As the women came closer, I realized they were speaking Spanish. I waved to them. The older woman spoke to her companion. The younger woman translated: "She says you look comfortable" she told me. I took a breath, wondering if I'd share my experience or water it down. Opting for full strength, I answered: "tell her it's amazingly beautiful, like resting in God's arms". As she spoke, a smile warmed the other woman's face. She looked from me up into the branches, then back at me. Briskly, as though fearing she'd lose her nerve, she approached me. I moved just slightly out of "my" spot, making room for her next to me. I watched as she settled into the roots and leaned her back against the massive trunk. We sat in silence as the other woman stood looking mildly uncomfortable. Finally, she sighed and stood to join her companion. She reached out and put a hand on mine. Her touch said everything her language and mine may not agree on. There was a complete absence of differences, of concern over small g or capital G..or no G at all. She spoke, and her friend translated. "I've never felt God's arms. Thank you."
I shifted back into my comfort zone, adjusting my back to the strength tree trunk, and my heart to the power of her words. Spoken words so often elude me, especially when I "try" to pray. I feel cheated by the rote prayers of my childhood, yet challenged by the truths of my heart as I strive to form prayer that feels "acceptable" or good enough...not for God, but for those who might judge my choice of words or capitalization. When I find that place when I can shut up my mind, my prayers become the simple requests a child makes to a parent. "Hold me", "feed me", "teach me", "keep me safe". When I get to that place of childlike vulnerability,I find prayer in song, in dance, in running, in yoga. I find it in comforting a friend, in laughing with my kids.
This morning, in the wake of last night's tragic shooting in a South Carolina church, I find it in the love of friends and family, in the steadfastness of my own church community, even as we sometimes disagree over capitalization, punctuation and descriptive adjectives. This morning, I wear my spirituality and my religion on my sleeve as I pray in whatever way will help to make sense of such tragedy. I pray for sameness to not place that is different out of the light, ever. I pray for peace, for justice, and for more experiences like that in the tree roots that day.