Sunday, September 10, 2006

A rough week turns sweet

Last week reminded me of two other hard weeks I've lived since embarking on an authentic journey of spiritual self-assessment. Earlier in the week, I posted an entry to this blog that I then removed as I thought better of it. I then attempted to make peace with the awkward event inside my soul by myself (it's another one of those "outings" where who I am is discovered and then seen as suspect, and someone I consider a friend feels the need to warn others about me...). Instead, I found myself waking up at odd hours of the night defending myself to the phantoms in my dark room.

I have this bad habit that comes from my ENFP Myers-Briggs temperament. I really believe that if I could have two hours of your time and goodwill, I could win you back to my side.

The odd thing is... when I'm seen as dangerous (after I feel like throwing up) I usually want to laugh. I've spent more time bending over backwards to protect the reputations of the religious conservative and fundamentalist in places where they are criticized than the conservatives who find me dangerous. I know their rhetoric and theology, I understand their values and passions, I admire and protect their intentions. It's almost laughable to me that anyone would imagine that I'd be a threat in any of of their communities since I have been one of them and protect them when they are misunderstood.

But if I know all that, I also know (when I'm alone in the night with the phantoms) that all that cache of understanding and empathy goes out the window when I bring critique to the theology I used to believe.

And you know what?

This week I realized I even understand that feeling and don't want to be angry about it.

I remember shaking and sweating as I opened a book about Jesus written half by a Jesus Seminar member and the other half by an Anglican. What was I, the conservative, spirit-filled, evangelical afraid of?

It was this... this very experience of being rejected, misunderstood, and ejected from community; it was the unsettling discovery that Christian theology was perhaps wider, more diverse and more creative than I'd believed before. It was... fear of the unknown.

This week, though, in the midst of that soul-swooping experience of spiritual vertigo, some of my friends helped me back up onto my feet. A couple of them found me by email and sent virtual hugs. One sat across from me at a lunch table and let me pour it all out while she nodded so sympathetically, I teared up. Another stood up for me and with me.

I'm humbled. I'm touched. I'm... just glad, to have friends.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said to leap for joy when you are persecuted. I'm leaping today for joy because some of my friends reached out to me while I felt the heat of criticism and suspicion.

All this to say: Thanks. You know who you are.


Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I am happy to see that your'e week turned out "sweet" but more happy to see that you have friends "reached out to you" and were willing to be there for you and help get you "back on your feet" as you put it. Fear of rejection and just the thought of ejection from any community you have put your heart and soul into as long as you have is a tough thing for anyone to go through...but...I am glad to hear that apparently you have support and true friends who are willing to stand by you...Thanks for sharing....

Ampersand said...

From what you write here and from what I know of your friends, the best part was that the encouragment that came your way was not merely a voice of, "you are right and they are wrong," but even more so a voice of "we are glad you are you."

That's a beautiful thing.

Carrie said...

Fear of rejection I can see, but don't really worry about. Much worse for me is fear of losing everything that gives me peace and purpose.

I know this may be different from the way you feel, but too many questions with no answers makes me feel lost. If there is no God who loves me, then I walk out each day into a cold world that really doesn't give a shit if I survive. I'm another cog in the wheel, another random chance in the universe whose individual life is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It's survival of the species, not the individual that counts.

No personal God, no Savior, no salvation, no eternal life, no justice done in a final accounting, no purpose to what goes on here day after day. Just chance and randomness. For me, no amount of everybody making it a better place to live and loving one another cancels out the ultimate futility. It seems, if there is no personal God, then "nature" played a cruel trick by evolving us into sentient beings who crave purpose and meaning in life- beings with a spiritual componenet, or should I say, the illusion of a spiritual component.

So, I don't run from questions because I need the status quo for friends and position. Sometimes I do run, but it is because I can't go down the ultimate path of loss of faith in God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It really is what keeps me alive. So when I seem to be in denial, it is because I'm trusting that God has revealed Himself to us and the events of my life and others is enough for me to know that.

Perhaps this is where I don't believe in predesitination and the thought that we can't choose. I choose to believe. ;-)

(I don't think you are dangerous.)

Love you,

SusansPlace said...

Oddly, I did read your earlier blog before you deleted it. It was heartfelt and I appreciated it but understand why you removed it. ;-)

I don't think you are dangerous. I do think you are an intrepid explorer! There is some danger involved in exploration but in the end, most explorers seem to think the dangers worth the reward.

Carry on, Mrs. Bogart!


julieunplugged said...

Hi Carrie.

:) I appreciate your post and can see that it needs to be said, and even with that much passion.

For me, the peace came when I was more able to lean into the questions themselves. And surprinsingly, I do have hope. I don't know from whence it comes, but I have it. I also feel that life is meaningful, important and sacred.

I think Christianity has forever given me a way of interpreting life that enriches it. But perhaps what is different is that in my life, I really did have to lose it (my faith) to find it (a new kind of faith).

I don't think I've "got" anything identifiable, but I do feel I've got something that keeps me going and gives me the spark that makes my life (dare I use such a big word?) grand.

What I love about you is your tenacity for what you long for and how you never let go, but you keep digging deeper, letting it shape and mold who you are. My favorite quality of yours is your dogged loyalty to the people and beliefs that have been your long term allies and friends, in spite of hang-ups. Honestly, I've been inspired not to throw in the towel many times because of that example.

So thanks.:)

Deb said...

You need to come hang around some Nexus (UCC) Church people. We are finding that there are many of us who have "hit the wall" and can't go back. We "once were blind, but now we see" things differently. You have allowed your faith to evolve and that may mean your community has to change in order to be able to speak the same language and to be truly heard. I think you will find that we can hear you and don't find you dangerous at all - your voice is ours.
A dangerous sister,
Deb Wiggins

Carrie said...

And one of the things I appreciate about you is your desire to hear what someone is saying.

Thank you for understanding that my comment was not a criticism of you, but a exposure of me.

It is so nice to be heard (and even appreciated!).


Chuck said...

Darn - I liked that post, and missed seeing it in your archives.

julieunplugged said...

Lol! Well apparently everyone saw that post that I pulled so no one would have to see it. :) You all are too kind.


Vynette said...

Julie, I've been reading your blog for some time and I hope you don't mind if I make a comment in this thread.

It is grevious to me to read some of these entries. Unfortunately, a position has now arisen where some people have either rejected ‘Christianity’ outright or are struggling to find some guidance. In not perceiving that ecclesiastical teachings are not based on scripture, many have rejected the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth also.

The simple message of Hebrew Christianity has been overlaid with doctrines arising from the 'gentile' theology of the Graeco-Roman church fathers. Fortunately for us, the simple message of Jesus, the apostles, and the writers of the New Testament can be resurrected and established. Personally speaking, it brings great joy and purpose to one's life to be able to identify just what is required of a follower of Jesus. I could sum this up by saying that belief is nothing - character in action is everything.

But I presume - you probably have realised this already.


seekinghim said...

Julie, I have been reading your blog for just a few weeks. I absolutely love the dialogue that is happening here...a dialogue that happens because of your willingness to be vulnerable.

I so related to this entry...I could have written it myself (but not half so eloquently!) Thank you for sharing your journey with us.