Suzette Martinez Standring: God’s address? Right here

Suzette Martinez Standring

On vacation I popped into a small church. Often the quiet refreshes my spirit. Sometimes, I need an escape from the T-shirt-shopping, ice-cream-slurping, tourist madness of the streets. A spiritual haven helps me to stay in the present.

Occasionally, an empty church offers refuge when disappointment dogs me even during the most wonderful of getaways. Recently while at Martha’s Vineyard, I received a cruel e-mail, a harsh and sudden slap written from the fester of unfinished business.

It detailed my failings from three years ago under the guise of birthday greetings as in “I acknowledge your special day, but you’re still a jerk because …”

Love gone bad in napalm form. Everyone has a story like this – the breakdown between close friends or with family members is a dark pit where a way out seems impossible.

“Let’s walk. Just let it go,” said my husband.

In Edgartown gardens, roses cascaded over white fencing and hydrangea bushes bloomed, but I could only brood, brood, brood.

With volume set on high, I suffered through a loud inner debate between “telling her off” and the higher road of “let it be.” A relentless filibuster rang with “What I should have said.”

On our stroll, I stopped in front of the wide open doors of a small church and ducked inside. The wooden interior was awash in the gemstone light of stained glass windows. The pulpit stood on a boat-bow draped in ropes. (Corny but in a charming way.) There’s Jesus talking to a fisherman over the words, “In Memory of the Toilers of the Sea.” The scene where he stands in a boat and halts the raging winds by command spoke to me.

Stormy seas, divine control - sighing loudly in a wooden pew can be so therapeutic. After a while I emerged calm and refreshed.

Which lasted about 24 hours. Then evil-thought squatters again broke into my head and took up residence. “You’re sick for not telling her she’s sick. You’re a sap. You should have said …”

Back to the little church I went in search of another spiritual fix. Inside a woman was rearranging wooden chairs. She ignored me as I sat down and closed my eyes. I began praying for personal peace when … Crash! Bang! Thud! The chairs were heavy as she moved them back into place.

Gee, should I offer her some help? Just then her friend arrived and set to with altar tasks. Oh, OK. They do their thing and I’ll do mine.

I closed my eyes again. The two women began chatting. Then the chair-mover’s cell phone rang. She quickly left the church, exiting a side door and closing it courteously behind her, but I could hear, “Hi! Yeah, I’m still here. So what are you doing?”

Take a deep breath. Ignore her. Focus.

Then a third lady came in to fold altar linens and began a gentle, laughing banter with the second woman.

Geez, Louise. I came in for a little healing and I doubt the doctor’s in. With a not-so-therapeutic sigh, I left.

Outside, I whined to my husband about my futile attempts to find inner peace. I came seeking God in his own house and he wasn’t home.

“What a joke. There’s a punch line somewhere, but I can’t figure it out,” I said.

David offered his predictable solution, “Let’s walk.”

Soon we found ourselves at a section of Edgartown Harbor. We skipped down a walkway and sat on a platform over the water.

The soft swish of waves and bobbing boats was a lullaby to hush my hurting heart. The natural beauty firmly anchored me in the present. The moment abounded in whipped cream clouds and sparkles on a cerulean sea. Inside of me was murky disappointment, but out here, all was blessed perfection.

“Maybe going within is overrated,” I said.

“No, that’s not true. But where you expect to find God is overrated. Look around. This is where he lives, not inside of some building,” said David.

Such is divine cleverness. God purposely drove me back out into the streets, so I wouldn’t spend my vacation “mind wailing” in a room.

Instead, God was saying, “Come on out here and talk to me. And while you’re at it, isn’t my creation spectacular? Isn’t this enough to refresh your trust in me?”

Overhead the scree of gulls pieced the air. The tide lapped at our toes. The smell of salty brine sharply tickled my nose. My eyes drank in six shades of blue between the sea and sky.

I imagined God’s laughter as he whispered, “Do you recognize the face?”

The joke was on me and instantly, the raging winds within me were quelled. I took my husband’s hand and smiled.

“Hey, I just figured out the punch-line.”

E-mail Suzette Standring: She is the author of “The Art of Column Writing.”