Shall we flashback a bit? I’m very young, though I am not sure how old, and my dog Daffy (short for Daffodil) dies. My heart is broken, but there is a silver lining – I am going to see Daffy in heaven. This makes me feel good. The thought that now Daffy is Jesus’ dog, light and free and running on clouds. When I say this to my Sunday school teacher she snorts, “Dogs do not go to heaven.” When a freshly broken little me asked for clarification she informed me that animals don’t have souls so they can’t get into heaven.
It didn’t make sense, I couldn’t concentrate on anything she said. My mind was racing, “My mom said heaven was a place with golden streets, where even the flowers sing His praise.”
“Yes?” She answered.
“Well, why would we need streets in heaven? Why would flowers be there? Plants don’t have souls, do they? If plants can sing don’t you think my dog can come?” They were honest questions that were brought about by the new light she had shed on my idea of heaven, though I think she thought I was antagonizing her on purpose.
Quick side note, after proofing this blog post I realized that she was willing to go with flowers in heaven and that the dog that brought this whole conversation into existence name was Daffodil which is a beautiful flower. How’s that for symbolism? ;)
More than anything about that time in my life, and it must have been the age where I was starting to really turn the things they were teaching me over in my head and really examine them, I remember the anger and aggravation that people expressed as I approached with wonder and I remember being so confused as to why they hadn’t asked these questions and why it was bad to ask.
Later in life, slightly older but not much, I had this crazy light go off in my head. It had to do with Cain and Able. Cain kills Able and God puts a mark on his head so that everywhere he goes the people know he is violent and not to harm him. Suddenly, though I had known that story FOREVER, I was like, “Wait, where did these other people come from? When did God make them? So, you mean, we are not all related to Eve?” I sat with those questions for a long time, I didn’t think they were bad questions but I didn’t think any of my questions were “bad” and I wasn’t sure if I would get snapped at if I asked.
Roughly ten years ago I went back to church, it was my last great attempt before I really fell into a sort of hopelessness. I had come to grip with the fact that I was just going to have to grin and bear the “blind faith” mindset. I was going to have to stop thinking if I wanted to save me soul – if I am honest I really didn’t think my soul was so bad off, just if I held it up to some of the standards preached was I a little worried, even more so because the standards preached were so far from what I believed! So, I read my bible and saw only what they told me to so on Sunday morning. I sat in the pews and I tried not to visibly wince as the hate filled word was spat, mentally editing out most of what was being said just so I could be comfortable. I tried, you have to believe I tried, not to ask any questions. Heck, I tried not to think any questions.
Then in a cell meeting I couldn’t help it. The leader of the meeting was aggressively praying for a perceived non-Christian. It was something like, “Lord, let her see her way is wrong and let her get to salvation before she dies and lives her eternity in hell. Rebuke her evil ways and her wrong beliefs…” There was just nothing positive; no, “Let her dance with your joy. Allow her to live the life you want us all to live…” and even more while the prayer was going on all I had were questions. How do we know she isn’t saved? Is it something we can see? Do I looked saved? What makes us right and her wrong? Does right and wrong really exist in some finite form? Is there only one set of beliefs? Do the words we use to express those beliefs matter more than the life we live? What if I was the perfect Christian, however they defined it, in actions and in my heart but I happened to be born Muslim and therefor have a different name for God?
I couldn’t help it and the questions started to tumble out and the girl leading the meeting shifted uncomfortably, then kind of blinked and said she had to check with her higher ups about whether she would answer these things. The two things she did feel quite comfortable telling me was that, “Even if you had two people who lived identical lives of service, kindness and love the one who was not the correct religion (Christian) would go to hell.” and, “You are not meant to know everything, God doesn’t have to explain it all to you and you really need to stop asking those type of questions.”
Those type of questions? I was so beyond frustrated that I couldn’t breathe. I walked out empty knowing I wouldn’t go back. Not sure if I ever would try again. I cried that night, it was a “what’s wrong with me” mixed with a “what’s wrong with them” cry. I cried it a lot those days. I would look at my daughter and cry, blast my worship CDs on the way home and cry. Then one day I had a moment, and honest and frank talk with God. An all out, here are my cards on this table, I need to have this out with you argument you might say. A real now or never knock down drag out. I screamed and cried and asked A LOT of questions, and there was this moment where it all shifted so slightly. The clouds changed and this perfect prism of light appeared and God said, “I am. You know that I am, you have always known. You will be fine, this is all going to be fine.” I stopped crying. Fine? Well, okay. Then I will stop making myself crazy and I will stop going at this like I can actually change any of it and I will just live and it will be fine. There was also this strange implication that I would be back in church, that there would be a time for everything, that my questions wouldn’t always keep me alienated from what I was searching for.
I didn’t stop asking questions, I started answering them on my own. I consider myself blessed in that there has always been a stream of knowledge I can tap into that I can’t take credit for. If you ask me a question or if we are discussing something and I get the answer from that place I will usually say, “I am not sure why, but I know this is the answer…” It’s something I had to live with for a long time before I trusted it, and that others (of whom I do share it, because I don’t just share it with everyone) have had to know me for a long time to come to terms with those answers. I am also VERY careful to make sure I never pass my own thoughts or guesses off as coming from this other source. A lot of my “grown up” beliefs come from living my life, silently asking questions and getting answers from that stream.
I came to a place where I identified spiritually as a Christian, I have rock hard faith in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but religiously Wiccan, meaning I have a passion for active worship – candles and dance and art and prose and music and seasons and including the entire mind, body and earth in my worship. I met my wife who I believe considered herself Wiccan, but had bonded strongly with the Christian faith, becoming saved and being actively involved until she was basically ran out of it due to her sexuality. As we really forged ahead with our family we would have these discussions of God and ask and answer and grow together. We decided to raise the kids Christian, we did home church. Outside doing bible lessons, and then writing prayers on paper to send up to heaven on balloons… Or making art projects and then writing worship notes to light fire to and send up to heaven. That was all good, but I wanted something fine.
In a way that was the point my whole life was at. I had come to the end of the waiting period on almost every front. I had done the work I was able to do, with Gods grace and love I had reached the end of that time in my life. We as a family were at a place of all systems go and I looked back to God. I was reading a prayer book I live by and I had been called to a particular prayer. Normally I just edit to suit me but this time God was like no you pray that prayer as is. It seemed like a round two of that decade old meeting. “If you want me to pray this and live this and be this, then you need to give me a church I can call mine. You need to provide a place my kids will be safe. You have to deliver the council I can trust and respect. You do that and I will do my part, because so far I have not found it!” That Sunday, three days later, my wife and I were sitting in our first GPWC service crying and holding each other. It is a fine church – lovely, caring, sweet, good. It is fine, but more than that is fits me.
I had always prayed by giving thanks, but was taught to ask not assume. I changed the way I prayed to fall in line, and NEVER felt as if my prayers had any strength. Now, I pray my way again. The way that is natural to my spirit and I am a warrior in a battle already won. My prayers are a force of nature. I give God glory with my whole existence, instead of bringing Him shame by being too colorful, too loud or too unconventional. There is no doubt in any step, or in any aspect. It is natural, an extension of my own being and it is FINE. It’s a place where I can ask anything I want, though by simply existing it eliminates a lot of questions. I realized that most of my questions came not from a place of misunderstanding, but from a place where being allowed to follow through with my thoughts was frowned on. I wasn’t confused by my relationship with God, my relationship with God became confused when it was forced into the context of traditional, inflexible religion. When left alone with my thoughts, or when in safe company and like minded people (my wife) the natural progression of questions goes like this: question leads to thoughtful discussion. Thoughtful discussion leads to an answer or answers. Each answer leads to revelations that leave us feeling satisfied, pleased, awe struck and asking more questions. Questions lead to thoughtful discussion… and the process repeats. The next thing you know we have spent an evening with each other and God and we feel happy, close, full and hungry for more.
I feel like I could write on this forever, but my puppy needs to be at the vet in a half an hour and I have yet to get dressed! lol Don’t worry, it will be coming up again I think. That and I have this post about Jesus that is banging around in my heart just working on words!