The retreat had not yet begun. I was walking beneath the live oaks, crossing from the dorm room I would share with my cousin and aunt to the building where we would practice restorative yoga for two days. The gulf breeze gently blew, and shadows danced on the St. Augustine lawn. I halted, gazing at the slip of blue sky peeking through the mossy branches. A conviction welled up in me, and for the next two days of the yoga retreat, the message of trusting in life I received on that lawn repeated and repeated and repeated.
I do not trust in religious explanations of life. We are told God is good, and God does wonderful things, and God has ordered the universe in an amazing way, and so on.
The problem is, life can really, really suck. Setting aside the question of viruses (really, I believe the existence of viruses might be the best evidence of life’s non-goodness), life can be horrible to people. And the horribleness has no rationality to it, it really doesn’t, no matter how many religious platitudes we throw at it. Life can be, without justifiability, terrible.
As a result of the above, I’ve given up on traditional religious views. For me, the only thing trustworthy is the presence of God inside the goodness in this moment on this earth right now.
Until I stood below those oaks.
The light burns low, the yoga mats line up straight. Candles flicker, the Spirit hums through the room.
The prayer prays, “All will be well.”
The hymn sings, “All will be well.”
The workshop leader assures, “All will be well.”
We, the retreat participants, agree, “All will be well.”
And, due to my conviction beneath the oaks, I join in: “All will be well.”
Standing beneath the oaks, the breeze running along my arms, the sun warming my face, and the majesty of the live oaks spreading around me, a conviction welled up: what if when I am dying and the images of my life pass before my brain, I realize it has been okay? That, in fact, it was wonderful? Not because of some intricate, indiscernible plan God had in mind, but just because it was.
If I don’t take the opportunity now to trust in that delightful outcome, the deep sense of joy and affirmation that washes through me when I do the Spirit’s biding and, Holy Mother of God!, there was such a good reason for doing it—the feeling won’t come. I will have missed the opportunity at the moment when it matters most.
You will understand how much this experience of God’s grace means to me when I tell you the realization was enough to cause me to say, out loud: “This life, for me, is a wild experiment in trusting.” To trust that I will get to the end and look back and say in unison with all the saints in heaven, “All is well.” And it will be true.