Monday, May 30, 2011

Hope in the Valley

My fears are big and my chest is tight. I find it hard to breathe right, to pray, to love. Okay God, where the hell are you? I'm so fucking sick and tired. I'm bored, lonely, resentful, easily frustrated and nitpicking. I'm overwhelmed by life's disappointments and all that will never be made right.

The storms rage on across this dying planet, orphan children are sold as sex toys, holy wars hold whole nations hostage and trees that stood when Jesus walked the earth are being cut down for a quick buck. Unfortunately most of us who could make a difference are too preoccupied organizing potlucks, designing blogs and making money to pay for our car insurance to notice all that.

I've resigned, given up and checked out. You are hiding somewhere far away from here God. Perhaps you are on a retreat ministering to suburban housewives or maybe you and Zeus are sipping margaritas on a Greek coast somewhere. Who knows. All I know is I'm having a real hard time seeing you these days. That probably says more about me than you. Probably.

I won't pull myself up by my bootstraps or fake it 'til I make it. I can't ignore, repress or pretend. But I won't allow myself to be paralyzed either. I am blind, deaf and lame and the path has turned into a treadmill but I continue on. I choose to put one foot in front of the other, acknowledging the sham and drudgery without becoming entirely intoxicated by it. I have come to embrace the valleys and be still in the darkness. This too shall pass. Dawn is inevitable.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
~Alexander Pope~

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LGBT in Light of Reincarnation

Be forewarned, I'm going way out there in this post. My beliefs about sexual orientation are bizarre even among the unorthodox. (Well, at least among unorthodox North American Christians!) My theory is uncommon but not entirely original; there are variations of this thought among those who research and believe in reincarnation.

We find very few clear descriptions of the world to come in the Bible but on one occasion, when the Sadducees present Jesus with a hypothetical situation involving marriage after the resurrection, Jesus shares some surprising information:

"At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt 22:30)
Now, I have no idea what the angels in heaven are like in form or character but I'm going to make a few fun guesses. What if there is no marriage in heaven because there are no sexes? What if the angels, and our heavenly bodies, are androgynous? (I am aware that angels showed up as men in the OT but I don't think that is their true form; just one that made for good communication!)

Could homosexuality be an overstatement -i.e. a case of the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction as the soul struggles to overcome the male/female polarity? Or perhaps when a soul has incarnated as the same gender for many lifetimes it carries with it a sexual imprint, subconscious memories, making it difficult to identify with their new gender.

I'm not discounting the biological component here: sexual identity/orientation most definitely has a physical component, but what if the soul is the architect, the mind is the builder and the body is the temple? If that is the case then being straight, gay, bi or whatever isn't just an issue of anatomy/physiology, psychology or sociology; it runs even deeper than the typically understood influences of nature and nurture.

The irony here is that it seems I've come to the understanding that at our deepest level of being homosexuality (and all non-heterosexual sexual identity expressions) still 'miss the mark.' True, but I don't believe missing the mark automatically translates as sin. Let me illustrate: suppose two dark-skinned/dark-haired people living in a very hot climate give birth to a child who has considerably lighter skin and hair. From an evolutionary perspective the child has 'missed the mark' because the recessive fair-skinned/fair-haired genes do not offer as much protection from the sun. Likewise, non-heterosexuals are at an evolutionary disadvantage because they are less likely to procreate. From a purely physical perspective this is not ideal. However, from a spiritual viewpoint we can see that the overstatement, or the state of transition from one gender to another, is a necessary experience for the development of that particular soul.

In the end, when the human condition is no longer a necessary lesson, there will be no need to identify as gay or straight, male or female because we will all be reconciled as one. At least, that's what I believe.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hey, Don't Think So Much!

I was recently told that I suffer with analysis paralysis. I let the comment sail by without offering a rebuttal but it felt like salt in a wound. It seems I keep getting the same message: these thoughts, these questions, aren't really okay. People might say it's okay to question things but their subsequent words or actions usually betray their (often subconscious) true feelings. Not everyone is a "thinker" and I get that, I really do. I don't have a burning desire to change or challenge every Christian on my radar. Some followers are content to trust the Bible and accept traditional teachings without much thought. That's okay. I don't understand it, but I can (usually) accept it. Sometimes I even envy it. Where I start to feel defensive is when it is implied that my questions betray a lack of commitment or faith; that eventually, as I mature spiritually, I will no longer ask so many questions.

Wiki defines analysis paralysis as over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. I am hurt and disappointed that someone has made this assessment of me. I wish I were secure enough to let people have their opinions without feeling the need to defend my position. Unfortunately I'm just not there yet. So I sat, a little stunned, and changed the subject.

But this is what I wanted to say:

My relationship with God, my decision to and the action of following Jesus, is not dependent on me wrapping Christianity up in one tidy little package. I prefer to unwrap this precious gift again and again; examining every last inch. I am okay not always having one definitive answer and I thoroughly enjoy exploring the plethora of possibilities. But that doesn't make me any less of a follower. I have made the decision and I do follow. That is why I am alive, here and now, living a new way of life, surrendering all my shame and hate and loneliness and failures to the One who loves and leads and takes pleasure in my questions. That is why I make choices everyday that go against my desires and instinct. I am certainly not paralyzed; I'm more free than I have ever felt in my whole life. Please don't clip my wings or knock me down a notch.

Yes, I am struggling. Every day I wake up and think, God, I am so broken, please help me do something useful today instead of hurting myself and everyone around me. Please help me love well. This is me making a decision, this is me following. I am very self-centered but (when I humbly ask) God gives me strength to get out of the way and do the next right thing. I'm not saying I do it perfectly, or even well, but this practice is very much a part of my life.

I've read a lot of dialogue (online) between more conservative and progressive Christians and what I've observed is that most conservatives perceive questions like mine as an avoidance of truth because we don't like the traditional answers; i.e. we don't like what the Bible says so we'll keep twisting and reinterpreting it until it says what we want. Like every good lie this one has a seed of truth, but this same accusation can be made of any group or individual who tries to interpret the Bible. We are all human -not mechanical, objective creatures. Dismissing my search as an attempt to distort truth is a convenient way of sweeping my questions under the rug and I don't like that. Truth should stand firm against scrutiny. If progressives are disregarded as relativists who try to impose 21st century values on a timeless message then conservatives are blind to their own cultural baggage and warped lenses. Just because a lot of people believe something to be true doesn't make it so. The church used to think the world was flat, used the Bible to prove it and punished those who thought otherwise as heretics. Our understanding of biblical "truth" is constantly evolving; it just happens more slowly among conservatives.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is that my questions are anything but a denial of truth, they are a search for it, in spite not only of the challenges and discomforts of not having quick and easy answers but also the criticisms of those who don't understand my journey. I don't believe I suffer with analysis paralysis. I think my analysis enriches, not diminishes, my faith and I'll go so far as to say that it is more likely that it is those who don't have questions who suffer with paralysis.

I really wish all this didn't bother me so much. I know a big part of the reason is that I am still learning to give myself permission to be me -to keep exploring that which puzzles me. It's tempting to keep it all to myself and just focus on the similarities. But man, that would be so boring and phony on my part. It takes a lot of guts for me to say what I really think and it brings me down when I feel misunderstood or judged. A few days ago I came across this sad website and immediately wondered how many of my Christian friends would have my photo up there among those who need to be evangelized to: Michelle the Heretic! Hopefully one of these days I'll stop feeling the need to defend my position and these kinds of posts will become less frequent. Until then, I still need to vent and work through the mess. It's just part of my process right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Everything

You are God
I am me
You are big
I am small
You are strong
I am weak

I am in the spirit
You are the spirit
I am in the light
You are the light
I am in the music
You are the music

I am not safe
You are my shelter
I am hungry
You are my bread
I am alone
You console me

I make mistakes
You forgive me
I stumble
You pick me up
I turn away
You follow me

I am your child
You are my everything

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Evening with Lewis

A few evenings ago I got together with a group of friends (Lisa, Brian, Josh and Jenny) to discuss Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Here's a passage Brian shared:
"That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, 'Be perfect,' He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder - in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Since Easter is still fresh in everyone's mind let me mix those two analogies together and say I'm feeling very much like a painted egg these days. Why are my God moments so far apart? Why do I find it so difficult to turn to Him and surrender my crappy day/bad attitude/impatience/arrogance/fear/loneliness, etc.?

I want to be set free. I want to fly. I don't want to remain an ordinary, decent egg. Heck, I don't even feel like an ordinary, decent egg. I feel like a bad egg.

Jesus telling us to 'Be perfect' is just plain deflating. I suppose he's saying to strive for perfect love; not that it is possible to achieve it -at least not for any length of time. (Unless perhaps you are off on a mountain top or in a monastery removed from the world and it's unending assults, but even that is debatable.) Sorry Lewis but Jesus does seem rather vague and idealistic to me sometimes.

I often wonder if the people in my life (family, friends) notice any real change in my attitudes and behaviours since I've embarked on this journey with Jesus. Unfortunately I don't think they'd see much change at all. I feel like a big fat failure a lot. Brian said that the people in our life can't always perceive the changes taking place and when I think about the inner battles I've been fighting without the knowledge of those closest to me I'm sure he's right.

Jenny reminded me that it can be very difficult to recognize change on a day to day basis but over time we can see what has eluded us. Yes, when I compare the me I am today to the me I was two years ago I can see big changes.

Josh had a good point too. He said that even the fact that I'm questioning myself is proof that change is taking place. It's true that I'm ├╝ber aware of all that I'm doing wrong now; how short I fall. Every thought, feeling and action is held under a microscope for inspection and it appears I'm a very sick girl. But this way of living, this constant vigilance, is exhausting and depressing. I suppose that's why it's so important to balance that reality with God's unlimited love and grace.