A dear friend recently said to me “I don’t know if I can believe in God anymore.”
She said there is just too much evidence that a supreme being has checked out, or never existed – or worse – is dead.
“The whole ‘God is love’ thing is a crock,” said she. To which I agreed. “There’s too much suffering,” she continued, selling past the close. Her heart was in distress.
God is love has been embedded in us, we are taught nothing less all our lives, and where does that leave our idea of love those times we feel thrown to the wolves?
So I asked her:
“If you cannot believe that God is Love,” I replied. “Can you believe that LOVE is actually GOD?”
There is no denying that Love itself exists.
It swirls around us, and flows through happenstance and doubt, overcoming both.
It is in every hug, good wish, faithful intention. It is being seen. It is being valued. It is in valuing others.
It is sitting with the hurting, grieving alongside them so they are not lonely.
It is miracles, yes; but it is also in pain. Love often piggybacks on pain.
If your cognitive dissonence disallows you your old belief system, can you worship love and live by the tenants of a loving life?
Not just your understanding of love, but the truth that it is the force behind the details in the microcosm and glory in the vastness of the cosmos. That love?
Love itself is God. When app other things pass away, it’s still standing, open-armed.
Because whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – go towards that. Be willing to get messy with it. Spread that stuff everywhere. Dole it out like there is a never-ending supply. (Because there is.)
When you find manifestations of love, you will find a God who won’t tell you he’s running out for cigarettes, only to never return. Or say he’ll give you something to cry about. Or any of the other hurtful things human fathers do.
Yes, we are raised being told that God is love, but we have been taught incompletely. We are the incarnation of God on earth. When living out love has a heretical flavor, it’s time to take another look at ourselves.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by the “church. Perhaps you have trauma. “God is love” not ringing true to you as a whole? Old Testament giving you wrathful vibes of a vengeful overlord?
I understand. But can you believe in LOVE my friend?
Love that will sit in that dark hole with you, because it’s not allergic to our shadow selves.
Love that comforts the broken.
Love as a force that rises to meet the victim.
Love as the catalyst for every simple contact we have for the hurting.
Where there is confusion, it’s the thing we can hang our hats on.
Where there is bigotry, it’s the force that overcomes.
Oh yes. I believe that all things loving and lovely, and pure of intention, are of God.
And that includes US!
I wish you peace, joy, and comfort today, dear reader. I wish you rest in a safe, warm Source of Love.
“If you are spiritually deconstructing, you never knew Jesus in the first place.”
I hear this refrain over and over again. It’s the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who is rebuilding a faith life, because it requires no questions asked. A quick, pat explanation to justify one’s traditional beliefs that people who deconstruct are fallen. Deceived.
No fuss, no muss. Easy-peasy. If you are questioning the inerrancy of the Bible, you were never a “believer” in the first place. Which is both harshly judgmental – and frankly – nobody’s call to make about someone else’s person’s personal faith.
But that would be a wildly assumptive dismissal, because it’s for my love of Jesus I began questioning.
It’s because Jesus is SO real to me that I started this journey.
Either Jesus was who he said he was, or he wasn’t.
Either God is a god of warring, or of peace.
Either God is a god of unconditional love, or none at all.
Either God is a just god, or a corrupt one.
Either “it is finished,” or it is not.
And that’s far more important to me than believing a grown-ass man was swallowed by a whale and lived three days in its body “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
We learn the Old Testament stories in Vacation Bible School, right out of the gate. Horror stories.
Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, only to have God say just kidding! Just had to make sure you would snuff out the life of the child you prayed so long for, and I rewarded you with. Is God manipulative, or loving?
The nature of God is not – in my travails – sending a catastrophic flood to drown all of his creation – excepting one family he deemed righteous. For that righteous man who would later get drunk and have sex with his daughters to propagate the species (with even more beings that God knew good and damn well would also become corrupt in their humanity.)
I no longer believe it, because of the teachings of Jesus himself. The Bible contradicts itself in the most dangerous way, because it teaches that you’d better get your belief system right OR. ELSE. It’s the ultimate test of “getting it right.” And we humans are not so good at getting things right, as a general rule.
Does that sound like Jesus to you? Examine the humanity of Jesus; not just the divinity.
I am not at all anti-Bible. I am Bible-in-context of history and allegory. And the grace and justice and righteous table-turning of Jesus? I am definitely “pro” that.
“I guess you’ll find out when you die and spend eternity broiling in Hell,” they say, when you deconstruct.
To which I say, the Jesus I study and know is not about eternal conscious torment. “Turn or Burn” is loaded with law, as opposed to grace.
“You can question God about “x” but never “y.” and CERTAINLY not “z.” they tout.
Except that you can, because it’s the nature of humanity. And every good relationship requires excellent communication, why would this be any different?
I have no desire to throw “the baby out with the bathwater” – Jesus out with the organized religion. Lo, I say unto thee, in my quest of soul-searching, he came out on top.
“Love one another,” says he. And everything else he ever says orbits around that one concept.
So question, child of God. Let the Holy Spirit roam around free-range in your soul, unconstrained by thousands of years of human dogma, politics, and legalism. Ask the Spirit to show you what is true and what matters most in the ancient book. Sit with the Spirit as Jesus sat with his disciples, just chillin’ with the homies. Just BEING; not striving.
Oh, I did know Jesus “in the first place,” but not as I know him now.
Not as part of a Jekyll and Hyde spiritual pairing. Not as one whom I will have to hide behind when I get to Heaven, so as not to upset the father with my humanity. Not as one whose grace hinges on us “getting it right.”
But as One with us, whole in love; full of grace. One who sits with me in my darkest hour. One who set the example of turning the other cheek and made repeated declarations that “the greatest of these is LOVE.”
I attended an Indigo Girls concert with a dear friend Friday evening. We had a blast! I didn’t think I was going to able to go at all, so I was thrilled to be there. But by the time I drove back home, I was in severe pain.
Some of us chronic illness patients are in some degree of pain 24/7. I’ve had to learn to conduct life with it, love with it, laugh with it, function with it.
People have alluded that we couldn’t POSSIBLY be in THAT MUCH pain so often. A person with chronic pain couldn’t possibly get dressed every day, or enjoy a comedy, or maintain relationships in the misery of constant pain.
But we certainly cannot writhe around on the floor screaming in agony 24/7. We want to, but we can’t, because after the writhing and fit-throwing, guess what? There is STILL pain – infuriatingly, but there is also still life to be had.
I have had too many tantrums to count, over the years, and I reserve the right to have others when applicable. They can be cathartic. But it’s not a sustainable mindset.
At some point you have to stop writhing and crying. The world goes on, and so must you.
So we learn to mask, and we mask the pain constantly; because life requires us to in order to function in society. We have families to take care of, and friendships to give attention. We have chores and duties.
It’s unfair in EVERY level to all parties involved.
But I see no benefit to being Pollyanna about my health – if I’m not transparent with y’all, who does that help?
So I write about it a lot – it’s 4:30 in the morning and I have tears of frustration in my eyes, and it’s the loneliest feeling I’m the world to be in my own body right now. Writing about it releases some of the pressure in my mind.
Just in case any of my chronic pain friends are also up at 4:30 in the morning ina fetal position, fighting nausea, or just feeling alone… please know you’re not alone.
I see you, I hear you, and I love you.
Better days will come – I know because I had one Friday. Sometime I even have a few in a row!
It’s the assuredness that on another day, there will be one more day trip with My Beloved. One more awesome concert. One more beach day. One more delicious meal (when I can eat.) In other words – much like working my recovery program – it’s done one single day at a time.
Invisible illnesses exist. People who don’t look sick can be very, very sick. Always be more kind than usual to folks, please. You never know what another human is going through. Love. ❤️
If we are eternal creatures having a physical experience for an allotment of years on Earth, it begs the question:
Why have a physical experience at all? Especially with all the heartbreak and tragedy raging all around us. What’s the value in being here?
No matter how crazy life gets, I truly believe there is purpose in our being Earth-side. And I recognize that having a human experience enables us to experience things others in the spiritual realm may not.
Take chocolate, for example. Do angels eat chocolate? We do. It’s delicious.
When they hear Led Zeppelin, so they feel the music in their physical bones? We can. (And it’s like climbing a stairway to Heaven!)
We have thunderstorms so rumbly, you feel the thunder in your chest.
Literal water falls from the sky, on the regular. That’s some legit Garden of Eden stuff there.
Water is one of my favorite parts of being human. How would we appreciate the Living Water that is our Creator, had we not known the concepts of thirst and satiation?
We can climb trees that have their own intelligence, and admire flowers that God didn’t need to make so pretty, but did.
We get to host the lives of other sentient beings – little furry forever friends. We get our faces kissed with slobber, and benefit from the vibrations of a purr, and although I know pets go to Heaven, I’m grateful for their pretense in this intense world.
We have telescopes to remind us how small we are, and microscopes to show us how intricately we are put together; for we are made of divine love, and stardust.
We have books – vast volumes of human history and human frivolity, ours for the ingesting.
And we have tacos, y’all. In all the universe, we get to enjoy tacos!
Best of all, we have one another. That’s really something – relationships. Just two Earthlings who took a shine to each other and become friends for life. What? That’s crazy! And I love it.
We have such grace and grief, both; double-edged swords that clear the rubbish of human drudgery to make room for the fruits of the Spirit.
If you are living under skin and over bone, you are on a quest. Get excited.
The world – even with its trials and tragedies – is one God so loves. It’s messy and painful and sometimes I’m not sure why he loves it. but I’m certain it’s loved because look around us.
May we find love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in our human experience.
Better yet, while we are questing, may we BE love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And May the angels and eternal beings on the other side cheer us on as we throw down the gauntlet, anxious with anticipation.
When you were a child, you weren’t allowed to exist as that very basic thing – a child. And so you didn’t know how to play without furrowed brows and anxiety for the longest time.
Look at you now, playful and free, laughing at the most juvenile humor imaginable. Look at you doing things just for the sake of FUN!
And sweet friend, I know you have suffered life-altering trauma and faced circumstances so devastating, you would have deemed it unsurvivable, had you known it was coming.
You thought, “well, I’d never be able to survive that – anything but THAT – God forbid it ever happened!”
But God didn’t forbid it.
And you’re still standing.
Remember when you let other people define you? A lifetime of stuffing your own feelings out of reverence for the OTHER person? As if you deserve no reverence for yourself?
Sisters, the Universe reveres you; surely you can do the same. Surely you can find that your worth is equal to the ones you make feel worthy.
Your own definition of you is the only opinion that matters in the least. Isn’t that ironic?
For a while, you were bitter; an undercurrent of constant anger running in the background of your ether, which is MOST “un-ladylike” of you.
Patriarchal pish-posh, I say.
Look at you now, with an open heart so cavernous as to swallow up the whole broken world into a wild love, and spit out the bitterness. You’re slaying it like a freaking LADY, and a badass one at that.
They tried to hijack your newfound happiness because misery loves company and you’ve SO over the weeping and gnashing of teeth bit. That’s hard for miserable people to accept – that you have the audacity to let things go.
Yes, now here you are. Has anyone bothered to read you the scoresheet?
You have made it through 100% of the heartbreaks, rejections, and tragedies you have EVER experienced.” That takes some doin’!
You are part of a mighty Sisterhood! Link arms with me and let’s meander through this crazy world together – a place of radical silliness, a penchant for overcoming, and self-acceptance.
A friend I admire very much recently posted a prayer request, shortly followed by this sentiment: “Don’t bother to pray for me if you’re sending good vibes, good intentions, positive energy, etc. only God can heal me.”
It made me sad for her.
Although I am actually inclined to agree with her ALL healing comes from Source. Powers of darkness ain’t gonna heal you because you asked “the wrong way,” because darkness doesn’t heal. Ever. It can’t.
You’re either getting your healing from God or not at all, no matter how woo-woo your friends pray for you.
But advising your friends who may believe differently than you who are wanting to transfer light, love, and healing to you to “please don’t, unless you’ll do it the right way,”
It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when you consider that prayer IS “focused attention” – another human being imploring goodness and healing and mercy over you from the one Power who can handle it.
I’m religious circles, we call that “speaking life” over someone. And it seems a pity to reject how ever one can best send love and light for a letter-of-the-law incantation approved by the church proper.
Eastern religions have a much better grasp on this concept. We, on the other hand, almost take a Christmas Nationalist stand about it. “By GOD there is ONE way to pray for me and the Bible CLEARLY says how to do it, so don’t come in here with your weirdo ideas, which are surely demonic, since I don’t understand it.”
When we eschew good intentions that loving people bestow on us because their way of loving us is considered sub-par to your own religion, it’s a loss.
If “good vibes” won’t heal you according to your theology, where do you assume such vibes originate? Where would good, loving intentions for you come from exactly?
When we throw away their manifestations of love for us because they use the word “energy” rather “than prayer.” … we are losing something very important. The humanity of ourselves, and by proxy, the humanity of Jesus.
You are petitioning the Highest Power that exists in the entire universe for MY healing and wellbeing. And if you do so while on your knees, or with a pretty rocks in hand (even the rocks cry out, remember?) I would be honored.
In conclusion, and with a nod to Dr. Dre (wait, I mean Dr. SEUSS:)
As an adolescent, I was terrified of “making purple.”
Those of you in the evangelical world know that kids in youth group are warned on mission trips (lock-ins, religious rallies, the woods behind the church, etc. and so on) to not fool around with boys if you’re a girl, and girls if you were a boy. Blue + pink = purple (get it?) Many a time, a youth leader has been driving a bus full of kids and said, “SHOW OF HANDS!” and all the teens would have to lift their hands to show their hands were not in places they shouldn’t be. Purple places, I guess.
And of course, they weren’t in the wrong for monitoring the kids. They are liable and it is not the occasion for those kind of shenanigans. It’s the subversive idea that your sexual purity determines your worth as a young woman that bothers me.
The youth group I attended (religiously) as a teenager was quite the circus. I was a hand-wringing thinker of deep thoughts, and I wanted answers. At one point, I made an appointment with the senior pastor, (who was later revealed to be having affairs with three women in the congregation, Oh, the irony!) to talk about predestination. What I would later learn is severe anxiety propelled me to find answers, and I couldn’t let it go. I’ve always been a seeker. Plus also, I was scared to death of Hell, so I needed to know these things.
I also carried a Bible to high school with me every day, like an amulet. It served the dual purposes of making me feel holy, and keeping the “bad kids” away, lest I be tempted. I also wore a ring to signify my purity to remind me that I didn’t want to lose value as a woman by fooling around. How awful that is to me now.
All I knew was that the human heart is deceitful above all things – never trust it. And to love yourself? Sacrilege! That’s vanity and placing yourself over God, you dirty heretic. Jesus said to love everyone, but throughout 2,000 years of human dogma, a long litany of stipulations had been applied to loving self.
“That’s an awfully big question,” the pastor said at our appointment. And then he launched into a diatribe about how God chooses who will make the cut BEFORE you are even born. This was very disturbing information. Was I behaving for nothing? “But everyone gets a choice,” he continued. It made zero sense whatsoever but who was I to question? Questioning was especially egregious and rebellious.
I can tell you now, loving yourself is NOT a sin. In fact, it’s essential. You need to have the ability to be tender with yourself, which requires love. And these days, Love is quite literally my religion – I am learning to love myself and actively loving and accepting others.
I will say that I don’t believe “hooking up” habitually is good for the mind and spirit. But you do you, Boo. To each their own. It’s enough to take my own spiritual inventory; I surely cannot take yours.
But purity culture? I instilled that in my own daughters from an early age, as it was instilled in me. In retrospect, it’s janky. Not because teens having sex is a good thing, but because I basically taught my daughters without realizing it that a substantial part of their value hinged on being “pure” for your future husband. Not that I myself made it that far, I did not. (I discovered alcohol, which was a game changer, and is an entirely other story for another time.)
It’s the self-worth factor that ires me. You must stay pure, and none of my kids – all adults now – ended up that way, by the church’s standards.) The message that you are a commodity that has value, but your value can be reassessed if you do naughty things. Again, it seems so obviously wrong now.
The boys are told not to engage but are not held to the same standards at all. Where’s their purity rings? Where’s their chastisement? No bueno. Can you say “Patriarchy Jr?” (And yes, I have apologized to my daughters.)
I know this firsthand because in tenth grade, the youth leader for the church I attended – who had adamantly told us never to watch “The Breakfast Club,” because it was of the devil – had the idea to host a lock-in at the church that was also a TOGA PARTY. Yes, a toga party. We wore SHEETS to the lock-in, because what could possibly go wrong? Hoo boy. These kids definitely needed monitoring!
Animal House had nothing on our group.
I was so terrified of sinning, I sat in the sanctuary for most of the event. But many kids in the gathering space were a’sinnin’. The youth leader fell asleep around 11 pm, and (surprise!) the kids did not.
It ended up being a big scandal, because when parents found out what happened that night, they raised holy Hell. Lots of my friends got in trouble for doing things in the sheets IN THEIR SHEETS. We had a whole youth meeting to address the Purple and prayed the lust away for an hour. Or that was the idea.
And it was then that the seedlings of faith in the church started to grow in wonky. Because the way the church proper took on things was contradictory. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Or worse, ‘do as I say because I have the inside skinny on God.’
Still, I would cling to the church for another 30 + years because FEAR. Oh my God I was so afraid to trip up. That people-pleasing follows me around still to this day, if I don’t do my shadow work.
Churches are just made of people – many well-intentioned. They are trying to save other souls from eternal conscious torment (that a “loving” God doles out if your ticket isn’t stamped “Pre-destined” because they TRULY believe we are all bound for Hell at birth. And this is confusing because they very often DO care and harbor no ill will. They, like I was, are mired in the letter of the law.
But to paraphrase with the vernacular of youths today (and I’ll write about what I believe the issue of Hell later,) that shit cray. Also, I CAN’T EVEN anymore with the religiousness. I seem to be acquiring a repulsion of all things church that are not of Jesus. Like, on a primal level. “That’s NOT what he said!” I want to shout. “That’s not what he was about!”
I’m not saying sin isn’t a big deal. I’m just saying love is a bigger deal.
And I want to be what Jesus WAS about. I don’t want to follow rules of an ancient text. I want to accept all and love all. Period.
Truly, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater though. I’m keeping my Jesus, because what you cannot learn from an entity like the modern church, you can feel in your bones. Yes, I know it sounds woo-woo, but we are equipped with spirits conjoined with Christ, he is already there, you don’t have to carry a Bible everywhere you go or bruise your knees hollerin’ on the floor of a prayer room. You are already destined for glory, even here as we travel Earth-side. This revelation is EVERYTHING.
Plus, Jesus came pre-installed in my hard drive before I was born. That was a really nice service he provides for us ALL, as redeemer of all.
And that, my friends, is part of the long and winding road that is this journey. Placing purity over people. Putting the kibbutz on shame and guilt of past mistakes, while showing yourself grace in the future. It’s doing the ultimate reassessment of you value through the eyes of a loving God. It’s revelation of identity.
Since opening my mind and learning to trust that conjoined Spirit, I realize that the church is just wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them – or the Me of six years ago – bad people. They are just doing what I did as a young mother and for most of my life, a self-proclaimed Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry about all the lies filtered down for ages, but I’m starting to see that it would be really easy for me to fall into giving the anger a permanent home in my heart, as I feel so deceived. That’s the very heart Jesus inhabits. If I am unkind to people in the church, I am no better than when I was a raging fundamentalist with nationalist leanings and an evangelical bent. (Oof. That smarts!)
I pray that the pain of your upbringing and living in religiosity is quelled. I pray that you break off the shackles of believing you are inherently “bad.” I hope you find safe friends to walk this out with you, and that you too try to remain kind to all. And I pray that you learn to love yourself, as you deserve.
Purity culture is really about finding out you are already pure in the sight of God.
My first exposure to religion was as a child was church, like most folks. My grandparents, who had custody of me for a while, were very religious people.
Religion is confusing because it really looks so dissimilar to what I now practice, but it was even more confusing as a kid. In the Baptist church we attended, red was the predominant color. The pews were red. The carpet was red. The embellishments on the pastor’s robe were crimson, as was the cloth over the altar. Still when I let my mind wander back, red is all I see.
Red is what I associate with church, and also sitting still in “big church,” and watching the grown-ups line up to eat the body and blood of Jesus, which was not alarming at ALL to a five year old. I was not allowed to partake. I must be too bad to participate in this ritual.
“It’s because of the blood of Christ,” I learned at Sunday School. The red signifies blood, and to a child who was afraid of her own shadow and full of anxiety, that really tripped me up.
Then I learned it is because I was so bad that I needed to bleed Jesus dry. And that he did it for me, because my heart was deceitful about all things. The Little children who worshipped may have been “red and yellow, black and white,” but it was because of the blood that we are precious in his sight. Every single person was born bad…. a sinner.
Was I a sinner? I did sneak a Mr. Goodbar from my grandmother’s secret candy stash drawer. Also, I really loved music. Did I love music more than God? You must love God more than ANYTHING. And if I did love music and climbing trees and eating candy more, did that mean I didn’t love God enough? Did that blood not cover me? What about the time I told my grandfather “no” when he asked me to do something?
And again, every week, I’d traipse down the hall of the church to Sunday School, excited for the crafts and terrified of the blood.
I learned a lot of things in church through the years. Multiple denominations. I’ve attended many a covered-dish dinner, and youth group activities. But it was what I observed, not was taught, that did the damage. It has taken me years to say the words “religious trauma” in the same sentence. It sounds awfully dramatic, unless you’ve had it instilled in you from birth and it’s all you know. And unless you were born with the anxiety level of a gerbil on crack naturally, and ergo: Your faith naturally becomes FEAR BASED.
Love everyone, but don’t be “yoked” with unbelievers. Yes, even though Jesus chose to yolk-out with the undesirables of his day. Don’t bother asking about this hypocrisy, because questioning God is tantamount to signing your own passport to Hell.
And Hell is what kept us all reined in, because it gets really hot in Houston in the summertime, but HELL IS HOTTER. And it’s forever. It’s suffering forever, so get your sh*t together, chir’ren!
And you must learn the “word of God,” i.e., the Bible. Never mind that the Word is actually a person, and not a historical text translated and translated again, and written by sinners just like you. But again, don’t question it.
Learn all the Old Testament Bible stories at Vacation Bible School! Here’s a synopsis of the acts of a “loving God” that I learned in church:
God-sanctioned gruesome deaths and horrific murders in his name. Including the death of infants. I learned that sometimes God tells you to murder a person you love more than anything because he is testing your faith. Yikes.
He caused a flood to “reset” the world with good people, all the while drowning hundreds of thousands of souls who didn’t make the cut. All the animals too, except for the ones on the ark.
“Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were the rules, except buying and selling human beings as “servants” was sanctioned, and how they should be treated by their “masters” was also covered. So being either a slave or a master was completely justified.
Oh sure. They START with Jonah and the whale, because who doesn’t love marine animals? And camping out in a fish til you learn your lesson is much preferable to many of the other stories I learned. Those stories were:
Misogyny. Human sacrifice. Sexual violence. Infanticide. Genocide.
God caused a bear to maul 42 children, although admittedly, I didn’t learn this until middle school when I was already afraid to exist, so bears were whatever by then.
I kept finding out how harsh the Creator of the Universe is, yet how incredibly loving and inclusionary Jesus is. But they are the same person. So figure it out, kid.
In short, everything that Jesus was NOT, God was.
Jesus is who I called on when there was violence in my home. And there was, a lot. He was who I wanted on my team when I disappointed God. I could imagine getting to Heaven and spending the entire hereafter hiding from God behind Jesus’ robe, on account of surely he will smite me.
Even as a youngster, I fell in love with this Jesus, who caused the crimson tide in church, but also gathered the little children around him.
He had stern words for the religious of the day, which is REALLY confusing, because the religious are who I was taught to look up to. Jesus was hugs and kindness, while God was retribution and violence.
Jesus is who I conjured even when I was three, as one of my first memories illustrates. My parents were screaming at one another, and I hid in my toybox, shoving aside the toys and making myself small.
But I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew that kind and compassionate Jesus was hiding with me. I just knew that I knew, and I didn’t feel alone. I still never feel alone because I feel his spirit.
And I knew the God figure who was stuffed into a toybox with me giving me my first taste of spiritual peace, was not into mauling babies via bears or drowning his own creation.
Our religion, however, was about practicing 10 rules, being at the church every time the doors were open, excluding people who didn’t believe like we did to keep ourselves spiritually “safe,” and joining committees as adults.
So the genesis of my faith has been reconciling a belief system that never worked for me, because the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God, just in vastly different moods because of something called a covenant. God is in a much better mood in the latter, even as it is draped and ensconced in red, focused on blood and sin; and making sure you presented a Christian front to everyone “worldly,” (even as not really following the creed of Jesus at all.)
It’s easy to lose the Jesus in the rituals and rules.
That’s not my faith anymore.
Hi. My name is Jana and I am a follower of Christ. I am still in love with him and try (and often fail) to emulate his actions instead of striving endlessly to please a God who – let’s be honest – cannot be pleased.
I’ve been threatening to write about my deconstruction / reconstruction experience (including the banishment of a literal “Hell,” inclusionary salvation, and all sort of other things I thought would doom my soul when I was younger.)
I used to pray for good parking spots, and HALLELUJAH in praise, as holy-rolled into my divine space at Target. Obviously, I’m super spiritual.
Why, just last week I won $5 on a scratch-off lotto ticket AND I caught that clearance sale at Kohls and the dress was just my size!
*Shaking my head.*
That was my theology… “I can do ALL things through Christ, who – before the foundation of the universe – willed me to receive shallow, trivial things to prove his majesty to me.
God is eithera benevolent dude who puts his pants on one leg at a time like all the rest of us and is moving heaven and earth to make sure you get that good parking space,
God is a cosmic force who knows all like omnipotent Santa Clause, spinning celestial bodies in perfect orbit, and from his mighty throne, waits to call you out on your peasant misdeeds.
God is like Jesus.
Passing out grace in scandalously copious fashion, all sweet and willy-nilly. Like honey, it sticks to everything and the sweetness cuts the bitterness of everything else in life.
Maybe God isn’t a “sky daddy,” reigning from a throne in there heavens. Perhaps he sits on the actual thrones that we know as our human hearts.
And if that’s true (and I know it is because my soul keeps elbowing me in the ribs to make sure I’m paying attention,) that changes EVERYTHING.
I’m not sure I believe God cares which parking spot I get anymore, and that can seem like a loss of faith when you’ve been begging God for things all your life – from parking spots to healing my illness which has no cure, to fixing my despair.
But it’s not a loss. I’ve learned God is just like Jesus. And Jesus is Love. By association, we are Love too.
And this is how 1 Corinthians 13 has revealed itself to me:
Love never gives up, not even when you can imagine no way out of the pain.
Love cares more for others than for self, and shows it.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. It in itself is plenty.
Love doesn’t have a swelled head, it is a pouring out, not a showing-off.
Love doesn’t strut; it’s prowess doesn’t say “look at me!” but reflects in a humbling contemplation.
Love doesn’t force itself on others, spreading the dry-bone, legalistic “gospel” for the sake of evangelizing.
It is rarely “me first,” but rather “how can I be of service?”
Love doesn’t fly off the handle, but keeps its calm.
Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, even when we are really sure someone deserves their comeuppance.
Love doesn’t revel when others grovel, it shall always be preeminent.
Love is pleasure in the flowering of truth.
It puts up with anything,
Love trusts its Source.
Love never looks back, it lives in h the now.
Love looks for the best, especially when nobody else can seem to find it.
Love keeps going to the end;
Way past the parking lot.
Long after our Earth Suits are finally healed.
Continuing until we are one with the celestial bodies in perfect orbit…
I am watching “Intervention,” which is a great series, but very heavy subject matter. I watch a lot of TV when I’m having a high-pain day. I used to feel guilty about watching TV in the middle of the day, because AYYYYYY! If I can feel guilty about something, I’m going to glom on to that shit. It’s familiar to me. But I’m learning to go easier on myself.
I watch Intervention because I admire interventionists, recovery is an incredible journey, and I’m a huge fan of observing “what makes people tick.” Psychology fascinates me. And mostly, I love the show because some folks rise from the ashes like a phoenix, and that stuff is inspiring.
Intervention hits especially hard because I’m an alcoholic. It’s been 22 years since my last drink.
When I got sober, I didn’t think it would “stick” but I just kept NOT having a drink that day. And then the next day, always eternally promising myself I would not drink today.
I now have 8,066 days alcohol-free. That’s a miracle.
I wish everyone got their miracle. I truly believe it’s possible for everyone. Not on the other side of this life, but IN this one. And I don’t know why I made it out of active alcoholism while many do not. It’s easy to feel survivor’s guilt about it. But that’s a blog post for another day.
On January 2, 2001, I took my last drink. I was turning yellow. My body was demanding alcohol by every day’s end. But when I would drink, my body would also reject the alcohol, in a most unpleasant and projectile manner.
And nobody knew how much I was drinking. I mean, NO one. So the shame factor was tremendous.
I was trying to drown Trauma that knew how to swim like Michael Phelps, without even knowing that’s what I was doing.
When I first got sober, it was on this brand new technology – the INTERNET! The support group was “Alcoholism in Women” AOL. Yep. America Online, people.
I’d like to write about that experience (maybe later this week?) Recovery puts you in a vulnerable place. One of those ladies is still a dear friend to this day. But some of them didn’t make it out.
Some of those precious, strong, beautiful souls lost their lives to alcohol. It’s heartbreaking.
As far as I can tell, the purpose for making it through something hard is to help someone else get through something hard. That’s why I’m open about why I don’t drink.
At the end of each episode of Intervention, there is a segment that shows whether or not the addict chooses to get help, and usually includes a short follow up. Some refuse help outright. Some go but don’t take advantage fully of the help.
But some of them – many – get their new start. They grab onto it with both hands, with the same passion they had for their drug (which is what it takes,) and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Makes my heart soar!
That’s what I wish for every addict and alcoholic. It’s possible for all of us, but we have to be willing to do anything to keep healthy.
If you are drinking more than anyone knows, If you feel hopeless and full of shame, If you cannot imagine your life improving vastly, If you think you’ve really blown it this time, If your heart is raw from a lifetime of trauma, If you wonder if you’re worth it…
You’re in the PERFECT place to claim a new life.
If you’re at the end of your rope, grab on to the knot – help and support – and it will become a ladder that leads you into a new life.
Recovery is so flippin’ Beautiful and REAL. And it’s perfect for YOU. It’s not for other people, it’s for you. So that you can have the life you deserve.
I think of my AOL sisters from time to time; the ones who didn’t make it out. I wonder where they would be now, if they just didn’t pick up a drink that day. I suspect at the heart of it, they didn’t believe they were worthy of a better, sober life.
So I’m just writing this today to tell you that you’re worth it.
Please out resources and help. There is no shame in asking for help. And do whatever it takes to live the recovery life. Glom onto it, obsess about recovery just as you have the drink.
We already know how to be obsessed; find out what switching obsessions can do for you (and the people who love you.)
Find out what truly makes YOU tick, because I guarantee you’re fascinating in ways you don’t even know yet. I’ll bet you’ve forgotten who you truly are, while in your addiction. Life is hard, but also so good. I promise. You can do this.
Good night / day, friends. What do you think about when you can’t sleep?
It is 4:30 in the morning, and I got up to pee about 2 long hours ago.
I am still awake because THOUGHTS. Here is a short list of things my mind decides to entertain in the stone-fold middle of the night:
1. I worry about my kids, especially in the wee hours of the morn. I worry for them individually and as a whole. I worry that I worry too much. I worry that I don’t worry enough.
2. A dear friend just lost another beloved pet yesterday, and my heart breaks for her, my own heart still grieving my special Catsby. Oh the loss, loss, loss of the past three years, across the board. The loss of people, animals, ways of life.
3. Why did I ever think God moved Heaven and Earth for me to get a good parking space, while children in the world are starving. SMH.
4. The intelligence of every living thing. This subject weaves itself in my waking and sleeping life. I dream of vast galaxies and our place in them. I ponder much on the minutiae too. Life-creating mitochondria. Every cell in every tree, leaf, and flower is bursting with evidence of divinity. Every single one of us is life made of a zillion pieces of life, the whole cosmos a part of us too.
5. We have no idea what lives in the ocean, really. And that’s part of the allure. Damn, I miss swimming in the ocean.
6. I miss my mother-in-law. Really miss her. She was really something special. I miss having a “mom.”
7. How much pain will I be able to stand before I can’t stand it any more with this stupid disease? Everyone has a limit; not knowing where mine lies can be scary.
8. Estrangement is the weirdest thing ever, but boundaries are the best thing ever. And that makes for industrial-grade emotional f*ckery.
9. Religion is the opiate of the masses, they say, and I’ve officially OD’d. Just LOVE for me going forward, thanks. I’m over labels. Check please!
10. Feeling long-expired pangs of social angst anew about that one time I was unintentionally rude to someone (but I was just socially overwhelmed.) Oh, and the approximately 7 million additional times I was socially awkward. OOF.
That’s just a sampling. I wonder what it’s like to have insomnia thoughts like: “I need to get the oil changed,” or “I think we are out of detergent.” What’s that even LIKE?
And so I’m finally tired now again, feeling the heavy cream of sleepiness pour over me. My mind eases, I feel God’s comfort. I open my palms in a physical relinquishing of worries before closing my eyes…
I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.
She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.
In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.
If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:
“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”
You get the gist of it.
I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.
She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.
She was serene where I am neurotic.
She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.
She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)
But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.
My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.
Or been rejected by her own family.
She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.
Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.
She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.
I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.
You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.
I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.
I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.
My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.
Authenticity over antiquated expectations.
Relationship with God over rules and regulations.
Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.
Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.
Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.