Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Moment: Deciding to own my own spirituality

I wanted to share one of my decision moments...One of the moments that months of confusion, anger, fear, empowerment, ah-hah's, prayer, meditation, crying all culminated to. There were so many other moments before "this moment," and so many after. This moment didn't solve all the emotional/mental stuff that I'm still sorting through, but it was such a strong moment of clarity, and it provided an answer (not THE answer...many will have different answers to their confusion) to the question of what to do about all the emotional turmoil and stress I'd been feeling at church.

For about three years I'd been experiencing more and more confusion at church and more and more anger. I'm not saying there weren't a lot of beautiful, touching, loving moments...those were there too, but it was a little like a roller coaster. Up and down between feeling compassion and understanding, and then feeling judgment and condemnation. My pain, fear, and sadness in meetings, conferences, scripture reading, etc. seemed to be most often connected to how SOME things were languaged, and certain perspectives.

At the same time my frustration within the church was mounting, other resources were showing up that offered possible ways of holding my spirituality aside from whatever religious framework I did or didn't have. These resources showed up as I had more honest conversations with "my god" (whatever or whomever it was that I felt was more knowing than my confused and angry self). They also showed up as mentors, teachers, in books, in science, and in the "metaphors" of religion, mythology, etc. As some of my "old" perspectives were dying, and as new perspectives were showing up that made more sense to me, I began to feel frustrated that the church wasn't shifting and changing with me. "why does the church still see it this or that way?" I would think. or "letting go of 'that perspective' has been so much more helpful for me in releasing my own anxiety and addictive stuff," so why is the "true" church still seeing it that way. For me, it wasn't that the church wasn't perfect so much as that it had claimed to be the MOST true (or the ONLY true) church, and that I would get closer to God by abiding by ITS doctrines (its perspectives, etc.) than anything else, and that what church leaders (esp. the twelve apostles)said trumped my own perspectives, even for me, in my life.

At this point I had not done any research into church history, and was strictly working to decide what "spiritual" perspectives were still helpful to me and which ones weren't (as far as emotional and mental health). During an especially overwhelming week I went and saw a mentor. "I'm so angry," I said. I listed off my many frustrations, knowing I was speaking from a "victim" place, but also knowing it was how I really felt. He looked at me and said, "ah yes, whenever we're angry at someone else, it's because we're blaming them for something we're not yet willing to do for ourself." When he said it, I could feel it strike a chord down deep. What I had hoped for was someone who could say that my frustrations were valid, but to tell me it had to do with something I wasn't yet willing to do for myself felt so uncomfortable, and true!

What is it I'm not yet willing to do for myself I wondered. I was angry about so many things. I had decided to continue my attendance through those painful years because I still believed what I'd been taught growing up about it being the one true church and all. In fact, I never thought I would leave the church. Plus, I thought..."if what's taught does make me angry and sad maybe it'd be helpful for me to sit in meditation with it while at church and figure out why it makes me angry and sad (because it didn't used to)."

The following week I was sitting in sacrament meeting. I was feeling a greater sense of calm than I had for awhile. Something was said that felt like an emotional hit. I noticed the hurt and then frustration, and as I watched my mind responding to this frustration I suddenly realized..."I'm expecting the church to better care for my spirituality. I'm expecting them to understand the changes that have happened to me in the last few years, and am expecting them to adjust to my own changing self."

and yet, there I was...not willing to make the changes I needed to make to better care for my own spirituality, or to make a space that would better facilitate where I was in my own process. I had not been willing to leave a place that no longer felt supportive, and where it felt unsafe to be vulnerable and give of MYSELF fully (my perspectives and ways of navigating life). I was still giving the church ownership over my relationship with God and my spiritual learning. No wonder I was so angry. A wave of love washed over me...for the church and for myself. I realized that if I would offer myself what I was expecting them to offer me, the right to make a real change, then I could begin to heal. If I could really make space for me...where I was, and how I saw the world, then I could make space for others...where they are and how they see the world. I could forgive myself for the times I was judging, condemning and didn't understand someone else who was where I am now, because I could trust that we're all doing our best. If I could honor myself, and not keep putting myself in a position where I was continually getting emotional hits (stop attempting to make all of the church persepctives work for me (when they didn't feel like they did anymore), and stop going to church (so I wouldn't continue to be fed messages that to be acceptable to God I needed to make THOSE perspectives fit into my life), then I would have more energy to trust that we're all just doing our best. That was the moment I knew I was leaving.

Actually, I will say that was the moment I decided to "step back" from Church. I didn't feel like it was right timing to make a permanent decision, but I knew I needed to do some healing and recover from the pain of the last few years. I was still sorting through much of what I'd been taught about the Church, and so I didn't dare to entertain the thought of never going back. I was even nervous about just stepping back for awhile (since I still would have the fear rise..."what if they're right? What if I can't go to the "celestial kingdom" without being a member of THE CHURCH" since I'd had the light, I was in even more danger of judgment). I'd never skipped church just to skip...but I decided to take 4 months off, and then reassess. That was a little over a year ago, and I haven't gone back. I'll share more about other moments that brought more clarity for me, but for now that was the first moment of actual separation.

One thing I found was that even though I knew that to release anger it was important for me to leave (and stop feeling the hits every week), it didn't mean I couldn't be proactive in continuing to do my healing work around the issues of recovering from the pain of the last few years, and it didn't mean I couldn't help others. Writing down the story of your experience is one way that can help others. There are many other ways as well. But, attempting to get others to understand your experience when they don't want to, or when it wouldn't even be safe for them yet (to force others to break down their beliefs, is often an ego-based decision coming from our own fears and selfish needs, such as needing others to see things our way). However, if we can rebuild ourselves people will find us if they need our assistance, just as we will continue to find other helpers along our own way of life...when we're ready for help.

"Often, letting go of the old form of a relationship becomes a lesson in pure love much deeper than any that would have been learned had we stayed together. At the so-called end of relationships, I have sometimes felt like I was falling in love with the person [or institution] more deeply than I had been before. 'I love you so much that I can release you to be where you need to be, to go where you need to go.' This moment in a relationship is not about an ending. It's about the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose in any relationship: that we find the meaning of pure love.

Sometimes the lesson to be learned in a relationship is how to hang in there and try to work things out. Other times, the lesson to be learned is how to exit a situation that doesn't serve. NO ONE can determine for another person what principle applies in what circumstance."

- Marianne Williamson

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