If You Were Looking For God

If you were looking for God, I would tell you to bury all of your crispy Bibles in a box in your attic, to give up trying to hit the right notes on those ancient hymns, to turn back toward the produce aisle when you see your pastor in the frozen foods section at the grocery store. I would tell you to burn something – a candle or a newspaper or even just flick the switch of a lighter — and watch the flame dance quietly at your fingertips.

If you were looking for God, I would tell you to shift your shape and become a fly on the wall in the home of two twenty-somethings in love. Watch the way their faces bend, watch them sleep together in the tiniest spaces, watch them eat apples down to the core and blow bubbles out the second story window. I would tell you to stay long enough to see them make love, to watch his cheeks turn pink, to feel the flame of something so powerful and temporary. I would tell you to make sure you wrap your heart around the ache of impermanence that hangs in the room when the echo of I love you dissipates.

If you were looking for God, I would tell you that if it’s spring, you’re in luck. If it’s the dead of winter, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled. I would tell you to wrap yourself in your loneliness like a thick scarf, to keep your distance and keep the curtains pulled shut. Count your toes, your fingers. Find out where each organ rests under your skin — place your hands over them. Trace your rib cage. If you were looking for God, I’d tell you that you might find him in crooked picture frames and trying to cry quietly at 3 a.m. In the winter, that’s how it works.

If you were looking for God, I might not tell you anything. I might just nod, or shake my head, or turn away. I might tell you that your search is bullshit. I might point you toward the one road in this tiny town that I’ve never driven down. If you were looking for God, I’d lean into you, kiss you on the forehead and say bless you: if you’re still looking, you must really want to find it.

Depending on the day — if it was a forehead-kissing day — I would give you my bread recipe and a bunch of bright green kale leaves. If you were still looking, I would take you to my mother’s garden and walk you through the rows pointing out tomatoes and corn stalks up to my ears and basil with a scent that stains your senses. I would put a wriggling puppy in your arms, take you to the top of the mountain that stretches endlessly behind my house, read you my favorite Anis Mojgani poems in the middle of the night.

And when you start to think you might have found it, I would press my hands gently into your chest as you held onto someone you thought might stay forever. I would whisper something incoherent about time and the present and how God fits into it all. If you were looking for God, I would leave you there, swallowed up in deep, fleeting love, and walk home alone. TC Mark

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