Tonight I realized two things:
1) If I want to see myself grow, I’ve got to be willing to risk failure. I have to be willing to venture into the unknown, to walk away from all my familiar surroundings.
2) For years, I have been adamant that I wouldn’t believe in God because God was just another “parent figure” to make me feel unheard, unseen, and abandoned. As far as I was concerned God was never there in my pain. Maybe scripture says I am forgiven but I don’t know if God should be.
Okay, you’re probably wondering how these revelations, or epiphanies, came about. On Christmas Eve my cousin told me about this group of people who meet and worship and then go have beer afterwards. He told me they were really liberal and accepting and that they don’t see God or religion the way we grew up seeing those things. Being the outcast, black sheep, religious reject of the family, I was intrigued. So, that night I took a leap and went to the worship service. And I’ve got to say… something about those people felt like home. I’m not one to easily discount something like that, so I went back tonight to see if there was any validity to what I felt before. Maybe there is… but that isn’t what this blog is really about. This blog is about how taking that leap and then taking it again led me to tonight’s message on retreat. That is what has inspired this blog.
As I listened to the various members of this group talk tonight I thought about another leap I took just yesterday. And how that leap felt so daunting in the moment. It felt impossible. It made me feel like I had cast myself adrift in some vast chasm with no tether to bring me back. It made me feel like I was being led into the unknown. But, it was good. It was a good leap.
Monday my therapist asked me if I would be willing to throw away my razors, right then and there. I hesitated. I think my pregnant pause was pregnant with pause, the silence and contemplation lasted for so long. How could this woman, this trained professional really be asking me to give up the one thing that feels constant in my life right now? How could this woman, who cannot guarantee that I’ll be able to regulate my emotions ask me to give up the one thing that never fails to bring me back? How could this woman be asking me to risk almost certain failure? I’d like to say she asked because she cares. I think she cares enough to want to help me make this journey, to encourage me to jump into the unknown. I chose to trust her but at that point it was a blind trust. I handed my blades over because she holds onto hope for me when I am drowning in a sea of darkness and she reminds me that people survive, that I can survive. I trusted her then without knowing the lessons that today would bring.
Now, I feel that trust has taken a different form. I can see that, giving up my razors, as one step toward something potentially amazing. I can see that the cutting has been my home, my safe place, my place of familiarity. But, I think that I’ve been so immersed in this life, this pain, this struggle that I’ve stopped seeing the magic of all the other things around me. I think we often get so caught up in our day to day struggles that we just disconnect, put ourselves on autopilot and lose the motivation to witness the wonder around us. We stumble from one familiar place inside ourselves to another, being sure to keep the blinders on the whole way. I’ve been living that blind life. I’ve become so focused on just making it from point A to point B that I have failed to appreciate the journey. And, shit, I know it’s cliche but maybe it really is about the journey.
Right, so, that second point of realization. I have literally no idea where it came from. I was driving home from the worship thing tonight and the thought just hit me: God is another parent to emotionally abandon you. This is something I’ve grappled with for years and years and years. I prayed when men made a conquest of my body. I prayed when I couldn’t see the light anymore. I prayed when the church and my mother told me I was an abomination. I prayed when I realized I didn’t love the way I was supposed to love. I prayed and I fucking prayed and I received no answer. There was no solace, no peace, no love. There was a dark, empty silence. A big, fat nothing. A gaping hole in my heart. A crater where my soul should be. There was no one. I don’t know how to move past that but part of me wonders… is there any way to marry these two revelations? Can I risk a belief? Is it that simple? Surely not. Surely I can’t just decide: I’m walking into the unknown and that unknown is a belief in God. Nope. That’s not it; that’s not me. But, what?
Do I let myself believe in all the moments I felt like I hadn’t been abandoned but that my mother assured me weren’t real or valid? Like the time right after I tried to kill myself. I went to some church thing with my youth group, to see a guest preacher. This guy stopped mid-sermon. He swore as he walked down the aisle that he had never done this before but that God was laying something heavy on his heart that he had to get out. When he reached my row he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “you are here for a reason. I know you’re hurting but God has plans for you. You’re going to do great things. You’ll be a witness. Your story will change lives.” In that moment there was literally no doubt in my mind that God was talking to me through that stranger. I felt “saved” that night. But when I relayed the story to my mother she said, “you’re not special. That was probably all an act. You haven’t been saved.” I felt so belittled, so small, so ignorant and naive. I have never been able to remember that experience with the same fierce conviction as I had before. The warmth, the love, the goosebumps… gone. Just like that, the moment meant nothing. So, maybe that’s the place where I have to start taking back my power. Not even necessarily just where it pertains to religion but in everything. Maybe I start by taking back my memories and my experiences. I wanted the unconditional love of a mother so badly that I was willing to burn myself at the stake for it; I was willing to disavow everything I thought to be true just for a morsel of that love. I sacrificed myself. So maybe that’s where the two revelations converge. Maybe I am the unknown. Maybe I have to start by taking myself back, one memory at a time, one feeling at a time, one intimacy at a time.