People in the desert.

Poor Moses.

He tells those people in the desert, the Israelites, so many times about the God who loves them and won’t leave them.

And how quickly their hearts are willing to leave that God.

Or Paul who tells us to renew our minds constantly. That we are saved but we’re also in the process of being saved and will one day be saved as well. How incredible that concept, how outright insane.

It’s happened and happening and will happen.

The beginning and the end. Always and forever.

He won’t stop loving us.

In college, when I wasn’t getting drunk to forget my ex-boyfriend or spending every waking moment with my current one (who I still want to spend every waking moment with. Love you, Matthew), I’d sometimes spend time with my church group.

You read that correctly.

It was odd being an atheist in training and being a part of a tight-knit group of young women who had so many problems and few answers.

I was raised Catholic and this group met at the Catholic church on our campus. We called ourselves the Setons after Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first saint to be canonized in the United States and who is the patron saint of Catholic schools, widows, and seafarers. We were none of those things, and I can’t even remember why we were called that. I do remember that our leader (let’s call her Jane) had a reason for liking Elizabeth so much, and I remember trusting her decision at the time.

So let’s just go with it.

We met once a week on Sundays, later in the evening. Way past my pizza eating and punishment in the gym. My friend, let’s call her Rochelle, would join me and so would my roommate. Rochelle was someone I empathized with. She suffered like I did from a deep darkness inside of her. She was one of pretty much no other people who I could look at and go, “She’s making my crazy look tame.” I wonder about that. If maybe I sought out that relationship so I could get a foothold on my own self-worth.

How miserably wrong of me.

Because Rochelle had such a warm heart. And beneath the pain and suicidal thoughts and drunken breakdowns, there was a girl who missed her father.

And now I realize we’re all those little boys and girls who miss their Father.

Anyway, we’d meet up and share the week’s burdens, and we would pray together. I don’t remember ever really feeling this way about church. I mean there’s a beautiful aspect to Mass, but I think I needed something more than beauty. I needed community.

I didn’t want to look at an altar. I wanted all of us to look at each other.

And that’s what Setons was. It was a circle of us sitting and talking and praying and feeling the Holy Spirit. For a newbie atheist, it was quite potent. And I’m sure it would have served to strengthen my faith and cut through my own deception if I would have let it.

But like my sorority, I finally quit it too.

Or maybe we all just stopped meeting. I can’t really remember. But when the writer of Hebrews implores the early church to not stop meeting together, I understand why.

You drown without a life raft.

I’d wander for a long time after this, searching for that feeling of speaking and being heard. I don’t often feel like that—like other people, other women always hear me. But God has blessed me with a precious few who do sit and listen and ask questions and pray.

And for all the gaping mouths and wide-eyed stares facing their altars, there are those souls you’ll find who would rather face you.

A reminder really, that God sees us too.

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