Five or six or seven years ago, (I’m not good with time) I experienced a profound shift in belief.
I realized, through an undeniable and deeply mystical experience, that I did not believe some of the things I thought I believed, and that I did believe some things I thought I didn’t believe.
I was called back to church, a place I never thought I’d be.
I was reaffirmed as an Episcopalian.
My heart and my life broke open.
I discovered parts of myself, a true essence, that had been locked away and hidden.
Since then, I’ve often felt that I am sitting on a bridge between my Christian faith and spiritual-but-not-religious (New Age?) practices and ideas, sifting through beliefs and sparks of insight and teachings, trying to speak and act and live in a way that it inclusive and expansive, inoffensive, but also true to who I am and why I’m here.
I have tried to reach across canyons and chaos, to find the places of harmony, where we of differing faiths and practices meet one another.
There have been moments when I have felt confused, unsure, and completely in the dark.
There have been moments when I’ve questioned everything.
There have been moments of bliss and divine union.
And there has been…stillness.
The past couple of months have been strange
I have felt plucked up, removed from life in a way.
I have felt like nothing was moving forward, particularly my work.
Everything has been slowed down, stopped even.
I have been in a holding pattern.
I have been waiting.
Here, on this Monday of Holy Week, I am beginning to feel movement.
I am beginning to feel another shift taking place.
This time, it is not a shift away from one set of beliefs into another, but rather a sharpening of focus, a deeper dive into who and what I am and why I am here.
A deeper dive into the heart of Christ and the ministry of Jesus.
Two times last week, someone asked me if it bothered me that the Episcopal Church was dying.
My answer was no, it doesn’t.
It doesn’t bother me because everything is dying. Life is a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth.
It doesn’t bother me because I don’t think the Church is dying, I think it’s healing.
We often see in data what we want to see, what we expect to see.
We see in data what we fear.
I am not afraid of losing the Episcopal Church because the energy I feel surging through the Church right now is the energy of life. Of rebirth. I think we are in the process of casting off what isn’t true and stepping more fully into the mission of the God of Love.
I think the Church is becoming a truer version of itself.
I think I am becoming a truer version of myself.
And I know that can feel (and look) like death.
I’m talking about myself, making my self the point of reference here, because that is what I do. This is my website. It bears my name, my face.
I’m speaking to you in the first person, from my studio, my heart, my mind, using my language and my experiences.
But the thing is, none of this is really about me.
At the heart of the transformation that began for me those five or six or seven years ago, is precisely this fact.
I have explored a lot of spiritual concepts - ideas like the law of attraction and manifesting* - in a self-based way.
I used to pull cards and go to psychics hoping to find some great insight or medicine about me.
I wanted things for me - Happiness! Love! Money! Safety! Longevity! Success!
Even though I believed in God and angels, even though I sought to live in compassion, even though I wanted to bring in healing energy for others - my spiritual but not religious practices placed me at the center of my universe.
My well-being was the focus - my desires, my vision of what life should be.
I see things differently now.
Preserving the self is not the meaning of life.
It’s only in the release of self that I find true love.
When I try to make things happen, when I think I know what’s best, I separate myself from the never-ceasing flow of Divine Love.
When I surrender to God and trust what is, I allow Divine Love to flow through me.
(To paraphrase our rector’s Palm Sunday sermon:)
Life is not about creating a new reality; it is about accepting this reality and moving within it as an instrument of love.
For the record, I still pull cards and I am not at all opposed to a good psychic reading.
I still want things.
I still envision a future I would like to live.
I still think of myself as a co-creator with God.
I still believe in the importance of spiritual self-care.
I still ask for things in prayer, all the time.
But when I look at my life, I can see that none of the miracles, none of the wonderful things, none of the big important stuff, happened because I made it happen.
I haven’t manifested anything.
Those things happened, not because I was using positive language or changing my thoughts or participating in a correct set of rituals.
Those things happened because they were given in the flow of the Holy Spirit.
I have participated in those gifts by responding - to my intuition, to my inner guidance - and (to a certain degree) by allowing the flow; but none of it originated with me.
I have said Lent is about dropping what isn’t working.
This week, I am dropping once and for all, any idea that tells me I am here to manipulate the universe.
I am not here to manipulate the universe.
I am here to live in harmony with the universe, both of us God’s creation.
In my younger spiritual life, I looked for safety and protection.
I looked for ways to combat fear and ease anxiety because I didn’t want to die.
It was all about preservation of the self.
Now, I’m listening to the words of Jesus, the Christ, who asks me not fear, who asks me to walk free of anxiety, but not out of the preservation of self.
There is no promise of a pain free existence, only the promise that in death there is nothing to fear because truly, there is no death.
I seek to listen to the voice of God, the voice of Love, that speaks in my heart, and shows me the way.
I am learning to trust that what is meant for me will not pass me by, because what is meant for me is not about me.
I have a part to play here and that part is being written by God.
I have a voice that belongs to God.
I am a stitch in the fabric of life woven by God…for all of us, by God.
I believe God wants for God’s creation joy and love and peace and happiness and pleasure.
I don’t believe God ever causes suffering.
But I also don’t believe I am here to be fulfilled as an individual.
I don’t believe God blesses with material wealth, only moves in the lives of those who are doing it right.
I believe the grace of God flows constantly and everywhere, through every life, through every creature, all the time.
I am here, just like you are here, as a part of a divine mission.
I am here to be a part of humanity, to love others, to love the world.
Oh, I still want to be here on this bridge where we meet, where we show our differing beliefs and practices to one another, where we have no desire to change one another but instead, embrace our diversity.
But I am not here to serve safety.
I am here to serve Love.
And that changes everything.
*I know that many of you who read this, many of you whom I love and respect, do believe in the law of attraction and practice manifesting. I want to be clear that I am not saying this is wrong, nor am I categorizing these beliefs as immature. I am speaking about my personal journey with these concepts and my own spirituality immaturity.