|Heavy Burden, Rudolf Koppitz, 1930|
In the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." For the last twenty years or so, I have been journeying through a theological unraveling. It began with a need for the divine feminine, as I let go of ordained ministry and embraced the calling of motherhood.
Not having a congregation to read for, I read where my longing led: Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd; Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong (and many of his other books); Evolutionary Faith: Rediscovering God in Our Great Story by Diarmuid O'Murchu; Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler; If Grace is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland; The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy Beal; It's Really All About God by Samir Selmanovic; With or Without God by Gretta Vosper; other authors such as Anne Lamott, Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Diana Butler Bass. I read a few of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God books. I read poetry by Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, Mary Oliver, and Wendell Berry. I read an introductory text about process theology and found websites such as Process and Faith.
I call this journey a theological unraveling because when you start asking questions, it leads to other questions; like tugging on a thread and when you keep pulling, it can unravel what looked like a cohesive fabric. Sue Monk Kidd, in the book above, wrote, "The truth will indeed set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live." The unsettling thing about this process is that if I keep tugging, I might end up with a pile of thread; no more blanket to cover me but then also maybe less of a veil covering the truth, what I know to be true, at least for now.
The scary thing about this process is, can I still be in community with my church, with you, New Ark UCC? For the past few years I've been dancing on a tightrope, honoring where I have perceived you to be (a congregation all over the map, grounded in God known through Jesus and in other ways) and yet trying to be my authentic self without coming right out and saying who I am, my identity as a spiritual being. Because like any person in any kind of closet, I am afraid I will not be accepted by the community that helped me realize, loved me into my identity.
Within the past year or so I have come to the awareness that I am a Christian Atheist Humanist: Christian, in that Jesus is my guru, my teacher, who provokes me, challenges me, disturbs me, who loves the world better than me; Atheist, in that I believe that the notion of God is part of our evolutionary development, that a belief in God helped us to evolve to where we are now but if we remain in our belief—in an agency, a will separate from our own—we will not find our own agency, our own ability to solve our problems, and we will continue our deadly competition for truth. I am content to leave our origin and what lies beyond this existence a mystery; Humanist, in that where I need help in my faith is my faith in humanity. In the 12 step tradition, the second step states, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." If someone cannot connect with a Higher Power in a traditional sense, they are encouraged to think of the group as their Higher Power, that the group possesses wisdom and knowledge that they do not.
I have found my Higher Power and it is you. Everyone. It is the world. It is everything about this existence. Everyone, everything has dignity and worth. Everyone, everything contains a lesson or a blessing, sometimes both. Everything contains a choice: how will I respond, who will I be, what will I create or diminish or destroy? I too possess the power to be a lesson or a blessing or both, which is an awesome, humbling responsibility.
So when you hear me say "God", this is what I mean. When I pray, I open myself to the wisdom of this existence, the mystery in which we all live and move and have our being. When I pray, I take myself less seriously and everything else more seriously. When I pray, I acknowledge my ignorance and my need for help beyond my abilities. When I pray, I trust that life will unfold as it will and that I will have the love and the courage to meet it.
I'll be writing more about where this identity came from, how it evolved, the impact it has had on me, and where I see it leading me. I'll also write about Church, the future, where I see it all heading. For now, though, it's sunny, 59 degrees; time for me to go for a hike.
(By the way, I have been dealing with a sore throat off and on since I left for India. It subsided after the last post but then returned, a painful lump in my throat. I've shed a few tears writing this and now the lump is gone. I no longer have to swallow the truth about myself. Thanks for reading.)
|Freedom by Zenos Frudakis, Philadelphia|