I looked out the window and thought about my confession. Chairs, candle holders, and music stands huddled impatiently against the walls behind me, making the room feel even smaller and more closet-like. The priest fidgeted nervously as he prayed to his God to help him solve the crisis of a witch in his confessional.
I cleared my throat and began another round of trying to explain my Spirit to the man sitting in front of me.
“I left the church when I was young because I was afraid of the Devil.” I turned my head away from the window, allowing my gaze to slowly return to the priest’s face. “When I say afraid, I mean my soul felt tortured. That’s why I stopped going to church. In fact, I stopped doing anything spiritual for years.”
I was obsessed with my fear as a young teenager. I prayed myself to sleep night after night, hoping that when I woke up, I would still be a good girl. A girl God loved and would protect from evil.
“I hid from God as much as I hid from the Devil.” I continued. “I was too afraid to allow anything religious to cross my mind for a long time. Essentially, I became atheist.”
The priest furrowed his brow as I spoke about my abandonment of God. I knew he considered it sinful, but for me, being atheist allowed my soul to rest. It put distance between me and my fear of God. It was a soothing pause in an otherwise tumultuous road toward salvation.
“When I was able to start thinking about Spirituality again, I started seeking out connections to God that were loving and positive. I wanted my God to be a loving God, – or Goddess.” I added with a pause. The corners of my mouth turned slightly upward as my face softened.
The priest sat back in his chair, allowing the implication of a female deity to slip past him. I was left to decide if he was humoring a Pagan misconception he’d expected to hear or if he was irritated by the thought that the crude, heathen woman in front of him was too uncivilized to understand the magnanimous nature of God. A God who transcended human genitalia. He countered this with an undertone that if God were a person, he would be male – The Bible proved it with Jesus.
I kept speaking under the stern, watchful eye of the priest. “I started reading about Spirituality in different cultures. I went to a few Native American ceremonies. I taught myself how to read Tarot cards and studied numerology. I eventually enrolled in a Druid Mystery School where I learned about Shamanism and how to create a Spiritual connection with nature. I met a group of witches during my Druid studies who taught me how to do spell work and magic.”
Magic. Witch. Druid. Spell. The words hung in the air like thorns. I wondered, as I watched the priest resume his silent prayers, if Jesus was answering him as definitively as Buddha had answered me in Japan.
… I stood on the street in Nara, Japan, crying and praying as the seriousness of my situation creeped its way into my bones. My traveling companion, a woman in a wheelchair with limited mobility and medical needs, was alone in her bed at the hotel. I had been walking in a typhoon for over two hours. I was lost. I couldn’t speak the language. I had no idea how to get help and I was on the verge of hysteria.
I prayed to Buddha with an earnestness I’d never felt before. I prayed because I was lost. Not just a little lost, but half-way-around-the-world-in-the-middle-of-a-storm-with-no-one-to-talk-to-and-no-way-to-get-home lost. I prayed because someone’s life depended on it. I prayed because every human resource I’d ever developed for solving a crisis was rendered useless. I prayed because it was the only viable action I had left before giving up.
“Please give me an answer. An actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, answer.” I asked.
What makes God decide to answer prayers? I wondered. Is it urgency? Necessity? Worthiness? What if I get an answer I don’t like? What if the answer is that I never find my way back?
I looked around as I repeated my plea, hoping the gods I prayed to would take pity on me. Would they offer this stranger any mercy or compassion? Would they guide me back to safety – To a place where everything feels ok again?
I looked to my left and found my answer. A sign from Buddha letting me know he’d heard my prayers and chosen to help me. He delivered it in the form of an actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, 5′ by 7′ map painted on the side of the building next to me. On the map, in English, where the words, “You Are Here.” The words were accompanied by a white arrow pointing out my specific location, on a street, half way between the Buddhist Temple I’d been looking for and the hotel I couldn’t find.
Todaji Temple and the hotel I’d been staying at in Japan were only a few blocks away from each other. In fact, they were located on the same street. Yet, I’d spent two hours walking in circles in the middle of a typhoon unable to find either one of them.
I felt like this was my confession. The priest and I, each wandering around in the storms of our thoughts, looking for the right answers to give one another. Answers that would help the other Spiritually while allowing our individual Souls to remain undamaged. How do a witch and a priest talk safely to one another about God?
My experience with Buddha in Japan had been direct. He answered me clearly, concisely, and with no paraboles attached. Jesus was taking his time. He was allowing the priest and I to sweat it out.
How long will it take us to find common ground?