You’ll Find Me Unstitching the Religion

You’ll Find Me Unstitching the Religion

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I was listening to Rob Bell’s podcast yesterday. In his latest episode, Rob interviewed my patron saint Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the wildly popular memoir Eat Pray Love and other great books. Rob Bell and Liz Gilbert – it was as if they made the podcast thinking, “Oprah AND Taylor DuVall love us. We might as well join forces.” Listen to it – these two brilliant minds discuss creativity and every word is gold.

In a small side discussion, Elizabeth and Rob took a religion pit stop. Elizabeth mentioned being happy that she “didn’t have anything to undo” in the realm of religion.  Her religious upbringing was not oppressive or fundamentalist in any way. “I hadn’t been fed toxic religion so that I had something to detox from.”

So when she went on her spiritual journey (documented in Eat Pray Love) she was, as Rob put it, “exploring, not just running from something that didn’t work.” She mentioned that she didn’t know how fortunate she was until friend told her: “You’re so lucky that you didn’t have anything that you had to unstitch before you could begin your search.”

In many ways I have related to Elizabeth Gilbert through her writing. She was young to marry, young to divorce, and she found herself through travel and writing and creativity. But this unstitching religion is where our stories take different paths. In a simple moment of rejoicing something good about her past, she offered me verbiage to help explain what’s happening in my present.

You’ll Find Me Unstitching the Religion

I’m unstitching. I’ve been unstitching for a while. I’ll be unstitching for a good time to come. I have things to undo.

My life was given to me as a plain piece of fabric. Everything I’ve learned or experienced made a stitch. Every stich came together to create a pattern. Because I believe that our spirituality is fully integrated with our physicality, I don’t think I have a spiritual life and a physical life. I think life is both. Always. So this piece of fabric was both physical and spiritual. And the pattern was about womanhood, creativity, heartbreak, excitement, music, writing, God, love, judgment, The Bible, church, puberty, and nail polish.

All the things.

Then I became an adult. Which happened after I became a legal adult.  I became an adult somewhere between “I don’t know what I believe” and “I know what I believe but I’m scared to admit it” and “I need to leave the church, my marriage, and life as I know it.”

I knew the person I wanted to be. I knew the type of people I wanted to be with. I knew the places I wanted to go and the things I wanted to do. Even if all of these were general ideas. But none of these things could happen with oppressive and unhealthy stitches of religious dogma that include, but by no means are limited to:

  • Self-hate, self-doubt, shame. All these messages about humans being little and God being big, explaining away every contradiction or problem with “God’s understanding is higher than our understanding,” and humans being pawns in God’s game – I mushed all that together into a big pot of “I am nothing.”   I had to take out that stitch because it isn’t true. My life is not insignificant, my brain is not incapable of high or new thought, and I see myself as a partner in what God is doing on this earth, not as a pawn.
  • Hating gays and democrats. I grew up believing that nobody could possibility be godly and liberal, and I believed that all gay people were actually straight and just trying to piss God off.  Sigh.  Forgive me.  I was holding a handful of sand yesterday and it was tan. Of course sand is tan. But it wasn’t. It was actually orange and brown and white and black and brown and light brown and clear. People are like sand. We all are humans, the same. But we’re not. We are all different and that’s something to celebrate, not something to condemn. 
  • The world is not our home. There’s this idea that the universe we live in is a big test and those who pass get the reward: Heaven, our real home. Life on earth lacks magic and luster when its sole purpose is to get us to believe in Jesus so we can get our “heaven tickets.” This planet is thrilling and spiritual and special. I’m not going to miss it while waiting for the next world. No wonder everybody is always waiting for the next big thing and missing today’s big thing. This world is my home, and I’m going to explore every inch of it.

My list goes on. I ripped out female submission quickly. The purity culture and spiritual abuse stitches followed swiftly.  The stitch that demanded all the Bible must be literal in order to be true, well, I took that one out too.  I unstitched the necessity of church attendance and then added in the necessity of looking for spiritual lessons and community in everyday life.

And I’ve kept some stitches in. Ones like: God. God is still my center stitch. But the color has changed. He looks less hard and one-sided and more like a buddy, a beloved guide who isn’t mad.  Also, I kept “love your neighbor.” I’ve just made that one bigger so it includes more people.

You’ll find me unstitching the religion to make room for life.  For how long, I don’t know. I’ll pull out a stitch only to find I’ve left a few fibers behind. It takes time. I want a life that is rich, wild, and full. I’ll keep all the good – the love, the fellowship, the service, the God, the grace. And I refuse to allow cultish, dogmatic, and exclusive stitches to reside on my life’s fabric any longer.

You’ll find me unstitching.

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(All quotes taken from Episode 21 of the RobCast which can be found here or on iTunes)

Image via Flickr

Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Not Always Great

Sometimes it’s not always great, you know. But we always put our best faces on, don’t we?   We dry up the tears quickly enough to answer, “I’m fine” when the stranger asks us how we are. We never say, “Actually it’s all going to shit, thanks very much.”

Sometimes it’s not always great. We post pictures of our significant other being charming and delicious and never put up pictures representing fights. We caption our photos: “Here are the roses he bought me!” and “Isn’t she the prettiest?”   But we don’t seem to put up pictures of the air conditioning unit. The one that started the fight over saving money on the electric bill and lasted for days.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We look in the mirror and feel fat. Men and women. We both do. We wake up wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Tuesday. So we starve ourselves all day until we get home late at night, convince ourselves we deserve it, and binge. Then we wake up the next morning wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Wednesday.

Sometimes it’s not always great. Loved ones die. Loved ones abuse. Loved ones hurt. Or leave.  Loved ones don’t even know it, but unintentionally wound us. We hurt the most those we love the most. We have ghosts from our past that haunt us; we have ghosts in our future that haven’t popped up yet.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We can be our worst enemy, the villains in our own lives. We worry about somebody breaking into our homes and destroying all our possessions. But we break into our own heads and destroy every ounce of confidence. We say we can’t, we say we don’t deserve it.

Then we feel lonely and the car breaks down.

Sometimes, it’s not always great, you know.

The funny thing is – this lack of greatness, it’s universal. We all understand what it’s like. Yet we all hide it. “Maybe they won’t know I’m royally screwed up if I don’t tell them.” We put on masks; we pretend it’s all good. Some of us hide under religion or education or makeup. It’s like a game we all participate in. The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.

But if we cut the crap, we’d see that it’s sometimes not great for everyone. Then we could use the magic words. Me too. We can’t say them when we are all play The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.  Me too.

You’re a co-dependent? Me too. You’ve been divorced? Me too. You have church issues? Me too. You jumble your words and accidentally say hurtful things? Me too.  You have acne scars? Me too. You feel hate or bitterness? Me too. You feel bored? Me too. You worry if your life will be significant? Me too. You use negative self-talk? Me too. You fight with the people you love? Me too.

Sometimes it’s not always great? ME TOO.

Take off the mask. It’s amazing how many other people will join you.

Image via Flickr

Who Then Will You Make Wedding Cakes For?

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Apparently some people in Indiana don’t want to serve gay people.  They say it goes against their religious freedom to have to service homosexuals who are getting married, because gay marriage is an “abomination.”  Now the law is on their side. In my mind, the biggest problem is that this is still a problem for people, that this mindset of discriminating against gay people still permeates the brains Evangelicals of the US.

I fully support gay people and all of their rights.  I am an ardent supporter of gay marriage and have been for many years despite growing up in conservative Christian circles. In no way do I believe that homosexuality is a sin.  But I also understand that this is a free country (isn’t that awesome?!) and nobody has to share my views.  There is true religious freedom in this country (isn’t that awesome?!).  And with that comes the fact Christians can believe that homosexuality is a sin and that gay marriage should be forbidden.

So let’s follow that train of thought for a minute. Say being gay is actually a sin.  Christian companies pursuing lives that glorify God don’t want to be surrounded by sin, right?  A wedding cake creator doesn’t want to create a cake for a sinful marriage, right?

But if you cannot make a wedding cake for a gay couple because they are sinners, who then is left to make any cake for?  

I’ll tell you who you can’t make a cake for.  Me.  I filed for divorce from a man who didn’t commit adultery.  I am a sinner, and any future marriage would be a sinful marriage.  But I have this strange feeling that if  I walked into a Christian cake shop while holding the hand of a man, I would still get my cake.  Then there are the liars who get married, the cheaters, the addicts.  We all have issues.  Not a one of us is perfect.  Any human being who gets married will have a sinful marriage.  If a company refuses sinners, they will go out of business immediately.

So then it’s not so much that these companies have a problem with sin; they are serving sinners every single day. It’s that they have a problem with a particular sexual orientation.  Gayness.  They’ve cherry-picked homosexually as the King of Sin-dom.  Which basically boils down to “Your sin is worse than my sin.”  How did Christianity get to that point?  Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, wrote this:  “Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”   How did Christianity come from a place of humility where the man chosen to write a huge portion of the Bible knows that he is massively screwed up – to the place where many Christians feel like their issues aren’t as bad as everyone else’s issues?

In this country, Christians are free to believe homosexuality is a sin.  Christians are even free to be douche bags.  But nothing about douchebaggery models the life of Jesus… ya know… the head honcho of Christianity.  Jesus couldn’t stand the haughty religious zealots.  He called them a “brood of vipers.”  When these zealots wanted to condemn a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said only the person without sin could throw the first stone.  Obviously, nobody could.  Nobody was sinless, nobody except Jesus.  And he never picked up a stone.

So you with the sinless marriage, you can refuse the first wedding cake.  Any takers?  I’m guessing that’s about 0.00%.  Everyone else, make the blessed cake.  Show kindness.  Love your neighbor and all that jazz.

And these companies should remember – I’m not the only Millennial Christian who doesn’t think that loving somebody of the same sex is a sin.  And I’m certainly not the only one supporting gay marriage.  74% of us do and that number keeps increasing.  Millennials are growing up, aged 15-35 currently.  Marriage age.  Also baby-rearing age.  Which means we are teaching the next generation to accept all sorts of people.  And someday they’re going to learn in school that American companies in the past refused all sorts of people.  Black people.  Gay people.  These Indiana companies will make history books.  Pictured right next to the companies with signs reading “Whites only.”

We’ve been here before as a country.  The discriminators don’t win out in the end.  Why? Because LOVE WINS.  You know who taught me that? Jesus.

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An Interview on “Life Is…”

I had the utter privilege of being interviewed for the sweet Katie Visconti’s blog “Life Is...” She asked me hard questions about life as I see it – like “What does the world need more of?” Everything I believe is somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but having to articulate your beliefs into words makes you think long and hard about precisely what it is you think.  I love this.  I love having to put my sporadic thoughts into concrete words.

Click here to read the interview.  While you’re there check out Katie’s blog – it truly is a beautiful space with beautiful thoughts and words.

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P.S. The photo used in the interview is by the terrific Bethany Paige Photography

 

I’m Not Who I Was

A dear, precious friend of mine told me recently:

If you always do what you always did, you are always gonna get what you always got.

I think the ability to change is one of the greatest aspects of humanity.  We can change our minds, our clothes, our political affiliations, our religion, our place of residence, our tendencies and rhythms, our relationships and, ultimately, our lives.

I look back to a year ago.  I’m not the same woman.  My core is still there.  I still have introverted tendencies, I struggle with people-pleasing, I love music and books, I think we should all hug it out and be friends, and I really just adore eating dessert.  But I have changed a lot.  I make different decisions.  I don’t do what I always did, because then I would always get what I always got.  

~ Giving up all my passions and desires and dreams for somebody else didn’t work very well.

So I changed how I do that.

~ Saying “no” to anything that made me scared left me with a really boring existence.

So I changed my response to scary things.

~ Staying silent when I should have shouted created inner-turmoil.

So you better believe I speak up.

~ Worrying about how people thought of me made me go insane.

So I am learning to take nothing personally.

I don’t do what I always did.  And I’m no longer getting what I always got.

We are not captives to our lives as they are today.  With hard work, tears, anger, frustration, and lots of beating your head against the wall, we begin to change.  Then it gets easier. Moments pop up that are fantastic and, sometimes, even easy.

We have the power to say “no more!”  We have the power to say “I want my life to be different!”

I’m not who I was.

Thank God, I’m not who I was.

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