As we wind down this month’s theme of breath, we hear again from Michelle Willett who shares with us her encounter with God in Ireland. She shares with us the wisdom she encountered one day when God left her breathless.
I’ve had my breath taken away from me numerous times–a first kiss, a never-ending mountain range, a mewing kitten. But there’s only been one time where my breath has been taken in a religious sense. It was this past summer that I visited Ireland for the first time, a country that I had fallen in love with as soon as I stepped off the plane. I was in the town of Cobh, where the Titanic had last seen land before heading off on its perilous journey. I walked around the sites, saw the memorials, and I finished my journey by climbing up the small hill to the local church, which looked out onto the sea.
After walking into the church, I realized I was completely alone. I had never been alone in any house of worship before, and it was a powerful feeling. The statues, at the angels, the saints, the forms of God I was always skeptical of, took my breath away in a way I cannot describe, nor fully comprehend.
I found myself simply sitting at a pew and absorbing the echoing silence around me for over an hour. There was just something about being alone in there, with nothing but myself, a breathing, shivering mass of humanity; there was something about all the stone, glass, and echoes of worshippers come and gone that got to me.
I had never truly believed in a god before; I wanted to believe I wasn’t alone but I just didn’t. Sitting there in that church, I was alone, but I had never felt less so. I couldn’t seem to leave–clearly God and I had some things to talk about. And talk we did, about all the things I had never allowed myself to think and all the things I wished I could fix, both within myself and for those around me. We talked about how I could find and appreciate God in my own way, and how I could fill my own place in the world.
Suddenly a middle-aged couple from Northern Ireland entered the church. The woman strolled down the center aisle for quite a while before spotting me, on my knees, with tear stained cheeks , staring at the rows of saint and angels above me. She gave me a small nod of understanding before moving on. Right then, I knew I was free to go.
I’ve never experienced such a powerful moment before in my life. But I don’t intend to let another twenty-four years pass by without letting God take my breath away again.