Saturday, April 23, 2016

Embracing the Mess and Celebrating the Moon with Friends

This week, I read St. Julian of Norwich, Starhawk, Adelina St. Clair, Pope Francis, Mark Shea, The Wild Hunt, the patheos Pagan channel, Jason Mankey, Melinda Selmys. If you're familiar with those people, that's a list of pagan and Catholic sources. I'm exploring all that was told to me was off limits and evil, and finding it isn't, and trying to figure out where I stand. My spiritual journey is messy, complicated, beautiful, maddening, healing, and my own. If there's some divine force out there (I believe there is), then I will have to answer to Her, and to no one else. In the midst of all of this, I planned a full moon ritual for this past week's full Pink Moon with my other pagan friends, and felt trepidation and excitement.

As Gemini, Fern* and I assembled our circle, lit candles, said blessings, and meditated, I was moved by how embodied it was, transcendent and earthly, the sacred in the spiritual and in the purely physical.

We connected to our spirits, to our bodies, to our emotions, to our intellect, through a series of meditations. We embraced our whole persons and bridged realms of physical and spiritual, and it was beautiful. There were stones, candles, incense, salt, water, fire, air, all sacred because of their inherent worth. And while I guided us because I have done a full moon ritual before, it was equal, with Fern calling and blessing fire and water (our Pisces friends Moonbeam lives too far away to do her element), Gemini reading her beautiful blessing and prayer to help closeminded, empathy-less religious people, and me reading an Earth Day prayer. No heirarchy, just us, friends, feeling our way through our first group ritual and making mistakes and giggling in addition to our somber and intense moments.

We poured open our hearts, were vulnerable, and yet in a safe, sincere space. We've walked a long, difficult road together. Even though not all of us are in the area at the same time, when we do come together we can create a safe space with each other.

Safe doesn't mean perfect. Safe doesn't mean we agree on everything. It simply means in our vulnerability, we can be honest with each other, and know that we each have empathy and love for the other.

I think this is ultimately my problem with attending church services, despite the fact that I am simultaneously drawn to a lot of Catholicism. I do not know those people on this type of level, and yet, I am supposed to participate in the intimate act of worship with them. After doing that with two very different types of churches and being burned, it feels far too vulnerable. Maybe there will come a day where it won't, but for so long my relationship to religious authority was so boundary-less. This was partly my fault: I was looking for approval and affirmation. But my flames of desperation were fanned by religious leaders looking for sycophants. But it means that the way I relate to Christian religious leaders is unhealthy, and I am working through that.

My friends and I are all coming at our spirituality sideways after years of trying to come at it from the top down or bottom up and make it look something other than it truly was, each of us carrying varying degrees of interest in integrating any elements from our Christian pasts and wondering what, if anything, we will carry forward.

Evangelicalism taught me to feel shame about the strange, seemingly contradictory directions I feel pulled. Despite having a holy book that said when we are weak, God is strong, the message was that any weakness of faith was a character flaw. It taught me that anything less than stalwart belief and carefully measured commitment to Very Right Doctrine (TM) demonstrated I was tossed by every wave, and thus "bad." But writing about my spirituality as it is, not as someone thinks it should be, is deeply therapeutic. It's a release of expecting to get good marks, validation, or affirmation for my spirituality, like I did for years and then spiraled when former leaders, mentors, and professors flipped out on me when I began doubting. I let their affirmation of me inform my self worth, and then was devastated when I discovered that their affirmation ended when I wasn't just like them any longer. I take responsibility for that; it was a coping mechanism I had picked up in a tumultuous childhood, but it did not serve me well.

My spirituality is not 100% any one thing, and I'm sure that would frustrate and annoy a great deal of people on every part of the religious spectrum, but I'm not here for them.

Ultimately and bizarrely (because all the evidence of my life should dictate otherwise) I have a deep trust in the goodness of Divinity, which is why I have such deep revulsion towards a lot of protestant evangelical doctrines. It's what is holding me steady, and I feel far more at peace than I have in years. Because I know that my intentions are to find the true and the beautiful, and I know that God will honor that. A good parent understands and is gentle with a child who is trying her best even though she is making mistakes, and I have trust that my Cosmic Mother feels this way about me.

It's a mess, a beautiful mess, it's my mess, and I am loving it. I am not sharing this to be lectured by those who have it all figured out (to those compelled to lecture, how is carrying that weight on your small fallible shoulders going?) not for pity (seriously, I'm not sad or anxious, I'm actually finally at peace), not for psychoanalysis (I pay a professional to do that), but so that others can know, it's okay if your spirituality is confusing right now. It is okay to explore and take time. It is okay to touch the wild things you were told were off limits and feel joy at discovering they actually heal a part of you. It is okay to authentically embrace the mess, and explore what tugs at you.

*Pseudonyms used to protect identities

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