Twenty-some years ago, I was living at Stanford University with my two young boys and my first husband, who was attending graduate school. The weather was perfect all the time. Every day we woke to cloudless skies, 70 degree weather, and no rain in the forecast for several more years.
We were in the middle of a seven-year drought. No matter; this was California. Water still gushed from the faucets, and the university grass stayed strangely green. The boys were finally ensconced in school. For the first time in years I had weekdays to myself. I had no job other than that of book author, with two publishers asking me for draft revisions of my manuscripts. You would think I could be happy.
Instead I walked around campus with a feeling of cold loneliness and dread. Students and professors swirling around me seemed to know what the next step was, the next expected move. I had no idea. I kept writing in my journal, asking God, “What do you want me to DO?”
God answered with the usual unsatisfying short replies: “Be with me.” “Wait.” “Stay with me.”
“Where ARE you?” I begged.
“Margaret, I am with you!” God answered me.
“I can’t see you, I can’t hear you,” I said.
“I am with you, Margaret! I am with YOU. I AM is with you!” God said, over and over.
So it wasn’t God’s absence, really, as much as it was my hollowness that I begged God to fill. Pascal claimed we all have a God-shaped hole in us, didn’t he? Why wouldn’t God fill mine?
One day after closing my journal on a similar exchange in the university library, I walked out and stood on the grand steps, overlooking a completely empty expanse of grounds.
“MARGARET!” I heard a young man almost sing with joy. I didn’t look around immediately, thinking the man was finding the love of his life, just behind me. Silence. No one around. I looked back at the library. Nothing. The voice sounded so familiar.
“MAR-GARET!” This time the young man *was* singing the name. The voice was so intensely happy to greet this fortunate Other Margaret that I felt lonelier than ever. But still, no one was around.
After a few minutes of searching for the voice, I realized with deep shock that it was no one in bodily form. I was still alone, but I could sense that a terribly loving friend was present with me on the library steps, ridiculously happy to find me. Was it an angel, sent by God to sing my name to me? Was it Jesus, singing to his lonely sheep, calling her home to his fiery heart?