I recently posted "Goodnight, God" on 100th Lamb and am relating some of that post here as an example of an interesting, sincere, and very pure relationship with God. In that post, I told how Doah had been sleeping on our couch while we were waiting to find a new group home for him. (Thank God, it did not take long, and he is now situated in a wonderful home, which is owned and run by a father and daughter team from Russia; once I get settled back in from my trip to Korea, we plan to get together for lunch or dinner and swap stories of our experiences of Russia, they as natives and I as someone who has spent a considerable amount of time there, especially in my university years when I completed my PhD at Pushkin Institute in Moscow and attended graduated courses at the University of Moscow.)
In that post, I described how I spent time one weekend night on the couch beside Doah, perseverating on computer work until the wee hours of the morning, unlike on the weekday nights when I usually tumbled into bed before Doah went to sleep because I have to get up early and go to work -- and, of course, at that time, he did not.
It had been years since I have watched Doah go to sleep. As a child, he would make a nest of blankets under my desk and sleep there. As a mentally challenged child, he did not think of the world in the same terms as those around him, and I always wondered what his teachers thought of us as parents if he told them that he slept in a nest!
Since Doah was right beside me, I could see him drifting off to sleep as his breathing slowed and became regular. Right before he totally zonked out, I heard him whisper, "Good night, God." Then he was unwakeably asleep for the rest of the night.
Once he no longer slept in a nest, I no longer observed him falling asleep -- and it has been years since his nesting days. So, I was unaware that he always says goodnight to God.
As I watched him, I realized how much we can learn from the simplicity of mentally challenged individuals. It is as if he has a direct link to God; there is no barrier evident -- you know, the kinds of barriers we throw up between ourselves and God so that we can avoid getting too close. Close is okay. Too close is nervous-making. Right?
So many times Doah will say, "God told me this, or God told me that." I take it at face value. I do not know how otherwise to react to it. When the nurse told him very solemnly at his post-rape medical examination, "the most important thing is to remember that it is not your fault," he responded equally sincerely, "I know; God tell me it not my fault, I no blame." I believe that this is the source of his ability to rebound from what is a highly personal violation from which more mentally complex individuals often have difficulty recovering.
I remember Doah's reaction when I first moved to San Ignatio, where one feels that the town itself is holy. (One of my Russian Orthodox friends, a very devout believer, turned to me on her first visit as we were walking around town and said, "Beth, eto mesto namolein," the closest translation of which would be "this town is soaked in prayer.") Doah stood at my stoop, looked around, turned around a time or two, then faced me, and announced, "God here."
In all our efforts of prayer, our attempts to live with God, to live as God would have us live, to open ourselves to union, to spend time in contemplation, and to spend time in reading theology (whether meant for theologians or for lay readers), I wonder if we ever consider that developing a relationship with God might be as simple as Doah sees it -- just allowing oneself to be together with God as one would be together with a friend, noticing that "God here," and remembering to say "good night, God."
I now say "good night, God" every night when I feel myself drifting off to sleep, following a period of contemplative prayer. As important, every morning upon rising, my first words now are "Good morning, God."
It does make a difference. After all, how can we grow in our relationship with anyone -- God, friends, family -- if we persevere in our daily activities without acknowledging the presence that is with us? Those activities, while we often must do them, become more enjoyable and meaningful when shared with God in the doing of them.