Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chapter Eighteen: "Okay, God, Send Me a Sign"

I was walking along a beautiful stretch of road in Iowa.  A breeze softened the edge of summer.  Gallant oaks and poplars stood between the bully sun and me.  A nearby farmhouse closed its shades against the heat but let the sound of pots and pans escape.  It would have been the perfect day to find a swimming hole.  As I took in the moment, I thought about talking to God.  I had grown up in a Catholic household, so the idea of talking to God was not foreign to me, but I had cast off the oppressive mantle of the church and the Catholic concept of God long ago.  If God or a life force or a power of love did exist in the universe, I was interested in forging a new relationship.  For one thing, I was no longer afraid of God.  That was a relief.  I no longer thought of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  If I had to think of God as a person, which seemed beside the point entirely, I preferred to think of God the Baby, an innocent little being that required nurturing and love in order to thrive.  For me, God was the sum of our human capacity to love.  I was looking for a God I could relate to, a God I could talk to, a God I could kid around with and confide in.  A friendly God.  Why not?
On this particular day, I was walking along, talking with God.  “Ok, God,” I said aloud, “send me a sign.  Send me a sign that you’re there and I’m here; something to let me know that this is true.  It could be anything.  I’ll recognize it when I see it.”  It occurred to me that maybe I was tempting the old concept God to direct a bolt of lightning my way, but I shook off that fear, assured that my God had a sense of humor and whimsy.  Then I continued, singing and chanting along the peaceful Iowa road and forgot all about it. 
A short time later, I was passing a little farmhouse.  The shade trees in the yard cast their dappled shadow on the road.  My attention was more or less on the path in front of me when an unusual shape came into view.  There, on the road was a perfect, white heart cut out of cardboard.  It was about the size of the palm of my hand.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I laughed out loud and said, “Oh…my…God.”  What more perfect sign of God could there be than a white heart?  I stooped down and picked it up.  It was real.  It was a heart from God.  Then, I realized there was something on the other side.  I turned it over.  Glued to the heart was a small, red bauble, and above it, these words: “A virtuous woman is worth her weight in rubles.”  What was this?  An old Russian proverb? Could there really be such a power in the universe to manifest this message to a young woman walking across the country to make peace with a nation that used rubles?  But it was more complicated than that… The quotation was handwritten, and a minute later I realized the word “rubles” was actually “rubies.”  "A virtuous woman is worth her weight in rubies."  I stood there in awe and laughter.  Rubles or rubies, the message was the same.  I didn’t want to move from that spot, but as I took the first few steps with the precious heart in my hand, I looked up to the Iowa sky and said, “Thanks, God, I got it.”