Anne Goes Searching for God: A Story About the Peculiar Journey of Spiritual Practice

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Anne who noticed that she was a very small being in a very large universe.

She noticed that no one had bothered to consult with her about some of the most important things in life: being born, suffering, dying. No one had asked her if she wanted to be born into a universe like this. And now that she was here, sooner or later she was going to die, and no one would ask her if that was okay either. She was angry about this, and confused, and frightened.

Anne desperately longed to find some peace and joy, though she hardly dared hope that that was possible in such a universe. She desperately longed to know God, though she hardly dared hope that a good and powerful and loving God actually created and ruled such a mess of a universe.

Anne had heard stories about other people’s journeys, and even though she didn’t entirely trust those stories, she didn’t know what else to do, so she got in a boat to paddle to God.

She’d had little experience with boats, though she’d read a lot about them, and she wasn’t in very good shape, but there was nothing more important to her than finding God, so she paddled and paddled and paddled. It was exhausting, and her arms ached, but she kept moving.

And God, who created and enfolded and permeated every speck of creation, watched Anne’s journey and smiled a tender smile.

After a while, Anne started to wonder if she was going in the right direction. She didn’t feel like she was any closer to God, but then, she didn’t really know how she would be able to tell.

She decided that maybe her little boat was the wrong way to get to God. Probably, she needed something faster and more powerful. So she paddled in to the shore and got a motorcycle. This was scarier than her boat, but she strapped on her helmet and set off again to find God.

Anne tried all sorts of ways to get to God. She tried a bus. She tried an airplane. She tried backpacking. She wished she had a transporter and could beam herself directly to God. She tried sailing, even though she knew that sailboats made her seasick. She tried bicycling.

None of it seemed to be working. She was getting worn out and frustrated.

And God looked on with patience and loving concern, as Anne continued to look for God in the midst of God.

Anne had heard that, actually, God is everywhere, that God is always right here, whether she could see that or not. And she started to wonder if that might be true. She hoped that it was. Maybe she didn’t need to go anywhere to find God.

So she tried looking for God through a microscope. She tried an electron microscope. She tried infrared goggles. She tried magnetic resonance imaging.

She got some dynamite and tried to blast through whatever was between her and God.

It seemed like she must be going about this in the wrong way.

Sometimes, she despaired of ever finding God. Sometimes, she despaired that there was a God to be found. She cried and she cried.

And God was sad.

Anne had heard that, actually, there was nothing she could do to find God, that no human effort could bring one to God. It did seem like all her own efforts had failed, so she hoped that this might be true.

So she waited for God to come to her. She paced around the living room. She trimmed her toenails. She watched daytime talk shows. She sat and stared out the window. She waited and she waited. She wondered why God wasn’t here yet.

She had heard that some people cry out to God, plead with God, even yell at God.

Maybe, Anne thought, she needed to ask God to come to her. So she tried calling God on the phone. She got God’s machine and left pleading and angry and tearful messages, but God never called back. She tried writing letters to God. She tried e-mailing God. Sometimes, she felt a little better when she wrote to God, but it didn’t seem like God was ever going to write back.

Anne had heard that the whole journey is just trying one strategy after another until you finally see that all strategies are useless.

So she decided that maybe, in order to find God, she just needed to quit trying to find God. So she sold her motorcycle. She gave her microscope to the kid next door. She unplugged her phone.

But she knew that there was something fishy about all this. She could see that even trying to quit trying to find God was still a strategy.

So she tried to quit trying to quit. But that was the same thing!

Anne was confused. She didn’t know what to do. It seemed like there was nothing she could do. She just sat there being confused.

And she thought she caught a glimpse of the shadow of God’s big toe.

Anne wished that this were almost the end of her search. She wished that she finally knew, deep down in her bones, that God is always right here. She wanted to live happily ever after.

But instead: She thought that maybe she had hit on something when she just sat there being confused. Maybe that was a way of quitting trying to find God, and now she could finally really find God.

But that was still the same confusion!

She wondered why God wouldn’t just have mercy on her and her crazy predicament and speak out of the clouds to her. She was mad at God for letting her go through all this. She was sick of it.

Anne could see that it made no sense to look for God in the midst of God. She could see that you couldn’t find a God who had never been lost.

And yet, she still longed to find God more than anything else in the world.

Anne figured, if God is always with her, God would be with her as she kept searching for God.

So Anne pulled on her rollerblades.