The first time she said those words, suggested to her by an Episcopal priest, Lindsey Crittenden was riddled with misgivings. She didn’t pray or attend church services—she wasn’t even sure she believed in God—but the simple phrase held a soothing power she couldn’t deny. Unlike the prayers of her childhood with their vague references to forgiving trespasses and dying before you wake, this felt solid. I am here was incontestable, certain. You are here confirmed the existence of a world outside herself and eased the knot of isolation Lindsey had been carrying with her since the day her brother died.
She soon found that she couldn’t pray enough. She spoke to God; she questioned God; and as a result, she came to a deeper understanding of herself and the world around her. Prayer opened Crittenden up to the present and to those around her. It gave her strength when her mother, and then her father, became ill, and when her late brother’s young son became increasingly hers to care for. But when a relationship went sour, prayer abandoned her. Or so it seemed, until she learned the most important lesson of all.
Poignant, personal, and surprisingly honest, The Water Will Hold You is a skeptic’s story as much as it is a believer’s story. It explores the power of the ineffable through a compelling narrative of family, loss, and love. Lindsey Crittenden has emerged as a fresh new voice with a message to cross spiritual and religious lines: Faith is constant discovery.
Ten years ago Crittenden walked timidly into an Episcopal church in Berkeley, Calif. Overwhelmed with grief, she needed something to sustain her. Therapy had helped her deal with her beloved younger brother's death, but it was not enough. A priest suggested prayer. In this exquisitely written memoir, she traces her experience of prayer from hesitant beginnings "I left 'God' out of it, as I repeated the simple statement. 'You are here, I am here' " to regular, disciplined practice. Prayer, she told an uncle, was like writing. "If I waited for inspiration, I'd never write a word.... I had to make prayer a habit, to go to it the way I went each morning to the desk. Not to summon prayer, but to tap into what was already there." Crittenden, whose essay on her mother's death appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing 2004, faced repeated bereavement as she learned to trust God, herself and others. Nowadays, she writes, "being in community holds me like a trapeze harness for sailing out over the void." Fans of Nora Gallagher and Patricia Hampl will welcome her narrative of spiritual exploration and discovery.