These are some of the pictures we took for the adoption but didn't use. You can see that I am a perfectly ordinary person with a tendency towards awkward posture.
This is just in case my blog has headed out into the ether of uber-spirituality. I live with me, so I am always aware of my being ordinary.
Last spring, I was busy attempting to make a religion out of my spiritual experiences. I didn't realize I was doing this, but I was and I was exhausting myself.
This religion that I was coming up with was based on a lot of assumptions. Here were some of them:
God prefers a person who has no emotion.
I must always be serene.
God doesn't love me unless I can feel it.
I earn these experience of feeling by living in the fruits of the spirit.
I grow in the fruits of the spirit by continually squashing any emotions or thoughts such as:
and also by always thinking less of myself and by beating myself up anytime I felt or thought something unacceptable.
There were probably other things on the list that I've forgotten.
So, long story short, I was fairly anxious and uptight a lot of the time. My blog posts from that time sort of reflect this misery. In them, I was frequently trying to come to terms with the fact that God was not making me perfect and yet seemed to be around me, loving me, all the time.
Then, I fell by the pool and really injured both hands and one foot. Suddenly I couldn't dress myself, shower, wash my hair, clean the house or cook and I couldn't walk very well and I was in a lot of pain.
It took weeks and weeks and weeks for the deep abrasions and cuts to heal. During that time, it was simply impossible for me to squelch my overflowing emotions of anger, bitterness, sadness, helplessness, doubt, impatience, confusion, irritability, etc, etc, etc.
I was really, really miserable. I was feeling miserable about being miserable. And it was then that God really closed the deal, you might say.
You are misunderstanding this entire experience, He said to me, point blank. You aren't earning this, you can't be perfect, I want you as you are, stop fighting and surrender to My loving embrace as you are and trust Me.
I tried and it was really, really hard. I was so used to holding on so tightly to myself, to being in control, to denying my emotions, to judging myself for Him.
Letting go of that actually felt frightening. It felt scary to acknowledge when I was feeling angry or bitter or irritable, or sad or abandoned. I worried I would fall out of the control I imagined I had over myself.
It was frightening to let go of my self-judgment: if I stopped judging myself, how would I know if I was doing okay or not, if I was acceptable or not, if I was progressing acceptably or just being stagnant?
It took me all summer and into the autumn to practise this letting go and letting be. I still am; I probably always will be. During this time, I read the book The Awakened Heart, by Gerald G. May.
I simply cannot say enough good things about this book. However, among the multitude of wonderful wisdom in this book, this little phrase helped me the most:
"Let God be God; let the world and other people be who they are; let yourself be yourself."
I learned and continue to learn, to do this.
I stopping jumping- or trying to jump- from one spiritual experience to another, desperately, as though they were stepping stones or light posts- something I needed to prove something to myself.
I learned to let God be God. I let Him be the savior, not me. I let Him be the judge, not me. I let Him be God.
I learned let the world and other people be who they are. Everyone is unique. Everyone has their way of being in the world, of searching for and loving and being with God- or the wonder and reality of the world around them.
This is a good thing, a wonderful thing. They are free; so am I. Each person has something valuable and unique to add to the conversation, as it were.
And I learned, most of all, to let myself be myself. When I was angry, I was angry! When I felt grief, I felt it! I let it flow up and through me.
This was the hardest thing to learn, but the most freeing, once I began to get better at it.
I've been learning lessons all my life. I expect that I always will. The point in life is not, I think, to reach perfect understanding, but to be fully present where one is.
Or, to borrow a passage from that lovely book:
"Creation needs you for your love; love needs you for your creation. God needs you for yourself. Your heart has a sense of it already, and it is ready to join the flow of grace to guide you into ever-expanding presence. Seek the presence of love everywhere. Let there be no dark corners. Seek it inside and outside, in pride and shame, in tenseness and ease. Seek it in business meetings, shopping malls, the dentist's office, and courts of law. Look for it in school and at the municipal zoo, in your bathroom, in the factory, on the subway, at the beach, and in the mountains.
"Know that there will be both joy and pain in the seeking and the finding. Things will change and become more free. Freedom sometimes hurts and is nearly always frightening. It involves a loss of that which bound you, and therefore you will grieve. Your relationships will change; as you claim more of the truth of your own heart, your attachment to other people will lighten. You may feel- and they may feel- that you are drifting away. But in a strange way you are really coming closer to them. You can trust it. The systems of your life will react against you, because you are less a slave of stability. You will not be able to defend yourself, but you will be protected. You can trust God's love."
-The Awakened Heart, Gerald G. May, chapter 12: Loving for the World