New York City is a poem. That’s what I know after living here only a month and a half. It has a vibe unlike any other place in the world. It sings its own soul-vibration song. I understand why artists and writers and musicians and creators are drawn to this city, and have been for decades. No matter how bad of a day I might have had, when I walk outside on the streets of New York, life and humanity and vibrancy flood back into my being and I am once again filled with ridiculous hope.
I’ve been taking journalism classes at The King’s College (a small school in Lower Manhattan) for the semester and have been interning at the TimesLedger in Queens. It’s been A LOT of writing and interviewing all kinds of people, and I’ve learned a lot about journalism, and about myself, through it. What a joy to continue to grow and discover. Even if it’s super tiring at times. New York has forced me out of myself—out of my comfy comfort zone—and it’s been exhausting. But colorful and life-giving and sooo needed.
I’m a very different person now than when I started college at Point Loma two years ago. What I pictured myself being like as a college junior is nothing like what I actually am, but I love how life is unexpected like that. I have, though, moved to New York on my own, which has been a dream of mine since forever. 🙂
I have to be humble in all this, knowing that it is through grace that I am here at this particular moment in time. There is work to do and people to love. And I believe that wherever I end up, if I am seeking God above all things, I will be where I am meant to be, and be fully alive there. Like I am here. At this moment.
(me at 20 and mom at 20, both in the same spot at Battery Park 🙂 )
A few nights ago, my friend Princess and I were waiting for the subway at 23 Street after dinner in Greenwich Village. We had just had a crazy moment in which we stopped to pray with a homeless man, and he blessed us with words he said God wanted him to tell us: “keep praising him, keep worshipping him, keep giving him the glory. Do what the Lord says. He will continue to use you, like he sent you to me.” We walked away from that moment on a holy high, in joyful shock. (was he an angel?) When we got to our subway, we sat on a bench and talked about how God can so often feel silent and distant, and then things like that happen where God miraculously shows up and speaks to us through others.
Then, out of nowhere, the man sitting on the bench next to us in the subway station takes out his headphones and says: “I heard you two talking about God. I was inspired hearing you talk because just earlier I heard two gentlemen talking about God the whole time they were on the bus and now I’m hearing you two. God is speaking through you.” He showed us his phone screen that had Proverbs 12:25 pulled up, which he was reading right as we sat down (Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a good word cheers it up.) “There are people with faith left. Keep speaking good words” he said. “Keep up the good work, keep Him up there.” Then the train came and he disappeared.
This experience made me realize: It’s crazy what happens when I open myself up to God. When I’m brave enough to talk about my faith in public. (which is why I’m thankful for Princess in that moment, because otherwise I probably would not have had the courage to talk to them.) When the ears and eyes of our hearts are open, God shows up. I write this mainly as a reminder for myself.
One thing I’ve been wrestling with recently in the city is who God is and my personal idea of God. And how my idea of God shapes my outlook on my entire life. And how that has changed over the years. And I realize—the more I try to define God’s character or create an image of God in my head…the further I get from God.
In the words of Sister Joan Chittister (I got to hear her talk at a church a few weeks ago—she is a spiritual hero!!) … God does not have to be found. God is already here. We cannot “think” God. We can only know God.
“I have become sure that if all I know about God is that my God is the fullness of life and the consummation of hope, the light at the end, then I will live my life in the consciousness of God and goodness everywhere, obscure at times, perhaps, but never wholly lacking.” —Sister Joan
The news about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church absolutely rattled me and crushed my heart, which was all going on when I was moving in to my new apartment and getting settled. In the middle of all of this, I began to really examine what my idea of God was and what it was becoming.
Did I believe in a trophy-to-be-won God? An “out-there” God? A law-maker God? A manipulator God? A Him/He/His exclusively male-gendered God? I have, at one point, believed in all of these Gods. But being in the city, with all peoples of all faiths and art and life and poverty and wealth and truth and decay juxtaposed at every street corner, I can only say that God has shown up when I open myself, humbly and honestly, to God’s loving presence. And God’s presence is hope and light. That’s what I know.
The thing is, I love the Catholic Church. I’ve been to many other kinds of Christian churches, and they all have beauty, but Catholicism is home for me. I am Catholic deep in my bones, and that’s why I’m so frustrated and sad and desperate for change right now. The Church needs to stop confusing “tradition” with “the system.” Christ would definitely be flipping tables at what’s been going on. I do believe it is time (it has always been time) for women deacons and priests. And this is not only in response to “fixing” the sex abuse issue. This is about being the kingdom of God on earth. God calls women to priesthood too, and maybe now more than ever. I am aware of all the Church’s justifications and reasons that priesthood is only for males. I’ve heard them my whole life. I’ve always found them somewhat lacking, and I’m only now allowing myself to consider the fact that maybe they are lacking.
For now though, I will continue to open myself to God’s light-filled, loving presence and seek God’s guidance. My heart-spirit desires to keep discovering and keep opening myself to God, vulnerably and bravely, even when it gets scary. Even when it’s intensely uncertain.
God, You are love. I trust in you. I trust in you, and am endlessly thankful for being in this city at this particular moment. Life is beautiful right now. I am learning and living and discovering—the greatest gifts.
My existence in this grand, heart-capturing city means nothing if I don’t love the people in it and get to know people unlike myself, who know this city and live in it day-to-day. They will teach me what this city is really like, this city I want to know so badly, this city I am already so enthralled by. New York is teeming with life and people fighting for life.
I am another number in the 8 million people here, but I also am one in that number. Walking down the street, in Penn Station, smiling and breathing poetry, I am one with the metropolitan madness because everyone around me is also living out the hopes/wishes/desires they hold in their weary, tired, undeterred souls.
I want to remember the rain, the fresh smell of newness, the 6 a.m. darkness, the red and orange subway seats, the outdoor book stands. The rain-freckled windows of the Long Island Railroad, my new sacred space of prayer and contemplation and wonder. The art-museum-painting-like image of a pool of colorful umbrellas in Flushing, Queens—the Asian shops bustling at all hours. The spirit of life in NYC is contagious—it is a spirit people fight for, a spirit that keeps them going.
This city is one of hope and restoration. It is for everyone. I am a small sprinkle of salt in this city. Use me Jesus. Use the “monastery of my heart.” As the deer longs, so I long.
glimpses of life so far:
Oh Manhattan, you are a platinum drawer of hours of deepness of treasure, a gem. Oh Manhattan, you are a home a refuge for the philosophical soul in your church of steel and stench.
The most we can do is to write — intelligently, creatively, evocatively — about what it is like living in the world at this time. —Bill Hayes