I’ve Found God in Padar

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I have always struggled with religion – the arbitrary rules and its many ironies. I’m Catholic by birth, yes, but never by choice. “Kindness is my religion,” I liked to say. “And love.” But suspicious I may be of organized belief systems, I’m less of a cynic when it comes to the idea of God. When I look at the stars and watch the world turn, amazed at how the night sky easily transforms into a roof of gentle blue, it’s quite hard to deny that a greater power is at work. And such was the case during my trip to the island of Padar in Indonesia.

The name rolls of my tongue and, even at this moment, still leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth. Having traveled all over the Philippines I was no stranger to awe-inspiring islands, but Padar was different. For one thing, there was trekking involved. Seeing the winding trail, I thought, "My limbs are made for terrains like this, for inclines and slopes and ridges." The trail was short, but the soil was loose and there was hardly any tree cover. I tell you now, it was all worth it. For there I was, on this particular spot farther up the hill, and I had the strongest urge to look back. And so I did. To my right was Padar's pebbly beach giving way to an aquamarine sea. To my left, two coves – one with pink sands; the other, encroaching less calm waters. Three incredible bays in total, separated by a spine of jagged peaks.

Standing there, on that spot, I took lungfuls of air; each breath an attempt to memorize the details, an effort to shape its intricacies into a string of thoughts I could go over like a rosary.

Oh, how big, how blue, how beautiful.

I was never religious, and I guess I would never be. But when faced with magnificence unfathomable and overwhelming, my belief in God is unfailingly reaffirmed. In the sweet embrace of the island of Padar, the ocean calm, and the sky and the hands of lost loved ones seemingly within reach, I knew there was someone, or some thing, that was larger than life, larger than everything.

God is in the folds of the mountains of that island. There in the deep, deep blue of the bays is a piece of God's soul. You can hear God's voice in the distant lapping of the waves. And in the breeze careening towards you, ruffling your hair, is God saying, "I am here in this very moment, on this very spot, with you."

It's a rare and curious thing when sheer beauty moves you into believing, but when it does, you just know you’re forever changed.

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

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