This will come across to some as heavy, disparaging and depressing and for others maybe it brings hope, illuminating their own inner struggle. I guess it depends on where we allow ourselves to be and what we want to hear. Most times I feel lost, wandering a desert. A forest would be more appreciated, at least there’s more to admire. But my narrative places me right into the barren lands of existential crisis.
There are those moments scattered amidst the journey that act as a beacon, a light that draws me to meaning and significance. It is experienced as insight or an expansion of consciousness. My perspective deepens and shifts and the old lens of seeing life is replaced by a new one. For a fleeting moment I am found and I know I am of purpose and significance.
But this moment dissolves into the muscular wind of helplessness, frustration, uncertainty and hopelessness. And what do I do with such moments, for they are often?
I can’t figure out life. Formulas are an illusion and a security blanket that attempts to remove all uncertainty, but this presence eventually returns, looming within the soul.
And my faith and belief has changed. At one point I considered myself no longer a Christian, until I began to understand True Christianity. Where do I go when I carry this overwhelming sense of feeling lost? Where many call the “church” the home, I never have and probably never will. It is a home I never really lived in, or could get comfortable in. I always felt like a transient or vagrant, forcing myself to speak the language or dialect when my soul cringed inside.
But, the question remains, to where do I go? Where do I seek comfort or security? Or is that all smoke and mirrors to distract from facing my doubt and the inevitability that life will be filled with great loneliness, angst, trouble and restlessness.
I don’t “worship” and I no longer pray in the traditional sense. My prayers are movements or actions that I believe are Divine nudges. Or my prayers are filled with the profane; vulgar, vein-popping screams to Whoever put me here. Most days are filled with cabin-fever and unrelenting “soul” pacing.
But I don’t want to run to the church for nurture, because who would be able to hold my existential angst and questioning? Who would allow me to doubt and question everything I was taught? I fear that it will be met with surrounding prayer, vacant chatter that distract, invalidate, and stifle my soul. I don’t want to be fixed, I want to be heard and understood.
Can I not question Jesus and who he was? Did not Peter wrestle with this strange, alien man who was somehow connected to the Divine? Sometimes it seems petty to argue the cohesion of Jesus’s divinity and humanity, and somehow if you question it, you are deemed a heretic. And that’s the problem…there is little room for questioning, existential anxiety and angst.
We built some religion around worshiping and promising that Jesus is the cure to all our problems, but he never seemed to promise this. Instead he modeled quite poignantly and blatantly a life of loneliness, frustration, mourning, dread, and then Divine abandonment, followed by a resurrected life. We seem to forget this, the heavier human experiences of our faith.
There is a lack of emphasis on this dimension of our humanity and change. More and more I begin to see Jesus’s words of “I’m the way, the truth, and the life” as something more expansive and universal. What he seems to be saying is that the way I am showing you life is right now, and embodied in me, so follow this way of living. And this way of living comes with the prerequisite of “dying” and being “born again”, which means we enter into our own darkness and shadows; that nothing remains hidden within us. We must face everything inside ourselves, even the way we created “God” through our own projections and securities to protect against pain, despair and doubt.
And unfortunately, we try to convince or articulate people’s need for Jesus, rather than radiating his divine presence within us, that draws others to seek that path, the path of becoming new, transformed and whole.
Jesus talked about letting our light shine, but this light shines and radiates from within; and how we get to that light, requires us going into our shadows and facing it all, feeling it all, living in the polarity and ambiguity, being stripped of judgment and dualistic thinking.
Jesus makes several references to this Divine presence being inside us, already. However, our ability to access it is blocked when we live in states of defense, perpetually focused on others, either judging them or pleasing them. All of this obscures facing our own self. We suffer a great loss when we commit to the inner journey, unraveling layers, facing wounds, defenses, and our ego. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he says you must “lose yourself to find yourself”.
So, here he is, this man, in connection with the Divine, illuminating the Christ within, turning the world upside down, challenging the political system, and our distorted ways of loving and being, teaching and guiding us in True and Authentic humanity; and we miss all that, by making a religion out of him, this icon or mascot for Christianity.
The fallacy is that we, quite annoyingly, I might add, is tell people about Jesus and make an argument to persuade them to accept him, but the reason why people were drawn to Jesus was because of the Christ within him, one of the personalities within the Divine Triune relationship. Many were compelled to him because of the Divine love he radiated. Sadly, I am not sure we mirror the same, unless we listen and boldly face our own selves in an inward journey, learning to listen to the voice within or that “kingdom” within or that Divine presence leading us. But we have to be willing to see the impediments that distract and pull us away from this Voice.
I truly believe that others will be drawn to our “light” when we connect to that “light”. We don’t have to persuade or argue or defend. Jesus NEVER did that. He never convinced someone, he just lived out this beautiful, foreign love that others encountered and their thirst finally came in contact with the source. We have been given that opportunity.
But we have turned all this into a “religion” that covers up pain, and promises security. Songs that act as make up that mask the gashes of the soul. Sermons that promise good fortune and that God will make everything better. Anything that will remove or at the very least, numb the inner angst and questioning.
Even our prayers seem to be a balm to pain, vacuous words that cover up the hurt someone is revealing to another. Are we ready and willing to listen to someone who is crying to be heard and seen or do we stifle that by jumping into praying to God for them? True prayer is integrated into the person, meaning we live out what we are compelled to do. We don’t have to consult or pine or panhandle or convince or beg the Divine. It does not mean we do not connect and commune, but it is less a “should I or should I not” soliloquy, for the answer is already within us.
The most beautiful kind of prayer is one that listens and cares deeply for what another is saying and sharing, connecting compassionately to their vulnerable disclosure. That is where the healing lies, thrives and is experienced.
True Religion: The Inward Journey
I believe that True Christianity or “religionless” Christianity, as Peter Rollins describes, is dangerous, visceral, instinctual, raw and explicit in its expression, confronting wrong doing, exposing the lies, weeping and nurturing others in their pain, fighting for the lonely, the abandoned, the traumatized, the neglected and feeling the depths of despair, ache, and an existential restlessness. And it means that we do not shield ourselves from it, but embrace and walk in it, allowing this to lead us to a transformed or transfigured life and being. It is the riskiest and boldest path to travel, for there is a great susceptibility to be wounded, hated, abandoned, rejected, and potentially killed to operate in that kind of love.
There is no promise of security, and yet somehow, we may experience this Divine “holding” when we go into the depths of the uncertainty. No longer do we cover up anything, knowing that it will pull us away from actual living and loving. This is the path Jesus calls us to.
This is where, I hope, I am being led, away from the security and into the unknown, being stripped of most of what I have been taught. It feels like wandering, sometimes drawing me into a panic, anxiously grabbing for what I used to know and how I used to live. But when you encounter the impotency and meaninglessness of all of this, it is like grasping at delicate weeds, that rip out at the slightest tug. Old perspectives and material comforts are transient anesthetics, that when the numbing wears off, the pain returns with a visceral punch.
The feeling of falling is not one to fight, but to embrace. When I no longer know, then I allow that to be a guidance in my life, teaching me about the unknown or the fraying of what I once believed and why I believed it.
We are called to live dangerously, to illuminate the Christ within, even to the point of death. It is when we connect to the Divine that exists within ourselves that we move in that energy that has the power to heal in so many dimensions. The presence we carry is far more powerful than verbal bandages we offer to others. But again, the requirement is to face our own soul, which is a disquieting and unnerving endeavor. A cohesion of pain and freedom.
And we must be willing to enter into this odyssey, abandoning our mental and behavioral efforts to know and manufacture security. For it is in this abandonment that we begin to experience true life and true connection to the Divine.