Inspired in a Bar

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. / – Rumi

Over beers on a first date, the man sitting across from me asked enough questions to unearth the fact that I used to be a minister. Not that I hide the fact, but it’s not something I lead with either because, well, picture a woman in a baggy black robe serving Communion. Not exactly sexy. But this man was intrigued, and he jumped right in with a question:

“How would you explain God?”

Truth be told, I wanted to roll my eyes and pretend I hadn’t heard him, this was not really the sort of light and easy topic I liked to cover on a first date. But instead I smiled and did something only slightly less evasive:

“How would you explain God?” I asked.

“I can’t. That’s why I’m asking an expert.”

He had me there. Not that I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an ordained minister, even though I’ve left fulltime practice, and as such I am capable of talking about divine matters, even though I usually prefer to talk about food. Besides, my date, who had divulged in the first ten minutes that he was a single dad facing a hip replacement at forty-something, seemed like he really was in search of a positive word.

So I took a deep breath and contemplated how to answer his question. After a lifetime in the church, divinity school, and ten years as an ordained minister, I still hadn’t come up with a go-to answer, which depending on how you look at it is either refreshing or lazy, though I like to think it’s the former. Tonight, however, on a barstool in a pub, across from a virtual stranger, my mind emptied out pretty quickly, like a wave rolling back to sea, and in the smooth sand left behind I could see just one word: love.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray,” said Rumi, the Sufi mystic. Whether we call the source of all that love God, or the divine, or the universe, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we listen to what we love and find the courage to follow. It’s easy to get distracted. To mistake another’s truth for your own. To find yourself on a path that doesn’t really feel like yours—a job, a career, a living situation, a relationship that’s no longer a right fit for who you’ve become. But it’s never too late to recalibrate and start listening.

Wherever you are, sit down and and close your eyes. If you’re outside, feel the sun on your skin. Before long your breathing will slow down, and so will your thoughts, and with time or maybe right away, you’ll hear that still small voice inside, bubbling up like a spring from deep within, reminding you who you are, pulling you toward that which you really love. You’ll know it when you hear it because it will feel right. Like warm sun on your cheek. Like the first sip of your favorite drink. Like the perfect kiss.

Which didn’t happened at the end of this date. We hugged goodbye and never saw each other again. Still, I wound up grateful for his unorthodox question. It reminded me that, if we’re open to it, inspiration meets us whenever we open our mind to it. Even on a barstool.