Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Year of Absence: Part 2 - Seeking

*This post is part of a series entitled "A Year of Absence." Read Part 1 here.*

I never regretted my decision to join the church. A journal entry (about one month after my last Sunday at church) reads, “I’m still not going to church. I feel good about my decision, peaceful.” The next day, I tucked our little boy into bed. As he said his prayers “I felt . . . something - calm, comfort, home. I miss that. I miss the comfort of religion. I miss the history and the culture, stories of Joseph Smith and pioneers, songs sung for hundreds of years.” I couldn’t believe the doctrines of the faith, but I mourned for having nothing to believe.

For months I struggled with what to believe. Is Christianity correct? Are any of the other religions correct? How would one know? Did we create these varieties of gods? Or does God simply reveal Godself in whatever way will be most effective in speaking to each particular individual? Perhaps the whole world is holy. Perhaps all holy things are holy because we have consecrated them as such, have named them holy.

While I struggled through these dark mists, my life was not all bad. I had many times of joy - picnics, bike rides, birthday parties, joining a new dance class. I traveled back to my college town with my old roommate for a weekend of service projects on campus.

My life was Both/And. Filled with both big questions and much joy.

I explored a much more personal, spiritual, intimate idea of the holy.

“Love and relationships. All love and relationship is possible for you only because it already exists within myself. . . . I am love.” 
Young, The Shack, 103

“Every creation is a word of God and a book about God.” 
Meister Eckhart, in Fox, Original Blessing, 35

“The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.” 
Berry, in Fox, Original Blessing, 36

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive” 

“The harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth from the very beginning [can] be found by anyone at any time . . . Earth [is] in essence a revelation of heaven, run by the same laws.” 
Hoff, Tao of Pooh, 4

And finally, “I decide to believe. Something in me says yes to the idea that there is a God and that this God is trying to speak to me, trying to love me, trying to invite me back to life. I decide to believe in a God who believes in a girl like me” (Melton, Love Warrior, 64-5)

And I begin to make peace with my journey and my questions, rather than fighting against the tide and scrambling for answers. Because I learn that “Man grows closer to God through the questions he asks Him[,] . . . I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions,” and I wait for eternity, for “that time when question and answer would become one” (Wiesel, Night, 23).

“It’s Your Breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You, only You.”

After many months, I begin to write a rudimentary testimony. I believe that God is raising the broken up to Life. I believe we need to be yoked to this divine power to find being. I believe God is accessible, that we were not created to be separate from the divine, no. God is here. God is for us. God is within reach. I believe God is loving, nurturing, encouraging, and cares about the things that we care about. I believe God will “break open the skies to save those who cry out” (Tenth Avenue North, “Strong Enough to Save”). I believe that God changes us and our circumstances not by objectively changing our surroundings, but answers our pleas by working within our hearts.

I believe that this universal divine power, which many people call “God” is too big, too powerful, too magnificent, too all-encompassing to be contained in one tradition or scripture or person. I believe that the eternal Spirit of Life within each person and living creature, is also the Spirit of Love. I believe that the divine yearns for connection, and will reveal itself to humanity in any way to get the message across - anything to teach people to love one another. I explore the many revelations and expressions of the divine nature which have existed throughout time. I speak to this power, praying to be connected to myself, my life, and my world.

“The basic thrust of Jesus’ message is to invite us into divine union, which is the sole remedy for the human predicament” 
Father Thomas Keating, in Fisher, Living Religions, 347

One day, I hear a message on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I think about this. I think about Jesus’ message of love and radical inclusion. Jesus tells the people over and over to “repent” and “sin no more.” Perhaps following Jesus means repenting, turning away from sin and separation, from the false message that we are all separate, and re-turning towards the Truth that we are all one human family created for and living inside the divine goodness. Over and over, I read of people teaching that salvation and healing come from connection - connection with God and connection with others.

I remember that “the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for He speaketh unto men according to their own language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3). I know that the divine is revealed to and through all “nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples.”

At this time, I have ideas about God, the cosmos, eternity. I don’t have any answers, and I’m realizing that that’s okay. God is real, but maybe not in the way we thought before. “Man grows closer to God through the questions he asks” (Wiesel). My faith continues to be rooted in seeking healing and salvation by re-turning to others.

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”
Martin Buber

*This post is part of a series entitled "A Year of Absence." Read Part 3 here."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Year of Absence: Part 1 - Loss of Faith

“Our story is the only thing we have that is completely our own” 
(Melton, Love Warrior, 148)

I have been absent for some time now. I would apologize for social niceties, but I will instead choose authenticity and truth-telling. I am not sorry. Recent months have been . . . well, just another chapter on my journey.

In the spirit of authenticity and truth-telling, here is where I’ve been.

~ ~ ~

Several months ago, spring of 2016. The one-year anniversary of my baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is approaching. I was eagerly awaiting the day, amazed that it had been nearly a year since I decided to do what I felt God was calling me to do, the thing that I knew was right for me, for that time. Since the day that I publicly declared that I would follow wherever God led me. Since I received a compass necklace, reminding me that as long as I kept trying, the Divine would help me and lead me.

That day, I committed to this church, this institution, but more importantly, I made a covenant between myself and my God that had no intermediary. This was a personal covenant. A covenant to the journey. I promised that I would follow. When people around me, not members of the Church, asked why I was doing this, I told them it was because I felt that God was asking me to do this right now. It was the right thing for the right time.

For much of that first year, I had been quite honest about my struggles with faith and my doubts. However, something had kept me afloat in this faith, in assurance of the truth of this church and the nobility of this work.

During April, that string of attachment snapped. I suppose the tension and weight had become too strong. That rope had been fraying for many weeks, growing weaker and weaker, the light dimmer and dimmer.

I asked to be released from my calling, told my Relief Society president that I would no longer be able to keep my visiting teaching route, and cried in the church parking lot.

I could feel no Spirit of God. I could fathom no faith in any type of god who created or loved or paid attention to the workings of this planet. My mind and world was dark. Hard as I tried, I could not bring myself to believe essential doctrines. Everything ceased making sense to me, ceased seeming reasonable. I was utterly alone in the dark, angry that I had been so foolish as to accept the doctrines of this church and live with a false hope. I was angry that I’d ever dared to think any kind of god existed.

*This post is part of a series entitled "A Year of Absence." Read Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.*