It makes me laugh when I think about how afraid I was to tell my Christian friends about a weekend of breathwork with Stan Grof, or a drumming experience or climbing to a deep cave on top of a red rock canyon high above Utah's Canyonlands and many miles from civilization to drum for hours within its walls. I dared not share how incredible and other-worldly it was walking out into the star filled night, and needing to hold on to the person next to me because the solar system was so expansive and beautiful that I feared drifting off into it like a helium balloon. These were mystical experiences like no other. These were the most vivid moments of God holding me in his arms and sharing his view of earth with me.
Or of climbing with 15-20 friends and heavy backpacks up the trail across from Jenny Lake in Jackson Hole to the Teton's peaks to camp for days. I couldn't tell them about the magical forest that seemed to talk to us - and yes, we were completely drug and alcohol free. These were not dangerous times filled with fear and Satan. These were beautiful, mystical experiences that brought God alive in our midst. Whether someone believed in Jesus or not was not the point. The point was the grandeur of the earth, the beauty of life. The point was the stories we shared and the tears we shed with each other in an experience of building trust, worship, prayer or meditation, testing and pushing our physical limits, and confessing our ideas, thoughts, doubts, faith, dreams, confusion, fears, passions, and pain with one another.
We didn't monitor what we said to each other, or apologize profusely if we yelled, "shit!" when stubbing our toe. We were ourselves. No holds barred - ourselves was all we expected of each other. All we wanted actually. We wanted authentic. We wanted real. We wanted to grow and become bigger, go deeper, love greater than ever before. We wanted to be all we could be, while being all of who we uniquely were at the same time.
The point was the songs we sang, the communion we experienced. Jesus was always there among us as far as I was concerned, because Jesus was the spirit of compassion, love, and goodness. The Holy Spirit was my compansion, ever reminding me of our sacred place in the universe, connected to all that is. This was so obvious to me, so clear.
There came a time when I no longer worried about what someone would say about my non-traditional avenues of spiritual exploration because they'd become so much a part of me, and my Christian identity that they could no longer be separated.
I think self-professed, fundamentalist Christians have underestimated the rest of us who identify as Christians in the world. Many don't dare admit it in public these days, but our identity to our religious upbringing runs deep and isn't easily severed.
We crave continuity at a certain age. I notice it most profoundly in young mothers in their thirties. They've started their own families, and a desire for their children to experience what was good in their life begins to matter. Obviously, this is not an attractant for those who were oppressed, forced into practicing a particular religion, or felt betrayed by the hypocrisy, abuse, lies, and self-righteousness of the church. I've met many young adults to literally cringe at hearing the word, "saved," or witnessed an unmistakeable look of disgust and disdain when a family member mentions meeting someone and remarking gleefully, "and they're Christian!"
I have the same reaction to this day. Normally when I have a strong reaction like this, it's customary for me to look within. There is generally an internal trigger that is really more about me, than them - a life lesson usually awaits. For instance, use exmples ehre...jealousy or how my employee alice reacted to me and i could not understand it - her issues with authority and control, etc.
I've done belly button analysis on this for years, convinced I'd find some deep seated issue that I need to change. But after an exhaustive search, I am convinced it makes me cringe because it is simply divisive and they embarass me. This behavior is everything I don't want to be - and most of all, experienced as.
It's always been clear that Jesus Christ, or an identity that relates to a higher power is supposed to mean we're filled with love. We are committed to goodness, the high road, compassion, kindness. We are the good guys, not the assholes. I'm so not into being an asshole.
Sure, it's true that no everyone has a conversion experience. This is a powerful turn of events that can change someone so deeply that they are never the same. But people can also change slowly...with the same deep transformation as an overnight conversion experience. Sometimes I think those who come to it slowly have an advantage because they've taken the time to grow roots. They may have a better chance at sustaining it for the long haul.
Bottom line, religion puts people in a box that is stressful to hang out in unless you're a round peg and you finally found your tribe. But if it's not your tribe, and your insides are screaming frantically to get out, you're with the wrong kind of Christians.
There is little in life that has been more of a relief to me than finally letting myself be me - and that means me as a pastor's wife! This is revolutionary.
I'm tired of apologizing for everything I don't do perfectly, or thinking having an opinion is not ladylike. Seriously?
You cannot grow up in Brooklyn during the rise of the women's movement and expect me to be quiet and submissive. The more someone tells me I should act like that, the more I, inadvertently, turn into a bull in a china shop. It is so embarrrassing when that happens.