When God Took my Breath Away

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.

Growing Up Church-ed

The following is a guest post by Will O’Brien who currently resides in Rochester, New York but is originally from Saint Louis, Missouri. Will speaks to the way church, or any other religious community for that matter, can shape the people we become and the wisdom we recognize. So here’s Will on Growing up Church-ed…

The weirdest people seem to gather in the most dignified and “normal” places, and there is one community in my life that is like a Whitman’s Sampler of quirky.

My church community may seem normal but the people in it have contributed to the best abnormal education anyone could want. I was raised with 57 some odd sets of surrogate parents and grandparents and a bizarre array of sort-of older siblings, kind-of aunts and uncles, and crazy not-really cousins. Every week this world of weird gave me a safe space and plenty of inspiration to create my own unique identity.

Whether it is the couple who are both science teachers that show up every week in a different one of their many matching and bizarrely-themed Hawaiian shirts or the 84 year old man that loves to tell you about his most recent hand crocheted lace doyly, they all stop and say hi and truly care about you. This caring is passed through time and place to all corners of the earth through members of this odd little family that squabbles about whether or not Easter Brunch should be before or after the church service but always agrees to love and care for one another.

This dysfunctional second family has taught me not only to embrace the things that make me different but moreover that it is these very things that will help be a light to the world.