somehow things get better. Maybe following a gentle teacher helps us all forgive. Maybe singing old songs reminds us of the joy of childhood. Maybe just not hating for an hour every week eases our tired hearts.
Life presses down on all of us. We try to pay our bills, raise our children, fight temptations and face illness and death. Holding hands really helps.
Holding hands is an act of hope, and that is why I go to church. I like being able to sing “God is” as loudly as I can. Beauty is. Love is. Trust is. There is a path and we can choose to step onto it. Church certainly isn’t the only path, but I like the part where you and I hold hands.
I’m singing at dawn, just like the smallest bird. All of us are singing as we walk forward. It’s a simple song: “There is a path. We are all right. We’re not alone, we’re never alone. Love matters. We’re almost home. Hold my hand, hold me close, and don’t be afraid.”
by Jean Gendreau