On Starting Over

Over the last few days I’ve been really ruminating on the idea of newness. Beginning again. Starting over. Learning. Observing. Trying to approach things I’ve experienced before as if I’m doing so for the first time. Currently that’s come in the shape of me taking yoga classes that I’ve either never been to before or haven’t been to in years, and seeing what comes up. Fear, unease, apprehension, anxiety. It’s been a practice in releasing the urge to control, or the need to know What’s Coming Next. And of course, it’s been hard. I didn’t recognize how comfortable I had gotten in my routine, knowing that each yoga class I attended would be “different” but I’d still kinnnnnnda know what to expect—even down to being able to successfully guess about how long I’d have to hold each pose. There was enough variation to make me feel good about myself without actually disturbing my comfort zone.

But this…. This has been different. Nothing says “getting out of your comfort zone” like going into a yoga class blind. Not only did I grossly underestimate my need to know what’s coming next, but I also did not realize how judgy I’d gotten about other classes. I was writing off lower level, or slower paced sessions because I thought my practice was “too advanced” for them. Or that if I didn’t feel completely physically spent after a yoga class, it was a waste of time. I know— so rude, not at all what yoga is about, and that level of pride looks good on no one. But it has been good and humbling to go back to the beginning and observe. To let the slower pace of a class give me the opportunity to really listen and pay attention to the movement of my body. And not only that, but to bring up emotions that maybe would not have had space to arise in more “advanced” classes.

Off the mat, the intention has been the same. I’m trying to enter 2017 with a gentle, open handed, and observant posture. Even with things that are more familiar to me than yoga, like my faith. What would happen if I let everything I thought I knew about God fall away, and I let him tell me his story again? What if I released my own ideas of where I would be by now, or who I would be by now, and I observed What Is without judgment?

I think every once in a while it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we don’t know everything. Or maybe even anything. And remember to approach even the things and people we think we know like the backs of our hands with reverence and curiosity. I swear you can learn any thing from any one at any time. And literally every year, every day, every moment gives us a chance to start over.

God Will Break Your Heart

I’ve been locked in a titanic struggle with God for the past few weeks— maybe months, I don’t know I’ve lost count. In reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I learned that God brings us to walls – that is, to dark nights of the soul, or painful circumstances/situations – to rid us of our false perceptions of Him as well as false perceptions of ourselves. So after the bitch of a wall I went through this year, I found myself looking for another God. I thought perhaps the god I thought was God was actually like, God-lite: happy, safe, loving, nice. And whatever asshole who sent me through this hellish year was the real God. So I had thoughts like, is God actually good? Is He supportive of me? Does He love me? Is He indifferent? Is He personal? Can I trust Him? And I went through this really crazy upside down period where I felt like I had absolutely NO grasp on who God is; it was a little scary, and very unnerving for someone who has spent her whole life in the Church. But after some searching and meditation, I was like… I think they might be the same guy? Which honestly felt scarier. My “God-lite”, who I felt so connected to two years ago— who felt safe and supportive and loving and cool— might be the same God who allowed and perhaps even nudged me to walk into a position to have my heart broken. And that feels scarier because I’m like, now what do I do? How do I fit this new information into what I had previously understood to be the character of God? How does God allowing me to be leveled— to be “sifted like wheat” as we discussed a few weeks ago—align with the characterization of being a “Good Father”? Why the fuck would He break me like this? That’s what I’ve found myself asking God the most in the few times I’ve tried talking to Him recently: “What the fuck did you do?!”

For a while I was reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller and in it, he talked about how Christianity is relational, as opposed to formulaic. And how that throws us all for a loop because it makes it so that we cannot even begin to predict how God will move. We’re all looking for an A + B = C type situation and God’s like “Hey but do you want to sit down and talk?” I mean sure we all, like God, have core character traits that make our behaviors more or less consistent, but if you’ve ever been in any sort of a relationship with any other living being, you know the last thing we are is predictable. We have free minds and free wills, the way God does. And sometimes He does something where we’re like WHOA HOLD ON GOD THAT WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT, and it’s like, right, yeah, because God isn’t a robot. Which is like fine I guess (read: super annoying), but it makes it veryyyyy difficult when you feel like God has hung you out to dry. If there are things about Him that are true and unchanging, for example that He is fundamentally good, how do we hold that in the moments when it feels like He has opened the floodgates of hell on us? How does God breaking my heart reflect the actions of someone who loves me?

And I mean, okay, I guess that is answered in the idea that God uses walls to free us of falsehoods. It’s true that there are a myriad of lessons and traits about myself that I would not have learned had I not been through the specific events of this year. But like what happens when you’re still mad about it? I feel like that’s my problem. I’m like yeah I learned some cool new shit about my latent trauma thanks God but also I’M STILL REALLY FUCKING PISSED YOU BROUGHT ME HERE. Yikes. And it’s worrying because I’m like, honestly I don’t know how I will make it back to Him. I have been mad for what feels like a longgggggg time. God and I have been on the rocks for what feels like a very long time. And I truly don’t know how to return to a place where He feels safe. I will also say that I understand and accept that my perspective is wildly limited and that that could change, but I want to be honest about where I am in the present moment. I mean truthfully, I think this might be part of being a Christian. We go through periods where we feel like we’ve lost God, and we don’t know how or if we’ll find Him again. So fun.

On the other side of it, one of the things that gets me about this process is the last half of that verse in Luke, where Jesus, after implying that He’s allowing the devil to wreck him, tells Simon Peter “I pray that your faith would not fail.” Sooo God allows us to be absolutely shattered, brought to the gaping doors of hell in some cases, but at the same time He cheers for us to pull through? It seems to be a very big risk to take on His part. If it’s true that He loves us, and that He desires to hold us and have us close to Him, what a chance to take, throwing us to the wolves and hoping that we’ll return to Him afterwards. You got some nerve, God. You got someeeeee nerve.  But also maybe that speaks to what we are worth. That God is willing to risk losing us because He believes our growth is that important.

I feel like I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know what to do with any of this, really. This is just where I am, and these are the truths I’m wrestling with. God will break your heart but He loves you and He’s trying to grow you so it’s supposed to be good. And you’ll probably get really mad about it and you won’t know when you’ll stop being mad about it and it’ll put a huge strain on your relationship with Him. And that’s….. I mean that’s really all of it.

…I feel like I need a drink, anybody else feel like they need a drink? Let’s all go get a drink. Cheers.

Well, This Is Awkward.

Today boys and girls I’d like to share with you my interpretation of a passage of scripture. We’ll go in our bibles to Luke chapter 22, verses 31 and 32. In the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded permission to sift all of you like wheat; but I have prayed especially for you Peter—“ (don’t worry, it’s the same guy) “—that your faith and confidence in Me may not fail; and you, once you have turned back again to Me, strengthen and support your brothers in the faith.”

Now I’ve heard that verse a thousand times and I’ve always thought Jesus was saying to Simon-Slash-Peter something like “Hey yeah so, super awkward, the devil has come asking me to sift you like wheat—“ (which I think is something like being utterly and absolutely broken) “— but hey man don’t worry there’s NO WAY I’m gonna let that happen! We’re bros, I’m God, don’t even worry about it you’re chill.” Also in my mind sometimes Jesus sounds like He’s in a SoCal chapter of SigChi— that’s my own personal struggle. But anyway point is: I always thought Jesus was telling Peter that the devil was trying to fuck him up but that He, being God, was going to keep that from happening. And then a couple months ago I realized JESUS NEVER SAID THAT. *shocked emoji face* Instead he says “I pray your faith would not fail”, to which I’m kind of like
question marks

In my mind, this is how the actual exchange went:

Jesus: Okay so Simon, listen. The devil came by earlier, he asked if he could really fuck you up. Like reallllyyyyyy rake you over the coals you know, we’re talking complete and absolute devastation here. Maybe physical, maybe emotional. Might be both, I dunno, he seemed like he was in a pretty foul mood.
SP: *obviously distraught* Shit, man seriously? That does not sound good, what did you say?
Jesus: …Okay here’s the thing: I didn’t say no.
SP: WHAT THE FU—
Jesus: Hear me out! Hear me out! Alright it’s true, I didn’t say no, I’m gonna let him have at you, BUT! Here’s what I’m gonna do man, I’m gonna pray for you. I’m gonna pray for you that your faith won’t fail! Good deal right? And hey listen, when you’ve made it through the inevitable hell-fire shitstorm that’s coming your way, encourage your brothers as well. Tell them I’m praying for them too! Stay strong dude *gives hearty pat on the back*
SP: ….

That awkward moment when God has the power to stop something awful from happening to you but lets it happen anyway, am I right? #Yikes. Anyhoo, that’s what I’ve been sitting on this week. And if you too feel like you’re being sifted like wheat by Beelzebub himself, well then. I guess Jesus and I are both praying for you that your faith would not fail. He more than me though, I’ve got my own shit to worry about.

 

This is the Word of God for us today. Namaste, Peace Up A-town Down.