Welcome! It has been a while since I last wrote a post. Sorry to be away so long, but things have been stewing around in my head and not really jelling into posts. Ever since my seminar, I’ve been doing a lot of processing next steps for several efforts. I guess I was on a vacation of sorts.
Now with Sreejit returned to India and starting up his prompts again, my vacation has come to an end. 🙂 This post is in response to the first of his prompts.
The prompt is: CONCEPTS OF GOD – WHAT ARE YOURS?
When I first saw this prompt, I knew I’d like to respond to it. Then I read this blog post from my blogging friend Anawnimiss and I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I wanted to write about another of my transformations.
Let’s start with a trip back in time to 1975 – 1976. This was when I was six to seven years old. I have many fond memories of going to church during those years. My grandmother and grandfather picked my brother, sister, and I up nearly every Saturday for the weekend. I loved it. I loved being with them. Their house was so serene and quiet. It felt like so much love and understanding. I wanted to live with them all the time.
Each Sunday I would go to church with them at the Euclid Avenue Church of The Nazarene in Boise, ID, which just happened to be on Euclid Avenue. 🙂
To my young mind, it was a huge building, with all manner of wonderful places to go. As you entered the double doors into the entry hall, there was a monthly bulletin board on the right-hand side. My grandmother kept this bulletin board updated, and so I would go with her on some Saturdays when she was working on it and explore the church. She always made it beautiful and gave it seasonal borders and backgrounds. The bulletin board told of all the church events for the month. It was a piece of functional art.
On the other side of the entry hall were the entrances to the sanctuary, with its two columns of bench seating. I remember when the seats were recovered and the padding improved. They were so comfortable that sometimes I’d find myself drifting off to sleep during the sermon.
At the end of sanctuary was a stage. It had, along the front of the stage, a small wall maybe 18” or so high that you could kneel in front of, a pulpit for the pastor to present his sermon from at center stage, and the seating for the church choir near the back.
I remember going to the church week after week, the feeling of safety, comfort, and acceptance from my grandmother and grandfather showing me that life with god could be different. I wanted so desperately to believe that by accepting God into my life I was going to lift my self-esteem, keep people from being angry or unhappy with me, and provide me a sense of safety when my parents would fight.
The sermons all talked about accepting God. They talked about life renewed with acceptance of the Holy Spirit, but no matter how many times I went to kneel at that altar, no matter many times I prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, none of my problems were solved, for the church couldn’t protect me from my own self-loathing. The church couldn’t intervene in the drama and protect me from the anger around me. The church couldn’t keep people from fighting.
Eventually as I aged I needed those problems solved. I needed someone to fix it and god wasn’t performing. So I abandoned religion. Over the next six years, I would learn to use anger to protect my own self-esteem, use anger and abuse to turn the tables in situations where I was afraid, and provide my own sense of safety by making my body strong and my mind cold.
In my mind, God was a judgemental, punishing, and selfish person with standards I could never hope to meet. So I turned myself into a smaller version of that knowing that if I got good enough at the game I’d be safe.
Then something happened. When I was in Alaska, living homeless in Wasilla, my grandfather died in Boise, ID. It would be two or three years before I cried and felt my grief of his death, but when he died it planted a seed of change.
When I returned from Alaska, a story reached me of the details of his death, how he was convinced of his own failure to live up to God’s standards, how he had punished himself for being less than perfect. In this story of what was likely one of my grandfather’s darkest moments, I found hope — hope that I had it wrong. Hope that God wasn’t defined as I understood Him. Hope that God actually loved me and cared for me.
So I went seeking a new concept of God. I went to Alateen. I went to church camp. I sought once again to understand and accept God into my life.
What I found at the Church was more of the same messages. I heard once again, “If you aren’t good enough, you won’t be allowed into heaven”. I remember one session with a Church Camp counselor where he told me, “You do not need Alateen or Alanon. All you need is to accept Jesus Christ as your savior.” I knew then that my path to God needed a different approach. I needed a different way than the Church had to offer. I needed to come to believe on my own. I needed to believe in something awesome, loving, and invasive. All I heard from religion was rules, mandates, and structures.
My concept of God now is far greater, more inclusive, and far more powerful than any belief my young mind created. I now seek out teachings that fit this model of a loving God. I find that from spiritual leaders who teach this concept, I can learn about a God that I can believe in without fear or judgement.
So today I know that a low self-esteem is a rejection of God’s love for me.
I know that when I experience something as fearful, I am projecting my inner disconnection from God onto the world.
I know that when I allow others to impede my inner peace and happiness, I am placing the world as the center of myself instead of God.
For me, god is the source. God is the creating energy of all things. Any discomfort in my life means I have not remembered my connection to God. Any judgement or anger is me not letting go of the belief that I am separate from god and thus in some danger. All such danger is by definition imagined danger which my mind believes thus it requires me to protect myself using judgement of the thoughts, actions, and attitudes of myself and others.
The simple truth for me is that I need not protect myself with judgments because there is no true danger to my soul and thus no danger to ultimately who I truly am. Any belief I have that this is not the case is me forgetting about my true nature and the true nature of God. Through my concept of God I now can restore my connection to God.
I can let go of judgments I harbor by using forgiveness. Forgiveness is used to realize that there was never anything truly to forgive, since all of my fears which require judgments are based on a lack of connection to god.
Thus by using Forgiveness to let go of judgement I can end the cycle of judgement and forgiveness forever. God gives me freedom from that rat race because I am safe in the love God is. When I act from a belief that I am not connected to god I return to judgement and thus the need for forgiveness.
I do not believe I will return to any church on a regular basis, but I know now that I do not fear any such place or perspective even when the doctrine, people, or organization tell me feel fear, shame, or even concern. For I know that God is love and works everywhere, providing the voice of joy, love, and safety.