The Tap

Twenty-two years ago, God talked to me in my attic apartment.

I never expected to write that sentence, much less expose myself to the sorts of thoughts some of you are thinking right now. Trust me, I’m with you. I get it.

But I’m doing this because just the other day my nine year old son said to me, “Mommy, don’t God and heaven sound like fairytales we tell ourselves to feel better about death?”

Jude makes first communion

Jude makes first communion

And so I am writing this. I view these essays almost like letters to my children (letters read by lots of random strangers everywhere, and I thank you for that). I wanted this story to be here, whenever he’s ready to read it.

I was my son. Some of my earliest memories are of me torturing my poor mother with questions. But how is God there? Who made him? I don’t understand, he’s just there? And how did he make all of this? I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor woman’s hands shake from the mere memories of those years, her trying to read me stories in my children’s bible, me not buying it.

Santa was another story. I had no trouble believing in him because he showed up at the mall every year. I saw him. I sat on his lap. I asked for things. I got them.

What this God I never saw promised — eternal life, salvation — didn’t stand a chance against the chubby, red suited man who brought me Baby Alive.

My sister and I went to a Methodist Sunday school growing up. It had been a conscious decision on the part of our parents who had been raised a uniquely strict and stifling version of primitive Baptist. In my eyes,theirs was a church of ‘No’ and ‘Hell.’ No pants on women, no make-up, no dancing, no TV’s or telephones — no fun. If you did any of these things, you were absolutely 100% headed for Hell. My first grade self thought this was crazy. What kind of God thought I could climb trees in a skirt? What kind of God didn’t like Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch?

My parents got thrown out of their church when I was little, when a member paid a surprise visit to our house and saw the TV in our basement (they didn’t see my father’s beers in the refrigerator nor did they know my parents hosted some of the wildest dance parties in our neighborhood).

St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius

I was still drawn to church, one in particular, Saint Ignatius, less than a mile from our house. Catholicism was the Nancy Drew of religions to me, cloaked in mystery, hidden behind a haze of smoky incense and words sung in latin. I was envious of my Catholic neighbors who shuffled off to midnight Mass in their Christmas coats, the children sleepy and the adults buzzed on wine and bourbon eggnog. When I got older, I went to that midnight Mass, my head leaned back against the pew, listening to music that  made my chest expand, that made me feel closer to God or whatever it was that was beyond everything.

By the time I went away to college, I quietly decided I was agnostic. Atheist sounded too final. Too sad. It was easy to put aside my diminished faith because soon after, I began my TV career and fortunately, it demanded all of me. I was happy. I was working my dream job!

Then, I lost my mind.

I was at my second job in television. I lived in a cozy attic apartment at the top of a massive English tudor, and one morning I woke up and realized I had lost something very important.

the big haired agnostic years

the big haired agnostic years

But I had no idea what it was I had lost.

As a rational person, I knew it was nutty that I was so panicked over losing something without knowing what the something was. For two weeks, I ransacked my apartment. I tore everything out of my closet and my dresser, searching every corner. I did the same thing with my kitchen and my bathroom. I even lifted up my cream couches to check if it was underneath them.

I was so very frightened by my behavior, certain I needed medication, or worse, that I might need to be sent away.

And I was crying. Like, all the time. I remember one day when I was searching, removing everything from the trunk of my gold Toyota Corolla, the owner (my landlord) of the house walked out. He innocently asked what I was doing. It  was like he’d caught me robbing a convenience store at gunpoint.  I stumbled and stammered and said something about looking for something, my face burning with embarrassment and shame over my non answer.

I finally gave up searching. It wasn’t there. Whatever it was.

The night I quit looking, I had a dream. I was sitting at an unusual dark wood desk,  ornately carved, with a chair to match. All the issues in my life were dropping from the ceiling onto the desk in the form of glittering gold balls that were labeled. I remember one said ‘your job,’ another ‘your family,’ another ‘your life.’ In the dream, with the landing of each ball, it became more difficult to breathe until I reached the point I felt I was suffocating. Suddenly, all the balls rose off the table, high above my head, allowing me to breathe again. And then a voice said, “I’m with you.” I opened my eyes and I was sitting upright in my bed.

That’s God,‘ I thought. I thought it the same way I might look at a pencil and think, ‘That’s a pencil.’ It was that obvious. That evident. It was 3:14 a.m. and God had just talked to me in my bedroom. I remember I was smiling, feeling the most loved I’d ever felt, a love so intensely euphoric I would not have guessed it existed. I had never felt it before and have never felt it since.

I fell back asleep, but by the next morning, I had brushed it off as a dream. Nothing more. Of course that wasn’t God, it was just further proof I was coming unhinged.

I kept crying — at the station, in my apartment, in my car.  My once normal, once sensible life was falling apart. My closest friend at work (who didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me because I couldn’t tell anyone) suggested I talk to her friend, Joe. I realized at some point that this Joe was a priest.

“Oh no, I don’t think so,” I had said to her, like an alcoholic who is gently asked if they’d like to go to a meeting. “I don’t need a priest. That’s like the last thing I need.”

where I met Joe

where I met Joe

She told me he had been a brilliant judge, that he had given up his career  on the bench to become a priest. Something about his story appealed to me, legitimized him in my eyes. A judge is logical, analytical, rational. To me, priests were none of those things. Maybe we could have a good, factual conversation about what the hell was happening to me. I was finally at the point that I was willing to accept help from someone, and this Joe sounded as good as any other shrink or counselor whose couch I might wind up on.

I walked in the church on a Saturday morning at five minutes ’til nine, weaving my way back to the church offices where a receptionist told me Father Joe would be right out.

Then he was opening his door and I was standing, him reaching out to shake my hand. I walked into his office and froze. There it was, maybe eight feet from me. I started to cry. Not the silent sort of tears that dainty women cry. No, I was gasping and muttering nonsense as big, fat, hot tears rolled down my cheeks.

When I could speak, I lifted my hand and pointed. “That’s the desk. That’s the desk in a dream I had.” Which sent me into another round of wailing. I could not believe that damn desk from that damn dream with the gold labeled balls was here in this room.

I did not feel elation when I saw the desk. I was not relieved that some set of bizarre dots had just been connected, nor did I think, ‘It’s a prayer answered! It’s a miracle!’ All my life, I had barely cracked the window for God, and suddenly, instead of opening the window, the entire side of my house had been peeled away, allowing everything I had kept out to come rushing in.

I calmed down enough to sit, to tell Father Joe about my lost something, my dream, my God in my bedroom, and now here, with the damn desk.

Father Joe said God had tapped me on the shoulder, that he had never received such a tap, even though he had given up a career to become a priest. I remember him saying to me that day 22 years ago, “Many people never experience what you have. Now it’s up to you, how you’re going to answer that tap.”

A year later I converted to Catholicism.

I would like to tell you that all of my doubts left after that day in Father Joe’s office. They didn’t. Occasionally they’re there, trailing me as I attempt to live a life of faith.

Sometimes I think atheists have it easy, having closed the door on God. With all the terrible things that happen in the world, I don’t understand why an omnipotent being wouldn’t intervene. We can talk free will and deep theology and you can quote bible passages, but it will never make sense to me.

ry=400But the older I get, the more I think that’s how it’s meant to be. That it’s arrogant to think it all begins and ends with me. That it’s even more arrogant to think I have all the answers. In my own life, this sort of thinking has prevented me from fully appreciating some of the more amazing moments and miracles that have happened to me.

Like the dreamy, creamy filling in a Twinkie or a Ho Ho, I think the good stuff, the holy and sacred stuff, is on the inside. Of us. We gotta go inward to get to it, either through prayer or meditation or just sitting still (without a phone in your hand). Most of us don’t spend much time going inward. Why would we, when there are so many awesome things we can be out buying, when Facebook and Instagram are waiting for us to post a picture of that next meal we’re eating, when there are kids to fret over, mortgages to make, bosses to impress. Why would anyone go in, when we can all STAY OUT?

Because I’m convinced that going in is how we get out. Period.

So when my son wonders if it’s a fairytale, I’m not going to bury him in biblical passages that may only further confuse him or make him feel guilty for questioning. I’m going to let him know it’s okay not to get it. That I don’t always get it. That we may not ever fully get it in this lifetime.

I’ve told my story to very few people. I’ve found they will either be amazed, or will not believe it, meaning they will think ‘She had a hard time, she had a dream, she saw a desk — she made it all mean something’.

As the founding member of the ‘Just The Facts Ma’am Band,’ I wish it were that easy.

I confessed to a friend  years ago that I still struggled with faith. I felt guilty because the ‘God tap’ hadn’t cured me of all doubt. This friend of mine has enough faith to power a small city.

“Don’t feel bad about it,” she told me. “That’s just your relationship with God.”

What I heard her say was that I had a relationship.

With God.

I’d never seen it that way.

So maybe it’s imperfect. Maybe it’s me who snipes, “But how is that possible and why did you let that happen and if you’re really all knowing why didn’t you know this?”

And despite all of that, maybe it was God who told me in the middle of the night I wasn’t alone, who decided it was time to connect the dots with dark wood desks and good men named Joe.

I think we got a thing.

Me and God.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 comments on “The Tap
  1. Will Partenheimer says:

    Beautiful! Merry Christmas!

  2. Milissa Cole says:

    What a truly amazing story, especially at Christmas! I have been a Catholic all my life, and haven’t had an experience like that, but I never give up on my faith. God Bless you and your family.

  3. Kim Schulman says:

    This is just beautiful. And I’ll tell you something that a dear priest friend of mine told me – God is madly in love with you! Happy Christmas!

  4. Jaye,

    Such a timely and beautiful message of faith, hope and love. I hope it goes viral in a time in the world, when it is so much needed. I too heard the voice one time, and it was when I was praying hard asking God to help someone else that needed Him. How grateful I was that He felt I needed Him as well and touched me with love, understanding and strength to get through hard times. May you and yours have a blessed Christmas and many years of doubt that is constant reminder of humility to help us continue to do for others and spread the word. Hugs, Mary Beth

    • Jaye Watson says:

      I am so thrilled to hear about your experience. I’ve been flooded with ‘me too’s’ today and that is also very comforting. And I hope you have a beautiful Christmas. God Bless!

  5. April Leach says:

    Wow! Jaye, thank you for sharing your story, your heart and your faith. I heard God utter those exact words to me “you’re not alone”. It was 17 years ago and I just watched my mother, my best friend, my life pass away. I was the only one in her hospital room at the time. Moments after my mom took her last breath the phone rang and it was my aunt. She asked how my mom was and I told her that she had just passed. My aunt, in a very loving voice, said “I’m so sorry I’m not there and you’re alone”. Out of the blue I said “I’m not alone”. Wow, where did that come from? Then this overwhelming peace came over me, and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t alone, God was definitely in that room with me. I know he wasn’t there just to comfort me, but to assure me that my mom was now with him. From that moment on, God has been my rock and my fortress. Sure, there are times when I do question things, but that’s natural. I’ve just learned that I don’t need to have all the answers, I just need to have faith.

    P.S. I had a Baby Alive too, best present ever! 😉

    • Jaye Watson says:

      What a beautiful moment. Thank you for sharing that, April. And yes, Baby Alive was my favorite Christmas present ever!

  6. Nuala says:

    Glad you shared. My tap was in college right after my car accident. Hugs. Nuala

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Well now you know I want to hear about your tap! I would love for you to tell your story in the comments here, or send it to me in a private message on FB. Merry Christmas, sister!

  7. Bryan Hendrix says:

    Jaye, thoughtful, honest, funny, personal and meaningful. Thanks!
    In the Pesbyterian church I attended as a kid, there was a small sign in the basement that said, God is Love. I’ve never been able to comprehend all the rest of it, but that much makes sense to me and seems like enough.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      ‘God is love’ is a good one. I have met strangers on stories or random places in my life — and maybe for a moment we look at each other, or we share a smile. I feel like I’m going to burst. Those are God moments to me.

  8. Lisa Dawson says:

    Love, love love this. Sharing with some my favorite people. Thanks for giving us this gift.

  9. Jim Grey says:

    Great story. And I’m so glad that The Church of No and Hell has fallen so far out of the mainstream. A few do exist here and there but they’re not as prevalent as 20-30 years ago.

  10. Larry Mainland says:

    Thank you for sharing what is obviously a very private issue. Many of us usually see only the public part of you, which is refreshingly open and honest in itself. But this story allows us to share a part of you that most of us hide in our own lives. You’ve made it okay for us to look inward and not be afraid of what we might find there.

    Thanks and I hope God grants you a special blessing this Christmas.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Larry, thank you so much. I’ve been so surprised by the response to the story and I will confess I had an awful stomach ache when I put it out there this morning, like walking out of my house naked. Thank you for reading it and thank you for your kind words. Merry Christmas to you!

    • Sue says:

      You nailed it, Larry. So let me just say ditto to your entire post. 🙂 And Jaye, thank you. What a brave thing to share. I have a feeling there were people who needed to hear your story. You may never know the huge impact it might have. Blessings to you, thank you, and may you have a wonderful Christmas!

  11. Cindy Simmons says:

    That is a beautiful truthful story. So happy you shared it with us.

  12. Melanie says:

    Keep seeking, always!

  13. Jill says:

    Exactly what I needed to read today….and there you were. That’s how God works, I think…xoxo

  14. JEssica says:

    ok, you are the most interesting and inspiring person I know and I am so glad you are in my life, however rarely we see each other. never stop writing Jennifer…I am always moved…each and every time.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Thank you, sweet friend. I’m not those things but I love that you think I am! Merry Christmas to you and David and the boys….

  15. Gail Sanders Walrath says:

    I loved your story, Jaye. The part that rings truest for me is there is no particular place, time or circumstance to have up a meet-up with God. I think it happens when you are ready; it can’t be like “on-Demand TV”–one click of the button and you have what you wanted (or what you thought you wanted). My story is similar to yours, Jaye, but perhaps more complicated. I actually majored in Christian Education, Religion and Philosophy in a Methodist university. I actually worked in a United Methodist church as a Youth Director for two years when I realized that I was a total hypocrite. (I spent my freetime working on my master’s in counseling at Duke and trying not to examine myself too closely.) The fact is, I was more a of a do-gooder agnostic than a child of God. Did I mention that I was living in an attic apartment? I was a fake and something was missing.I had a long talk with a dear friend, Gertrude Behanna (you may have heard of her book, THE LATE LIZ). Gert told me that I might need to leave what I was doing to find my way. So, I uped and applied to Civil Service, Department of the Army, and went to Vietnam during the middle of the war to counsel destressed soldiers. (We didn’t have the term PTSD back then.) It seems that I had to go halfway around the world to get my mind and beliefs straight. I, not only worked with soldiers, but I volunteered to work in the enemy villages with innocent children and the elderly caught up in the war. When I stopped living each day for me, I felt a higher purpose. I didn’t have a “tapping” experience, but I soon found that I was using my church training with my counseling skills and that I was engaged in pastoral counseling. It fit–it was so sincere. I don’t know the exact day, but one day I understood that God guided me to a situation where my faith was challeneged daily and my talents were used to their fullest. I had no doubt why I was there. I never questioned my faith again. When I left college to “serve God,” I was so full of myself that I sat around waiting to be dubbed “Saint Gail.” I knew the academics of religion, but I had not felt a personal experience with God so that I could serve purely. Finally, in the jungles of Vietnam, I was at peace with my relationship with God. (The key word is “my,” for we all have different experiences as we grow in our faith.) That peace which passeth all understanding was real to me then and is still in my heart today! (Smile) Merry Christmas, Jaye, to you and all those dearest to you!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Gail, I love your story. You do a very good job of describing ‘do-gooder agnostic.’ That’s what I dubbed myself. And told myself. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your story. A blessed Christmas to you and your family!

  16. Jaye, first, thank you for so bravely sharing your experience. Sharing with my daughter, who’s 22 and questioning.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Oh boy, 22 was a tough tough age. I think questioning is good, as long as you stay open. Good luck to her from me. Thank you for sharing it.

  17. Tammy Evans says:

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. It reflects so much of what I have learned over the last 5 or 6 years. It gives me hope that others whom I love will someday find such a relationship with God. I am humbled by your honesty and courage. May God bless you and your family. Merry Christmas.

  18. Charis says:

    Your story (and by that I mean “experience”, not “story”) is beautiful!

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  1. […] Jaye Watson tells a great story about the time God tapped her on the shoulder, trying to get her attention. It worked. Read The Tap […]

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