When I first came to The Road Episcopal Service Corps, I viewed God as a brilliant, essential puzzle piece, the final piece in a dazzling puzzle of my life. Not only would my life be incomplete without this final piece, but the piece couldn’t be placed until all my other pieces were in order: a clean heart, good works, vast knowledge. I imagined God lurking in the wings, waiting for me to get my act together before revealing God’s “divine plan,” or congratulating me on “getting it right.” I knew that God loved me unconditionally, but I didn’t think God was proud of me. I imagined God frustrated with me, clucking His tongue and wondering when I was going to figure it all out. I imagined myself as the Prodigal Son, trying to find my way back home, and God the loving father, eagerly waiting for me with his view towards the horizon.

But this year has really helped me to understand God as a companion. One Friday a priest came to visit us and showed us the Good Shepherd Godly Play story. I was really struck by the image of the Shepherd going back for the lost sheep, not just waiting for her by the stable, but looking for her in the “dark, scary places,” and picking her up and carrying her back to the flock.

I see God companioning those I love at Church of the Common Ground. Whenever Common Ground gets together, we have a traditional to say our names aloud, to claim our Belovedness by calling out our names the way God does. And I see God calling to my friends at Church of the Common Ground all the time. They continually find things to praise God for and continue to strive to do God’s work despite their circumstances. I have received the warmest hugs, the heard most sincere thanksgivings and experienced the deepest belly laughs from the men and women who have found God in the “dark, scary places.” My dear friends are able to see God right now, in the complicated, messy moments of the present. They don’t strive to build a perfect picture where they think God should fit in. I know God is working in their lives not because their lives have all the comforts of mine, but because their lives don’t and they still find reasons to rejoice.

This year, we have learned about so many atrocities happening in our community—mass incarceration, institutional racism, socioeconomic discrimination. It’s easy for me to get discouraged when I hear of Grady losing funding or young men getting murdered by the state. I try to find God working there, too. I listen for prophetic voices speaking out, for small joys in these horrible circumstances. I keep my heart open to the ways in which God is calling my name to act. I don’t wait for God to be in the triumphs, but look for the signs that God is right here, right now. Being able to recognize God’s “right hand holding me fast,” even in those failures and heartbreaks, is the greatest discovery I have made this year. Recognizing God’s companionship has given me courage, even in “dark, scary places” to agree with Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, all shall be well. In all manner of things, all shall be well.”