Sexuality, fertility, pregnancy, birth, breast-feeding, rearing young— these are all such apt experiences and analogies for spiritual awakening and growth. When life takes hold, when awakening happens, it takes hold, roots deep and nothing is ever the same again.
I left my conservative Christian faith of 30 years in two very different ways. The first way happened to me, whether I wanted it to happen or not. The second way was a slow but conscious choice on my part.
It was much like pregnancy, which happens sometimes whether a woman is aware of it or not, and then there is the choice to carry the child, which is a slow and conscious decision involving time and growth and change. Or perhaps it is more like birth. The moment my water broke, everything changed. That was instantaneous, a one-time event, a “now everything is different.” The actual labor was much more of an experience, a gradually unfolding reality happening over time.
Without waxing on, I experienced a very painful culmination of events in which I felt like the very last bits of me were pulled apart and flew away on the wind. As I lay in bed that night, eyes closed, a mass of dense pain weighing down my heart, I felt and heard a pop, like a cork being released on a bottle of wine. I looked and saw myself floating, as in the way one would float in space, looking down at the outside of a bubble called Christianity.
My glance shifting right and left, I saw other bubbles, little spheres in which dwelt busy worlds. One was called Mormonism. One was Hinduism. One was Buddhism. And one was the sphere I had spent all of my known life in…up to the moment of the popping sound.
How many years I had spent within that bubble, searching, investigating, reading, researching, learning, swimming, and growing, and slowly feeling like what had once been a wide and spacious land had begun shrinking, shrinking, shrinking. The vast seas of answers began to feel like puddles of “same-ol, same-ol.” The wide sky of possibility gradually became more like a glass ceiling above which was anathema—cursed, warned against, not allowed. An eternity spent in Hell was always in the balance, and Hell was always enough of a threat to keep me in check.
It never occurred to me to leave my world. It never occurred to me that there was any other world.
I had researched other religions, looked at them from outside of their bubbles, wondered that the people within couldn’t see that they were just living inside of a bubble, that their worldview wasn’t the end all, be all, that their way of doing and thinking wasn’t the only way. Of course, my worldview trained me to not look at the other religions with any sort of respect, so it was hard for me to notice similarities or mutual truths or aspects in which these beliefs bettered and beautified the human spirit. Rather, I felt sorry for the people in those bubbles since they were trapped within them, held hostage by the enemy who was keeping them from the Truth…which would be my faith, of course.
Since I lived in a bubble myself, I was blind to the fact that I, too, lived in a bubble. That I, too, didn’t own the end all, be all.
Until the day I popped out.
I didn’t mean to pop out. I can’t emphasize that enough. I had no intention of ever popping out of what I didn’t know was anything to pop out of. I thought I lived in the universe. I thought the world I lived in was everything. Until the depth of the heart-crushing pain reached down, seeped down, sank all the way into the rigid concrete foundation of “who I was” and that slab that had been laid there from my earliest cognitive awareness just couldn’t take the weight.
It cracked. When it cracked, I was set free. Except for that it felt a lot like being lost, too. I had a whole life of being conditioned that all outside of my world were “lost.” So it wasn’t a freedom I wanted. Not yet. In fact, I was mostly terrified. Even though, as I noticed with surprise…it felt very peaceful out there. I felt whole. I felt like everything would be okay…
The next day I felt myself slowly dropping back down into the bubble that had been my world. Only nothing was the same anymore. No matter how delightful the scene, the moment, the experience, there was this awareness that it was all happening inside of a little bubble. A little bubble of my own choosing.
The water popped. The spiritual experience happened—unasked, unannounced, unplanned. The birth had officially begun. What had been gestating, forming, taking shape, was now going to be born. The second part was now beginning, the part where my intelligence, my heart, my emotions, my behaviors began to slowly, carefully, often fearfully follow the lead of the spiritual experience. And as much as birth is beautiful, it is also a bloody painful thing.