Waking Lovely

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Pop: The Water Breaks, The Birth Begins, and Nothing Stays the Same

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.

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God: So Very NOT In Another Galaxy, Far Far Away…

“The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.”  ~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

For days and for years and for an entire life I was told the confusing evangelical tale about two Gods who were the same God.  One was a God who looked down from Heaven upon me, watching what I did, and the other was a God who lived inside of me.  It was supposed to be both/and, only it was often very difficult to meld the two.

I dutifully sang the song as a child, “Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes, what you see,”  I learned that little hands, little feet, and little eyes had better always be careful.

It was scary, knowing about that God in the sky.  They said He was a God of love, yet He was always watching in such a way that one had better not mess up.  “Oh.  So that’s what love is…”  Little girls can’t help it if they draw appropriate conclusions from confusing messages.

And yet there was also the God who lived inside of me.  After all, if I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart, I wouldn’t be in heaven.  So the God who lived far away now also lived inside of me.  He died so that I wouldn’t be sent to a place of eternal torture where I would beg for death but not be allowed to have it.  In order for me not to go to that place, He had to suffer horrible torture Himself as the sin of the world was placed upon Him, at which point (even though He too was God), the God in the Heavens was not even able to look upon Him.

This was a strange system, very confusing, yet constantly and consistently presented as simple fact and, given the disastrous consequences of pissing this God off, one tended not to question such a salvation. In fact, quite the opposite.  I began preaching this salvation to my friends, starting in 2nd grade and into adulthood.  I truly and honestly meant well.  I didn’t want to see these poor people go to Hell, the reality of which was so built into my core belief system that I did not even question it, even while hating it, until I was in my thirties!

The first set of verses I memorized as a child in a Bible memory program (a very popular one in the church world I grew up in) were about the wickedness of humanity.  I was taught that God was not even able to look at us unless we had Jesus (who was also God) in our hearts.

I remember my child learning those same verses, when I enrolled her in that very same program.  Good moms put their kids in that Bible club.  It’s just how it’s done.  How I winced as I helped her learn that same passage, “There is none righteous, no not one.  There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away.  They have together become worthless.  There is no one who does good.  Not even one.”  The book of Romans, as we interpreted it, clearly explained that we were, quite literally, worthless.

No wonder conservative Christianity is known for being judgmental.  With a worldview like that, how could a faithful practitioner not be?  Many loving and compassionate people live within the fearful walls of Christendom.  They don’t mean to be judgmental.  They are just doing what they are told, believing what they are taught.  Their awakening may come, some day.  Until then, it helps not to take their behavior personal.

God, as I was taught, was very separate from you or I.  He was male.  He was in charge.  And He was most emphatically not smiling when He looked down at what He deemed as worthless beings who had all turned away.

I love being out of that theological world.  I love looking out at humanity and not seeing them as either lost souls to be won to the Lord or evil “secularists” to beware of.  I love having a view of God/dess that is wide, expansive, and joyous.

I was quite specifically taught that those who said God was in all were dangerous.  For three straight decades, I eschewed even that thought.  And then the awakening began.  Now God is in my hands as I hug my little one.  Goddess is in the cucumber vines pushing out their sweet harvest.  The gods are in the water, air, wind and fire.  The Divine is everywhere.

This isn’t a world to be feared.  Don’t be careful, little eyes, what you see.  Eyes are open and you are awake now!  Drink it all in.  The colors, the richness, the pulsing vibrancy of life.  It was meant to be celebrated.