I AM

Happy, Happy new year and a warm and massive cyber hug to all as we enter 2017. I’ll take and freely give all the hugs and love and kindness possible wherever they are found.

I’m going to use my first post of the new year to introduce myself as the new me that has actually always been. There are some things about me you should know to put everything I write going forward into some context. There was a time in my old life when I would have written separate blog posts for each of these things, explaining them in detail in the hopes of persuading people to at least respect what I see instead of shitting on me for it.

Life has radically changed for me, and ain’t nobody got time for that in the new life that is. So much shit has rained down on me that I now dance in it and make art rather than try to outrun it or hide, or worse, deny its existence or try to pretty it up to be something it’s not (LIE).

The old life was 25 years of marriage, 22 of those spent in evangelical christian ministry together, the last 5 of which we (Love of My Life and I) embarked on an exodus out of Church World to plant a funky little honest church ourselves that was doomed to “fail” from the start because it was one where any human of any persuasion, any belief or lack thereof, was welcome to participate, love and be loved as is. We gave up everything and ultimately ended up losing more than we’d ever imagined possible – our very lives together – though isn’t that exactly what Jesus said was the price to be considered? Anyhooo, that truly is for a separate blog post.

So, in the new life (whatever that’s now totally free to be), here’s a quick summation of my current (and fluid) theology/psychology/ideology/methodology around which everything I say and do emerges, and I care not one whit what anyone thinks of it. If you follow my writing for whatever reason, even if only as a vulture to feast on the carcass of my family to poop out as gossipy judgment (why would you stop now after the last 5 years of pecking away at our flesh before we were even fully dead?), knowing the following will at least put things in perspective:

  • All God talk is human talk. All we have are human ideas about God. The only experience we have of Whatever God There Is happens in the gray matter between our ears, individually. The second anyone tries to enforce any idea of God as absolute certainty is the second I smile politely and disengage. The second anyone does harm to others with their god-in-their-own-twisted-image certainty is the second I go into verbal smack down mode. I have no pride, shame or fear left in me to cause me to either shrink back or have any further need to self preserve, defend or explain myself. I’ve never been more confident and peacefully assured in my faith and absolute uncertainty than I AM now.
  • I have always had an awareness of and communed with Something Other both wholly outside myself and wholly inside myself that I learned to call God since my earliest memories, around age 3 or 4. It was always plural – a They – and there was a definite female component. I never thought to question it as it fit perfectly into my Tribe’s doctrines of the Trinity, with the exception of the female part. I’ve always gone against the grain of my tradition and personified the Holy Spirit as female, though also knew very early on to keep that shit to myself if I wanted the belonging and acceptance (which was THE most important thing to me) of my Tribe.
  • I AM is the identifier God gave Moses. Jesus invoked I AM for himself, and that’s good enough for me. I simply AM. What is, IS. God is existence. God is reality. To be who I AM with full integrity and to let everyone and everything BE what it IS without inserting my own desires and agenda for any of it is, to me, to engage, participate in, and BE the divinity that is inherent in being human.
  • I’ve always read and understood the bible for myself for what it is since childhood – and loved it. I never really found value in taking any of it literally, though I forced myself to suppress my true instincts and knowing in order, again, to be accepted by my Tribe. To question the “inerrant” literal truth of the bible meant brutal and immediate rejection. To do it as a girl at any age? Forget it. More shit I absolutely knew to keep to myself – even from myself until recent years.
  • Whatever meaning or “truth” to be found in life is in metaphor, patterns, echos, cycles, seasons…and the bible is my endlessly rich base source for the poetic language I use to tell my own story and I will continue to dive into and mine scripture in order to do so, now more than ever. But I am not bound or restricted by it. Sacred metaphor is absolutely everywhere and I call it when I see it, however, wherever it presents itself. “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is echoed throughout all cultures, eras, ancients and contemporaries, poets, artists, children, old women, heathens and holy men alike – and I pay attention to them all. If I had life to do over, I’d be a professor of anthropology and religious studies. As a profession it’s not practical at this point, but the studying and going wherever my fascination takes me is just getting started. It is an exciting time to awaken and go after my own life.
  • I AM a Christian, an identifier I’ve decided to keep for myself alone and to myself alone without any further need to justify or explain my right or reason for doing so ever again. I identify my entire story, my entire life with Jesus and the birth/life/death/resurrection metaphor of his and the sharing in his sufferings of rejection and humiliation that I’ve gone all the way and lived out and will continue to cycle through until my last breath. Salvation and redemption are to be lived out HERE – NOW.

The above picture is me at age 7 (AKA the real Princess Leia), the last time I was the most me as I AM that I can remember before learning, as we all do, to shove the truth of my divine self down deep, believing that was the only way to be worthy of human love. I’ve missed that sweet nerd so much. Almost 40 years later, she’s back. She’s awake. She has surfaced, and she’s gunna rock the world.

Agony of Light

The hardest part is not the darkness. No. You can still imagine things to look much better than you feel them to be in the shadows; imagine things to be what you wish them to be, need them to be, want them to be.

It is the light that is devastatingly hard and why most avoid all but selective exposure. One cannot pretend in the light for their own comfort or false notions of safety or perfection.

I brought (have been bringing) my entire self into the light for a while now. I was not in any way prepared for the very last things to come out, which in actuality were THE thing it’s all been leading up to. I guess it would be more accurate to say I was finally ready to see BECAUSE of all I’ve been through – to have to acknowlege just how dependent I’ve been on “love” in the shadows – the idea of something I wanted it to be verses the reality of what it actually is.

My physical circumstances have more or less been the same for quite a while and will not be radically changing. I’ve been sleeping (when I’m lucky) and crying alone in bed and have been carrying the bulk of child raising for years.

But what is the thing that terrifies and crushes me? It’s the exposure of an idea that I’ve clung to my whole life as false that causes the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. What a strange thing to admit…to be violently detoxing from the loss of an idea like it was heroin. But that’s exactly what it feels like. I’ve needed someone to be something they could never be and I numbed and sabotaged and stole from myself, denied my instincts and my true knowing and handed over my power in order to get and keep the fix I thought I couldn’t live without – to believe he was what he was not and could not be – to place an impossible burden on him. It’s what we’re all conditioned to do to each other. He and I are, and have always been, extreme cases. We don’t do subtle…ever.

In the light, there is only love most real for whole persons (myself first) separate from any selfishly projected ideas or expectations of them. It is a brutal, brutal detox to let go of my desires and let it all be whatever it will while resisting the urge to counter spin in my favor as every fiber of my being screams for resolution and relief!! But the light is no fix. It is the abrupt and harsh exposure of what truly IS.

I have to let whatever IS – BE…hands off…free to be and do and be seen for what it is by whoever can and will.

The darkness will kill ya, but damn do I miss how good it felt even at its worst compared to this. The light feels every bit like torture and death right now.

I have moments of unprecedented clarity and calmness that punctuate the baseline aching void of despair that at times swells so intensely that I feel like I could literally drown in the feeling of loss and fear and “I DON’T WANT THIS!”

God, please have mercy and get me through this withdrawal to a place of peace, wholeness and love in myself. 45 years worth is a lot to work out of my system to get clean.

The only way out is through and there is no going back or unseeing. Woe to those who have seen and known the light and then reject and deny it, because that is the blackest self-imposed darkness rooted in a self-loathing lie that will kill all ability to genuinely love or accept love fast and permanent.

I exposed the love of my life who is a part of me to the light he once used to guide me to, and then I let go as a final (and first, really) act of unselfish love for him. To do so meant the death of my addiction and codependency and sent me reeling into this tortuous detox. There is nothing but pain for me in it. He has kicked and screamed and spat and spun violently all the way, directed just at me, because he knows I will not and cannot hide anything anymore. It all comes into the light, but I cannot keep him with me there.

Whether in light or darkness, he is who he is and I AM who I AM.

Into the fire we all must go, one way or the other, and we all must go alone. All I can do is be my own light and to do so I must burn.

Mama, Help Me

My Life in Pictures

I held a funeral for my life, our life, in pictures yesterday. It was an odd but necessary few hours of letting go; odd in that I was the only one in attendance and, unlike most funerals where photos are brought out and displayed, I was permanently putting away and deleting.

One by one our smiling faces, snuggling bodies, tender stances of 25 years from the beginning to the end removed from digital memory and social media documentation. The “perfect” couple, the “perfect” family no longer on display. Some still exist as hard copies buried in boxes in the home where we built a life together and loved two more lives into existence. Some adorn the walls. They are yours now. Most have been deleted into nothingness, never to be seen again except in my mind’s eye where they can never be erased. It is where they belong and will forever remain as they were only ever truly mine to begin with  – my reality that I loved sharing with the world – until that world disintegrated.

I was happy in each one, a genuine permeating fullness kind of happy that I only feel when I’m close to you. Each and every picture of the two of us elicited dozens of glowing comments from friends and family.

Now, they are just mine. My mental timeline. My history. My reality. My truth. It was real. I was not pretending. That has never been who I am. I may miss the mark in mind boggling fashion much of the time…but I am inherently sincere, even in my greatest delusion and confusion.

No amount of evidence, pictures, words of truth written or spoken seem to make any difference in what you’ve made up your mind to believe, and you’ve never believed I was happy with you or ever could be. Yet you always liked our pictures together, telling me how beautiful I am when I’m happy. Well, you giant idiot, who was I with in the pictures being my most beautiful?

We woke up this morning at 3 a.m. to the first day of our new life having shed every last remnant of the old. We’re each free, Babe; free to create and present our lives as we wish going forward. If you want to take some new pictures of us together to have for yourself, all you ever have to do is ask…and I’ll be happy to be beautiful next to you. I’m going to be my own happy and my own beautiful regardless, but I’ll always want to be that with you. Always.

The Last Pillar Has Fallen

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a ridiculously fearful avoidant personality in love with an absurdly dismissive avoidant personality. Together we are a textbook perfect psychological shit storm.

For me to finally understand exactly how fucked up we are and in what ways is, quite frankly, a massive relief. Every single pillar of certainty that I’d been led to believe was unassailable has toppled in recent years. Throughout this process, I’ve been clinging to what I considered to be the central pillar, convinced it was the one that would never, could never, should never fail. Then it too began to crack and pitch and I could no longer depend on it for safety and comfort.

And that’s the sickest/saddest part about the whole thing- it had never provided me the stability and protection I’ve always craved. No, this “central” pillar never stood still. It was perpetually restless and roaming, resistant to anything and everything that sought its support. Yet I’d been conditioned to believe that it must be that for me and had convinced myself that the reason it wasn’t was entirely my responsibility. If I threw every bit of myself into “supporting” this pillar, i.e. clutching ever tighter as it jumped and swayed precariously, feverishly patching cracks to keep up appearances (we’re good…we’re solid…we’re fine), it would eventually be still and strong and a source of stability and safety around which the rest of my life could nobly function.

It’s actually quite the comical visual. Everything else in my world had long ago disintegrated into rubble and ashes, yet here I was still insisting it was right and good to chain myself to the remaining wobbly and wild pillar that wasn’t even holding anything up and was aggressively trying to shake me off for my own good as it approached terminal collapse.

Up until 3 days ago, choking on spite in spite of what seemed like the never-going-to-end 9.0 temblor that had disintegrated everything I thought should be but never really was, this remained my unshakable belief –

If this one falls, I will die. If this one goes, I’m an ultimate failure. If this one crumbles, I’m the biggest shameful idiot there ever was.

I would not allow myself to let go until the shaking stopped. My God, my God…please MAKE IT STOP! I’m so exhausted and spent and empty…make it stop…make it stop…make it stop…

Then let go, you dear delusional girl. LET GO of the thing that is shaking so violently and let it crumble. You won’t die if you let go…but you surely will if you keep trying to hold it together. Let go, Love. Let go. Let everything die so that you can finally live. 

And I did…right there standing in front of the kitchen sink doing the dishes. I saw it. I understood fully and gave myself permission to do what up until that very second had been unthinkable – give up on my marriage, my idea of what this thing is supposed to be and let it collapse all the way.

The crushing, debilitating panic instantly vaporized. There was no crash, no boom, no implosion, only instant relief and supreme stillness. In that divine stillness such fullness, warmth, nurturing and belonging.

Oh heeeeeey, there They are, Whatever God There Is, or rather – there I AM. Then it began bubbling out of me. A wide, wild grin took over my face followed by unconstrained giggling before finally erupting into deep, somewhat maniacal laughter. I’d imagine it’s the same euphoria one would feel upon realizing they and their loved ones were alive and safe after a disaster, even if they’d lost everything else to it.

And that’s where I am. It’s all gone. All done. Everything, and I do mean everything, that was but actually wasn’t, is rubble. It’s sunrise and I’m getting my first look at the scene after the quake storm (as my oldest Big used to call it when she was little) and I’m happy. Giddy, in fact. I’m in no hurry to clean up or rebuild. I can’t even think about that right now or what it might look like. All I know is that I don’t need to know anything and the future doesn’t have to be any certain way. There is no should be or should have been. There are no supposed to be’s. 

Will a couple of middle-aged, highly avoidant personalities find a new way of being together now that everything has fallen apart? Yes…they will…in some capacity, but I no longer have any expectation for what that must look like nor sense of obligation that I should. Whether what is to be exceeds my wildest dreams of fulfillment or is something wholly undesirable that I never imagined for myself or my family (reality is certain to be somewhere on the spectrum in between)…I AM going to be OK.

There only IS what is, and right now is sacred and pure and I’m not about to rush through this gift of serenity and stillness in the aftermath of the Great Reduction. I’m going to rest here, just me and Whatever God There Is, who have always manifested Themself to me in reality, and find the comfort and security I crave with Them as I laugh/cry in unhinged relief as the encroaching light incrementally reveals all that is now after the shaking. I’m alive, goddammit. I’m alive…and for the first time in my life not lonely and afraid.

Oh, there I am. You lovely, demented girl. Take a beat and then let’s get to work building up YOU – the central pillar – strong and true. Who knows what beauty these hands are capable of creating with what IS now that they’ve finally released their death grip on what never was.

Dear Me

Dear Me,

You are loved. You are wanted. You matter simply because you ARE. Beyond just existing, you are a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen and never-again-to-be-repeated-in-all-of-space-and-time dynamic miracle, endowed with immeasurable power and worth.

 

Dear Toddler/Early Childhood Me:

You are not inherently whiny and lazy because you’re not in the mood for an adult hike and are being coaxed up the next hill with Oreos…you are a very young CHILD. You don’t have a memory of this, but it’s pretty much the only one anyone else seems to remember of you at this stage, other than you cried a whole lot when you were an infant because of chronic ear infections and were a late walker.

Child, hear me now – YOU are not lazy. Your feelings are valid. You are allowed to honestly express what you like and do not like, want and do not want without judgment. You are allowed your honest emotions and their free expression.

Dear Early School-Age Me: 

Oh sweet girl, you belong wherever you go, whatever you do. You’ve already experienced the greatest defining, transcendent, mystical moment of belonging all by yourself, wholly independent of religious indoctrination…just you and Whatever God There Is who made Themselves real to you. I know you already feel like the outsider trying to figure out the magic formula to make people like you and accept you as one of the herd. Sweetie, you already belong. You always have. You always will. Hang in there, lovely girl. Whether it be those closest to you or the entire herd of thousands that cannot see it, it doesn’t affect your inherent worth. This is going to be the roughest part of the road throughout your life. I’m so very proud of you every step of the way.

You are allowed to fail. You absolutely MUST fail. You are going to be as careful as you know how to be on the ice for the first time and you are going to fall anyway. Even when those closest to you in authority stand over you in condemnation as you lie there in pain with the wind knocked out of you, criticizing you for not being careful enough…Girl, there is NO shame in falling. You will get back up despite being shamed and denied comfort. You are 7 and you are a badass. You’re also going to survive a terrifying hospitalization for respiratory issues around this time. Did I mention you are a badass?

You are also WICKED smart. You absolutely don’t think so and you’re going to spend these significant years and many more to come figuring out how to conform to arbitrary standards as “proof” of your abilities…but darlin’ you have no idea how brilliant and extraordinary you are. There’s a reason you are struggling to meet the arbitrary standard. You are so much more.  How I wish you could see it.

Dear Middle School Me: 

Don’t rush it! Adulthood and all its excruciating disappointments will come soon enough and cloud enormous chunks of your life…but not yet, not You. Don’t be so eager to experience things for which you will never be ready. Embrace who you are NOW…a lovely, sweet dork. Oh how I wish I could go back and be you again, before tragedy and cynicism took their toll. You are so sweet. So naive. So safe. You have no idea how safe. Savor these years, sweet girl. You can’t wait to get through them, but you will one day look back on the you that you now despise with great fondness.

Dear Teen Me: 

Oh honey, it’s a good thing you don’t yet understand how much power you wield. Though you’ve managed to clean it up on the outside, you are still very much a clueless sweet dork at heart. Without that, you could do some serious damage to both yourself and more than a few boys. As it is, there will be damage to both, but you know what? You have nothing – repeat NOTHING – to regret or reason to feel shame. Do you hear me? Nothing. You are not stupid and weak because a boy broke your heart. Most importantly, YOU are not responsible for the feelings or actions of any boy who shows interest in you, and your self worth is NOT tied up in his actions towards you, good or bad or even devastatingly tragic. I need you to understand this now.

You’ve already made a calculated decision as to the type of guidance and support you’ll give your future children based on your experiences. If only you’d see yourself worthy of that wisdom and grace even decades later. You are not a manipulative slut for being a sexual being. You are no man’s self-effacing whore. No, Woman, you most definitely are not.

Dear Early 20s Me: 

If I could choose any past me to visit, it would be you. I ache to physically hold and console you. You are drowning in isolation, disappointment and shame, unable to comprehend how you descended into such chaos, betrayal and devastation. You can’t figure out what you are being punished for, what you did to deserve this. Sweet, sweet, wonderful, faithful, girl…I see you. I see you. I see you. More importantly, They see you. Your salvation is near. Hold on. I’m with you there now. Truly.

Dear Mid 20s Me:

See? I told you! Oh, these are most glorious days! Such relief. Such fun. Such fulfillment. You totally think you’ve got life figured out at this point and have arrived. You totally haven’t, but you are in a crucial restorative time and are savoring every bit and taking nothing for granted. You were made for this and you know it. You’ve never felt closer to your God and your family. Sigh…enjoy this magical oasis, Mama. These are beautiful days and your miracle children will rise up and call you blessed. I’m praying for echos, ripples of you to cycle back through again. But you, now? Soak up every second. It is truly your salvation.

Dear 30-Something Me:

Holy shit. You are giving up nirvana, totally convinced you are doing the “right” and honorable thing. Full time ministry. I mean, if you follow all the rules God will bless you, right? BAM! Crohn’s disease. A church “family” whose love is most conditional. You double down on being the good, compliant girl and you are literally sick and lonelier than ever. Oh dear…what was that about being no one’s compliant whore? Lovely Woman, again, no regrets for you. You ARE doing all you know to do and with all the integrity you can muster. Don’t beat yourself up for these years or declare them wasted. They are anything but.

Dear First-Half of 40-Something Me: 

You think you’ve already endured the hardest things you’d ever have to face. Nope, nope, nope, nope. You are finding out just how strong you are. You are taking the biggest risk of your life and all your greatest fears and weaknesses are being challenged..and you know it is right and good…that it is God. You are simply holding on in the hope it won’t always feel like death and terror. I am so FUCKING proud of you. *This* is what everything has been leading up to your entire life. Every bit of your dorkiness, sincerity, smarts and tenacity is being put into play and utilized.

Dear Present Me: 

You amazing, beautiful, woman…I love you beyond words and you are worth everything. Look at you getting out of bed and keeping young humans alive and thriving day after day even though you are scared shitless and feel more lost and lonely than ever before in your 45 years of breathing, living to witness your oldest as adults beginning their own terrifying, ridiculous journey. What a fabulous gift, knowing more of what you don’t know than at any point prior! Everything you thought you knew and were taught to depend on has vanished. You don’t get any more of a clean slate than this. You are all of every girl you’ve ever been and more. You are more. 

You are more.

You are more.

You are more.

You are infinitely more.

Dear Future Me: 

You are loved. You are wanted. You matter simply because you ARE. Beyond just existing, you are a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen and never-again-to-be-repeated dynamic miracle, endowed with immeasurable power and worth. See ya tomorrow.

Mama, Help Me

Mama, help me! Please be real

Mama, help me! Hold my hand

This absolute brilliance

To see things as they truly are is more than I can bear alone

Mama, help me…help me…help me

I listened and followed you out

My senses instantly assaulted with stench and horror – a legion of putrid corpses exposed

Mama, help me! Hold my hand and walk with me through

Mama, help me! Please be real

Don’t leave me here to die in the light

Alone

Journaling That Doesn’t Suck 09/27/2016

Went for a slow walk yesterday around the fake lake. It wasn’t exercise as much as knowing I have to get out and begin moving, to start putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t have to be pretty or accomplish any other goal than moving forward steadily.

Didn’t listen to any music to distract myself or try to elicit a cheap emotional release. Just walked and BE’d.

Said “hi” to a lot of friendly people getting their exercise on. Smiled at their dogs.

A little stormy weather was coming in from the west. Looking east, though it was around 9 a.m., the line of dark clouds not quite eclipsing the brightness of the sky in that direction gave it the illusion of a sunset.

What is your impression of the picture above? Is it a sunrise or a sunset and how does one tell without being there? Impression and “feels” mostly. I dunno. Perhaps if I looked it up there would be a more sciency explanation like more particulates in the air at dusk…but at any rate, my first impression upon looking east was that it surely looked like a sunset at 9 a.m.

Insert the obvious life metaphor. Although I’m pretty sure that’s entirely my problem right there. I assume what’s so goddam obvious to me and speaks for itself SHOULD be apparent to everyone.

But it’s not. Some days (like all of them lately) it seems like the whole world is upside down in delusion, insisting the sun is setting and it’s time to sleep  when I KNOW it’s a sunrise and it’s time to get busy with the day.

How do I know?

Because the sun rises in the east and I know which direction east is.

So was your initial impression of the above photo a sunrise or a sunset? Arguing about which one is truth is pointless without being there. It’s absolute fucking madness to be there in person, day after day, the sun rising and setting in the same place as it always has, and STILL insisting a sunrise is a sunset because it just feels right…or you prefer it to be so.

Do what you want, World. I’m done engaging anyone and anything that trades the truth for a lie and would rather live in delusion than the most basic self evident truths.

I’m hoping last night was a collective turning point and that a majority of us have a clear sense of direction and know the difference between east and west, day and night, and will act accordingly.

I’m getting busy in the day while it is still today. Who’s with me?

San Diego All Over

Endless-loop thought: – How did I get here-AGAIN?

I did everything I knew to do, everything I’m supposed to do, and once again, it just doesn’t fucking matter. It does not matter what I do, think, say, not do, not think, not say…the only one who matters, the only one I want has left me isolated in the horrible void – the upside down – to desperately try and fill his own with ???…whatever it is today.

Here I am back in San Diego. Again.

Alone. Paralyzed. Cried out on the floor of the apartment. It’s over.

If we’re destined to repeat this cycle, I sure as hell hope it includes the miracle desert restoration.

It’s a hope I didn’t have the last time I was here.

Fuck you, San Diego.

Holding out for Blythe, our oasis in the desert – home, creation of new life, family.

That’s the last time I remember being truly happy and whole – there.

Praying (screaming into pillows) to Whatever God There Is that we can get to there from here…again.

The Day I Officially Came Out as a “Done”

 

October

I’ve only attended church twice as a nonprofessional in the last few years, and both times were in Nashville. Just about this time last year, I made a trip out to see my oldest kids and used the opportunity to meet my blogging brother, John Pavlovitz, as he was speaking at an LGBTQ-affirming church in Franklin. John and I already had a legit friendship/kinship established and had a blast finally meeting in person.

john

The next day, my daughter Kathryn and I made our way to church to hear John speak. It was in that service during the worship time (church-speak translation: music concert/congregational karaoke) that I had quite the jarring epiphany.

I knew it was time to pull the plug on Four Creeks.

That in and of itself wasn’t the thing. We’d been coming to the end of everything for a while; people, money, sanity…will to live. Jimmy and I had set out to have Four Creeks be a church community where absolutely anyone of any persuasion, background, identity, ethnicity was valued and welcome to participate in absolutely every facet of church life. We did exactly that. It just turns out there wasn’t a market for it where we were, at least not one we were capable of tapping into by ourselves without resources and support. We had zero of either after the church that originally sent us out yanked everything out from under us very early on. We knew from the start we were dead walking. It was just a matter of time.

As I looked around the sanctuary at the beautiful diversity of humans worshiping together and the genuine love and enthusiastic community all the congregants shared, I welled up with thankfulness and awe that it did exist somewhere and that I was there to witness it. That Sunday last October, seeing the dream in vivacious reality in Nashville in stark contrast to our terminally ill child at home, I knew the time had come.

There was only a relieved resignation in that thought. It was the next one that I had never prepared myself to consider. If Four Creeks ceased to be, if our 20 years as professional Christians truly was coming to an end, what now? What kind of church would we want to join and in what capacity? Then came the epiphany.

None.

This was the exact moment I allowed myself to BE what I’d already been inside for a decade in Church World – DONE.

As glad as I was that this church existed and that so many people were being loved, valued and finding value in it, all I could think as I was immersed in the familiarity of a typical worship service that just about anyone else from my evangelical tribe would find familiar and appealing (except for worshiping along side a married gay couple or 20) was, “I don’t need this. I don’t want this for myself.”

Having been on the production end of church my entire adult life and living behind the veil working with pastors and church boards as employers (dear, wise friends when we were lucky; dangerously insecure and immature mega jerks when we weren’t), I’m basically ruined for the entire church machine. I can’t just sit back and enjoy the show. I haven’t had the luxury of finding value in church from that side of things since I was a child.

I get other people finding value in the routine, their preferred music (whether it be modern praise band, hymns or liturgy) or looking to their favorite pastor to inspire them. I just don’t. Having been raised in that world with a view behind the curtain, my oldest children don’t either. My youngest have zero concept of it as all they know of church is Four Creeks, which by both design and fate had no programming or any traditions to speak of other than simply meeting, breaking bread together and studying scripture and its practical applications with integrity. Kathryn and Ryan have since expressed just how relieved they are that their younger siblings won’t be raised in the church culture they were (before Four Creeks). I am too.

I’ve heard a lot of people admit that even if they themselves don’t really want to go to church, they feel they should for the sake of their children. I’m just weird, I guess. I told my therapist that it is for the sake of my children that I don’t want to go to church ever again.

That was last Thursday. Three days later I went to church with my children…because I wanted to…and it was profoundly healing and wonderful.

 

Coming Out

Hello from the other side.

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit as I’ve been undergoing the final stages of a massive life overhaul, “massive” being a bit of an understatement.

Here’s a list of things that if you’d told me even a year ago I’d be doing now I’d have laughed in your face or possibly slapped it:

  1. Terminating 20+ years as a professional christian.
  2. No longer identifying as christian, except when I do (more on that later).
  3. Getting a tattoo.
  4. Relocating to Tennessee after 30 years as a California resident.
  5. Living separate from my husband for an indefinite number of years.
  6. Changing my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat with the intent to vote for Hillary Clinton.
  7. Learning to be happy, confident, healthy and whole – mind, body, and soul – for the first time in my life (despite the majority of people I know being unable or unwilling to accept any of that to be possible considering numbers 1-6).

The process of coming out has been exactly that – a process – spread out over the last decade, the final fiery refining crucible in the last year. The years leading up to this big one were all about wrestling with my comfort and security lust to be able to get to the place of being willing to die to everything in order to see what remained  – what held true – after all that was consumable and expendable was burned away.

To contextualize my life in biblical metaphor (which I’ve always instinctively done since childhood), the last 10 years were my garden of Gethsemane where I agonized over whether or not I was willing, or even able, to go all the way. The last year was Good Friday to Easter Sunday, actually doing it and seeing it through to the end.

My first post-resurrection blog is an attempt to reveal the pure mustard-seed-sized gold nugget that remains now that the flames have subsided. I totally just mixed my metaphors there, but you’re with me, right? That’s all I ask, friend…that you stay with me without fear or agenda. Hear me. See me. Me is all I can be anymore and all I can give. That said, here’s all of me that remains after dying.

Oh Hey, I’m Ignostic

I’m a personality profile, self-reflection junkie. I’m obnoxiously obsessed with it, really. Perhaps this is over compensation for my personal lifetime baggage of believing my true self was not to be trusted or respected. Figuring out the real me and then loving her by honoring and trusting her has been the single most important thing I’ve done in this process. Realizing the futility of looking to any other human for my self worth, be it my parents, church people (gah, such disaster there!), or even my husband, was the second most important discovery. Though it’s natural to do so, it is unfair to the other person(s) and doomed to result in bitter disappointment and distract from the real work that only I can do in myself.

That’s why I get super excited when I come across words or ideas that perfectly explain what it is I’ve been feeling but haven’t yet been able to put together cohesively in my own mind, much less able to explain to anyone else.

The concept of ignosticism or igtheism was one such “Oh, there I am!” liberating discovery.

Here’s a boring wiki explanation, should you care to read http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ignosticism, but this is my take on it –

You might be more familiar with agnosticism, which claims nothing can be known about god’s existence, so the agnostic claims neither faith nor disbelief in god.

As an ignostic, one may claim genuine faith and spirituality based on personal experience (as I definitely do) but considers all god talk to be stupid, and by stupid I mean wholly inadequate to explain or quantify whatever god there is (my way of saying the “One True God”).

This very much includes my former tribe’s canonized god talk, the bible.

I no longer see the bible (though it was demanded I must) as “God’s Word.” I do see it as 100% the word of humans, gloriously representative of the complex mix of ridiculous, horrible, lovely, noble and sacred that we all are.

Am I calling the bible stupid and without value? Absolutely not. As I showed you above, the biblical stories, metaphors, and traditions are intricately intertwined into the tapestry of my life, from which I could no more untangle myself than I could unravel my own DNA…nor do I wish to.

Whatever honest human expression we create in regard to a conception of god is not stupid. It is holy and god-breathed in as much as a human made in Their image is. But to declare any of it to be absolute truth and to justify dehumanizing those who disagree CANNOT be God, and no matter how great the external pressure may be to conform, I will have no part in it. I’ve lived through (or rather ended up dying because of) so much human arrogance in the name of God.

Ironically enough, I take great comfort as I read the bible and see this cycle being played out over and over throughout the ages. There is nothing new under the sun. We have a long history of slaughtering prophets who dare challenge their culture’s iron-clad and bejeweled God Box, culminating in Jesus himself.

Sooooo, with this new perspective, I no longer entertain any thoughts or discussion regarding absolutes of “God is…” or “God says…” or “God wants…” but if a person is willing to engage in discussion centered on “what God is like” based on Jesus’ words and example, then I’m more than happy to engage.

The only absolute god talk that has any value to me is –

Whatever God there is, IS (I AM). God is Love. 

The only practical application (religion) I’m left with then is –

I AM in God’s image as a human. The only way to experience God is through my humanity. To worship/commune with/experience God is to cherish and honor the divine I AM that I am and the divine humanness of my neighbor. 

The quickest way to get me to disengage is to get angry and aggressively defensive with this very personal conclusion, as it is the only thing that remains after the inferno as my mustard seed nugget of faith and hope. If the simplicity of this so unhinges you, then you cannot handle ME, nor will I give myself over to you to be handled.

Heaven, Hell, afterlife? I don’t the fuck know, and – this is important now – neither do you, your grandma, your pastor, any preacher or teacher (celebrity or otherwise), religious tradition or any human that has ever lived and died on this planet, not even and especially the ones who wrote/edited/compiled/translated the writings a fraction of us in time and space call the bible.

You can tribe up around whatever god talk in which you find value and I won’t try to talk you out of it or think less of or belittle you (THAT would be stupid), but the only way for me to be now, on the other side, is tribeless – cage free.

Which begs the question:

Am I a Christian?

Hmmm, it’s complicated. I guess it depends on who wants to know and why. I know for a fact that I’m disqualified from being considered a “true Christian” by my former evangelical tribe’s standards. I’m well acquainted with the parameters of that particular God Box, and I definitely don’t fit within its confines. I tried stretching my legs within that box, but the tribe would have none of it. Rather than even consider doing a little remodeling to accommodate natural growth, they shoved me out and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not accepted there, for which I’m exceedingly grateful.

I’d spent so many years contorting and distorting myself in order to fit within that God Box that I honestly thought that muted and mutilated version of myself WAS my true self. I don’t think anything less than being ejected from that world would have gotten me out in the open and free. I was disoriented and in tremendous pain at first, but now I’m hitting my stride. The possibilities are wide open before me and I’m free to roam. Every once in a while someone within the box tries to shame me back in. It’s getting easier to just smile and say, “Nah Bro, I’m good, peace out” then continue to explore freely rather than waste any energy arguing about boxes.

But do I identify as a Christian anymore? Sometimes. Sometimes not. The week before we moved, my youngest son came down with strep throat. In the emergency room at 2 a.m. the clerk taking down our information asked about religious preference/affiliation in the event of a hospital admission and need for a chaplain. I paused for a second and then did what would have been unthinkable at any point prior in my life. I declined to identify as Christian and answered “none”…and it felt so deliciously right.

It took me a second to realize I had a big stupid grin on my face and how weird that must have looked, but that’s just it; no one cared. Nothing happened. No lightening bolts from the sky. No one jumped from around the corner to revoke my christian membership card.

Instead, a peace that made no sense, especially considering I was in the ER in the wee hours with a sick child days before moving, washed over me as I just let it BE what it IS, which in that moment truly was none, nothing, nada. I’ll have to do a separate blog on this sweet revelation and release into nothing and how I’ve never felt more connected to Whatever God There Is there.

Believing Jesus

On the other hand, I’ve never been more grounded in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, so in that respect I am solidly and wholeheartedly Christ-ian. Again, the irony is great, but it is the shedding of all doctrines requiring specific beliefs about Jesus as being necessary for a get-out-of-hell-free card that would have most Christians I know refuse to consider me one of them. That used to bother me…a lot. I got over it.

It’s much easier now that I’m living in a place where no one knows my story and no one filters my identity through the labels of “pastor” “church” or “christian.” I get to approach each new relationship on my own terms, revealing what I choose to reveal about myself organically, no longer imposed upon and controlled by a system that tells me who and how I must be.

I’m free to believe Jesus without restriction and in full integrity as fearfully-wonderfully-made divine human me; free to live in and act out of the Great Truth of who I AM while upholding the sacred worth of every human who crosses my path without judgment or defensiveness.

What’s in a Name?

At one point I seriously debated whether or not to rename this blog, dropping any trace of “christian.” I also considered whether or not I wanted to (or should) continue to be the administrator of a FB group I started, Beautiful Rowdy Christian Bloggers

When I died, my appetite to convince anyone with god talk died as well, and much of what was being posted didn’t jive with me anymore. I don’t fit in the Progressive Christian God Box either, though that one is roomier, constantly being redecorated, and usually worth visiting from time to time, but I won’t be taking up residence there. It was the posts from fellow beautiful, rowdy prisoners struggling to be free of all boxes and find their footing on the outside that convinced me to stay.

Ultimately, I decided to retain the label of Christian, however loosely, whether anyone else thinks I have the right to it or not. It is no longer the unbearable, ill-fitting burden it once was. It was necessary and good for me to drop it completely for a little while, and Jesus never once balked or told me to get back in the box.

No. This is who was waiting for me just on the other side of death (gunna leave ya with yet another metaphor based on Matt 11:30) –

“Hey Girl, been waiting for you out here. Give me that ill-fitting burden you’ve been carrying for so long. It was never meant for you. Rest now and recover. When you’re ready, I’ve got a custom-made pack that fits you just right and is light enough to run with.” 

Be sure to check out David Dietz’s blog about God in a Box here. It was a major “Oh, there I am!” epiphany for me when I knew I was ready to start running again.

Peace out, Peeps of All Persuasions. You’re inherently beautiful and worthy. Do whatever you have to do to stay rowdy and running free. You are not alone.


*Inconsistency in capitalization of “christian” and “god” throughout this writing is deliberate and not a whole lot of typos. If I feel it, I capitalize. If I don’t, I don’t, no matter what formality dictates I should. I’m letting whatever IS BE regarding all things personal god talk.