I clutch the rosary tightly in my hands, hoping the words will come. I need a sign. Something, anything to prove that it's true. That He...or She, I suppose...is there. I just need to know. I guess that's why I'm here on Christmas morning. It's still dark outside, and I'm alone in some old church tucked away in the depths of the city. I know that breaking into a church isn't exactly the way to get on God's good side, but I'm desperate. It's not like I broke any of the stained glass windows or anything. I just broke the lock on the back door. I mean...if someone needed to talk to God, a church is the place to do it, right? I let out a sigh. This isn't working.
Prayer has never come easily to me. Whenever I try to speak to God, it's like I'm talking to somebody who isn't there. It's been like this for as long as I can remember. I can recall sitting in church as a child while everyone was having their silent prayer or reflection. All I could ever do was stare around at all the others, wishing desperately that I could feel what they felt, see what they saw. But I never could. Suddenly, I hear footsteps and quickly turn around. I see the flickering light of a candle, illuminating the face of a weathered man dressed in black. As he approaches me, I wipe at my eyes to make sure that no rogue tears have escaped.
"May I ask what you are doing here?", the old man asked gently. I look up at him from the pew and notice his white collar.
"I...I just need some answers," I whisper. Through the candle light, I can see the old preacher's face relax. He sits down beside me. and sets the candle between us.
"Answers to what, my child?", he questions. I look towards the ground.
"I...I don't know. I just...," I trail off, not knowing where I'm going with my words. The preacher smiles.
"It's usually better to know the question before you find the answer," he replies. I feel tears prickling my eyes.
"I just...I need to talk to God, okay? I just really need to talk to God."
"That's what prayer is for, my child."
I let out a frustrated sigh and thrust my head into my hands. I'm about to lose my composure when I feel a comforting hand on my shoulder.
"Do you need to let something out? I can be an amazing listener," the preacher says genuinely. I look up, a few tears streaming down my cheeks.
"I've never been able to pray. I want to know God so badly, and I want to make it into Heaven, or whatever place that good people go to after they die, but I don't know how. I just don't know how", I cry out. I can see that the preacher understands my pain and discomfort. He pats me on the shoulder once, and then removes his hand. He straightens up and looks towards the large stained glass window that is at the head of the church. The morning light is beginning to trickle through, and some pieces of the glass are beginning to shine.
"You know, many people think that Heaven is some white, fluffy cloud where you can spend eternity chatting with angels or something like that. But that's not what I think Heaven really is," the preacher says calmly. I look at him, urging him to continue.
"Heaven is better than that, you know? It's you. And me. It's all of us. It's the lives that we've lived and the people that we've met all rolled into one big laugh. Heaven can't just be some puffy cloud where souls gather for forever, you know? It can't be that...because people...God...is more than that. Heaven, I admit, is something far more complicated than anything my mind can comprehend. But what I can tell you, is that you need not worry, because God will take care of all that," the preacher finishes. I bite my lip.
"But how do I know? How do I know that God will take care of that, or that God is even there?", I choke out. The preacher looks at me and smiles.
"Have you ever seen a bird fly? Or felt the love of another person? Or even just watched the sun shine? That's how you know. That's what it's about. There will be a morning service in a few hours. You are welcome to stay," the preacher says. He stands and grabs the candle, and then smiles at me once more before turning to leave. I watch him turn the corner, and he is gone. I turn my attention back to the rosary in my hand. The white, glass beads are smooth and warm from me holding them. I look up to see more sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows. The sight is heavenly. 'This is what it's about,' I think.
I clutch the rosary tighter and bow my head, feeling the presence of God. For the first time, the words come easily.