The baby didn’t sleep last night. His need for me is wearing. I stand in the hallway, exhausted, listening to him whimper in his cot after I place him there. I cup my hands in prayer. The shape they make is at first alien, a relic from childhood rituals when our family attended the mosque each week. There’s still comfort in the motion. A feeling of connection that’s as ancient as time itself.
It’s rare for me to raise my hands or bow to the earth in prayer. I often pause during the chaos of the day to offer a word of gratitude, or lay a hand on the children’s heads with a whisper for grace, but structured prayer is not part of my routine. Yet, in times of need I fall back into prayer as a clay figure fits its mould.
My mother suggested we teach the children a bedtime prayer. It will help them when the world feels dark. Part of me rebels. The world is dark, and it is beautiful too, I want to say. She knows that, and I understand it’s myself I am fighting. We fight the image we have of ourselves. We paper over the cracks. Is prayer an abdication of responsibility, a retreat into ritual, or is it a source of strength?
Photo by Jeffrey
There has always been this contradiction in me. The desire to be comforted at war with the need not to be fooled. For me it is an old struggle. I believe and I doubt, hand in hand. And that is okay. I don’t need a solution. My faith has always been an act of questioning, and yet still, I look around me, and I know, I know that there is more. Science and faith intertwined.
When our daughter was born, my mother told my husband that witnessing the birth of new life would change him, and he would believe. Afterwards, she asked him, did it change you? Yes, he said, but I still don’t believe. It is not for me.
Photo by Alice Popkorn
It is not for him, and there is beauty in difference. It would have seemed hypocritical to me had he joined our religion when we married. What can be more beautiful than being open to others, but staying true to your own compass?
He waits patiently while I light a candle in a church, although I am not Christian. He allows our children to be baptised into a religion that is not his. He understands that we are made of love, as well as cells, and that our identities are building blocks not prisons.
Openness and messy humanness. Intuition and logic. That is the path I choose.