Finding Inner Peace through Window of Hope. (Paths to Peace Spirituality)

By Gaines, Patrice | National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2002 | Go to article overview

Finding Inner Peace through Window of Hope. (Paths to Peace Spirituality)


Gaines, Patrice, National Catholic Reporter


By the time I reached the door of the monastery in Berryville, Va., it had been years since I had spent a summer in jail for possession of heroin. I had survived three rapes and one abortion. I had become a good mother to my daughter, an author and a Washington Post reporter. Instead of shooting dope to cope with life, I prayed, meditated and read the inspirational words of others.

Yet on that wintry Saturday morning in 1990, I was having difficulty sustaining my peace. What haunted me was what always drove away peace. I was doubting my worth. Who am I? I asked. Am I so bad that God is punishing me?

In 11 months, seven people I loved had died. My father died on the same day that a good friend died of AIDS. The next month, an old friend died from an overdose of heroin. Two days before Christmas my childhood best friend died after a liver transplant. A week later the tenant who rented my house while I was away in school died of AIDS. Then before the anniversary of my father's death, two young men I loved dearly, men who were like brothers to me, also died of AIDS.

Overwhelmed by grief

I was overwhelmed by grief. My insides quivered. I was one heartbeat away from insanity.

I knew I would never turn to drugs. What stopped me was everything I learned in my journey toward peace. At the root of my problems had been self-hatred. I hated myself because I was black and female and because I thought my father did not love me.

In my early 20s, I rejected any belief in a Supreme Being. This was because the world seemed to say to me: "God is white." As a victim of the racist attitudes that prevailed at the time, I concluded that I, a young black woman, could not possibly be loved by a white God. I handled my fear that this could be true by rejecting God.

And yet there came a day when I realized I needed to believe in something. I was pregnant by a man who raped me and rejected by another man I thought loved me. I was unemployed and ashamed. I chose abortion as a way out, and this compounded my shame. In this condition, believing I was unlovable and that life on earth was a horrible existence, I decided I either had to commit suicide or believe there was a purpose for my life, and a Supreme Being who loved me despite anything I did.

I chose to live and in doing so, I also chose to reject the God of my upbringing, the one who seemed white and believed in vengeance. I fashioned my own definition of God, one that gave me a deep, inner sense of quiet. God was neither white nor black nor of any race. God was neither female nor male, I concluded.

Perhaps this one decision gave me more peace than any other I've made in my life. My shift in perspective or consciousness changed everything. …

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