I’m not even sure where to begin. I suppose this isn’t a big leap from my last post. I’m sitting here in front of the keyboard, a jumble of words trying to fight for the right to flow from my heart through my hands. Maybe I’ll start with what I did today, and see where that goes.
|image from http://www.thewitchescollective.com|
After spending some time listening to some favorite books and tooling around Azeroth, I took a nap. Before the nap, I laid in a darkened room for quite awhile and thought about last night’s dreams, which featured Jasmine and several other faces from my past. Most of the faces were somehow directly involved with my spiritual journey, whether it be as teachers or fellows along the path. Some people were both – teachers at some times, fellow journeyers at others. Like tonight’s post, the dream was a mad jumble of images and points in time. I woke up completely unsure what it all meant, save one thing. There’s this thing I’ve been thinking about for a long time, very literally for years, and it seems like maybe it’s time to act. So I wrote some emails to local church leaders, kicking open a door I thought was long shut.
Over the decades I’ve been a practicing Pagan, I’ve had friends drift into practice and then move back towards Christianity. Some exist in both worlds. Others, as I’ve written before, moved onto Buddhism. I think that latter is probably the largest category. And still others just melted into a place of non-practice. The ones that have always been most difficult to deal with have been the ones returning to Christianity. Because… how could you? How could you go back to the dogma, back to the restricted world view, back to the idea that there is One True Way or One True God? And more importantly, how could I ever do that? How could I, knowing what I know about the history of Christianity, both distant and not-so-distant? The hypocrisy? The willing ignorance?
And yet. And yet there is Christ, and there’s always been Christ. I’ve never had a problem with Christ. I’ve said so many times. His is an exemplary life, one that I share (not coincidentally, I’m sure) values with. One that is inspiring. My problem always has been with the church, with the ignorance and pushiness of Christ’s followers. Their blinders suffocate me. Their kneejerk reaction to questions seem to indicate a shaky foundation. Recently, though, I’ve started to have a growing awareness of a different kind of Christianity. I think it’s gotten more vocal in reaction to the rise of the ugly fundamentalist and/or the unquestioning literalist. And perhaps like a healthy living tradition, the church has simple evolved in many ways.
|image from http://bethalynnebajema.com|
If you know much about my story, you know that I spent most of my younger years pursuing a connection with God. Until I was 16 or so, that pursuit was in Christian churches, mostly Baptist or Lutheran or the deceptively-named “non-denominational” (which frequently meant really extreme and often ugly). I dated a Mormon and was baptized into the LDS church at 16. It was the only time my dad ever expressed disappointment in my choices. I attended a few Catholic services as well. In each place I ran into a problem – I asked questions, I noticed the Emperor was often naked, I didn’t see why science had to be at odds with God, and I for damned sure didn’t buy the Eve/curse/woman’s place bullshit. Those were my big “beefs” with my church experience. I’m fortunate that I really never had a personally horrific experience. Many do. That’s part of why I’ve kept my distance. That, and a love of mythology and ecstatic ritual and multiple faces of God.
Thing is, I’ve spent all this time feeling an either/or distinction, even as I’ve counseled others that you can be Christian and Pagan, if you define Christian as seeking to live according to Christ’s example, and willing and able to understand that the Bible is a flawed piece of literature, and not the literal word of God. And it goes without saying, you need to get rid of the concept of One True Way/God. That doesn’t work with Paganism. And I’ve long felt that aside from the UU’s (who are very intellectual and prone to question), there aren’t many denominations that would allow for that kind of practice. Recently I’ve seen evidence that this isn’t true.
I’ve also been experiencing what is almost certainly a very long dark night of the soul. I’ve been familiar with that phrase for awhile, but only now was I miserable enough to do some investigation. This piece in particular spoke to me: Dark Night of the Soul
Things that especially resonated were things like “its general meaning — in the field of higher consciousness — is a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. In the dark night you feel profoundly alone” and “You’ve experienced indications of the reality of higher consciousness and yearn to be more deeply in communion with it. You see the principles of a higher power at work in your life. Yet, all in all, you find yourself somehow painfully on the outside. You feel caught between your old way of living, your old tendencies and associations, and this nebulous, unreachable realm of higher consciousness.” Really, the entire thing, which you can read if you like. When I read it, I felt exposed, like a bug pinned to a board while still alive.
|image from Twilight Realm: A Tarot of Faery|
And I’m still in the middle of this, nowhere near the end. I’m still having the struggle with surrender, with ego. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, and that is really fucking frightening. Most of my best friends first connected with me via spiritual practice. What happens if that goes away? And what if I do end up in a Christian practice? Are they going to feel the same sense of unease that I did when my friends moved in that direction? Will they stop talking to me?
I don’t know. But I know I can’t stay in this place of in-between. Something has to give. And it doesn’t even have to be a move to another category. It will likely be a category all it’s own, and to me, that’s the marker of real spirituality anyway. To have connected in an individual way, and yet still be able to be in community. So I may be checking out a few Christian churches here locally. And maybe I’ll find one that feels like it can be home to this bisexual, earth-worshipping feminist who still loves her some Irish myth and views it as equally as useful as Christian myth. We’ll see.
For now, it’s scary out here, but I’m going to keep my light held high. I no longer feel like I need to hold the light for anyone else, but I surely need to hold it for myself.