Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: September 24, 2004

evening

I covered my window. The lights outside are many and the house behind this one is busy. Rather than being bothered, I secluded myself even more. Fortunately I spent a long while outside today, and got my fill of fresh views. It crept up in temperature, becoming actually almost warm by afternoon. Winter is not yet here, though it beckons.

Still I wait, still I listen, pondering not only my role in this world but also those patterns which have developed over generations. I come from Fundamentalist stock in a family which has been Christian for as long as can be remembered. This has some positive aspects which I noted in a paper I did a while back, but it also has its negatives.

I’m increasingly convinced that nothing is more insidious than evil framed in religious clothes. There is such a thing as spiritual abuse I’m learning, where an authority figure can cause significant harm by manipulating and confusing those who trust in the religious creed.

This, like any other kind of abuse, can be mild to severe, but is always damaging, and the effects are often passed down through the generations.

Fortunately, my parents are strong and have broken the cycle with my brother and I. But their families? It lingers. And it influences on realms which are beyond senses, attaching itself to patterns and behaviors with which I contend.

Like other types of abuse the victims have trouble separating from the abuser, and in the spiritual variety it becomes even more difficult as the abusive one is oftentimes a pillar of the community doing God’s work.

There’s a lot more to this, deep, deep discussions which I am only now really grasping.

I say this because I spent a couple of hours in discussion about this today, and at the end I felt like I had named that heavy weight. Family religious history indeed. It’s not all good news.

morning

For some reason I look outside and notice, profoundly notice, the glint of the rising sun on the leaves of a black oak high on the hill above me. White reflection, the thick leaves bold green in color, highlighted against the deep blue of a perfectly clear sky. There is not even the slightest breeze, all is still, chilly, beautiful. My eyes are caught, in the mood to simply stare, the thoughts not congealing into anything recognizable, only finding comfort in that which speaks of a truth and reality beyond my ken. Earplugs block out the sounds of nature, but also the sounds of people who increasing think of the forest as just another suburb. The stillness of sound, artificial as it is, sharpens my eyes, and brings a measure of ease to my being. I wander the fields of eternal longing this morning, and bask in whatever comfort may come.

I’ve always had a contemplative heart, even before I was aware of the fact. At times when I would stop and ponder the wider world I would become aware of that which was beyond sensory perception. Great decisions, meaning important more than satisfying, were made while sitting in a secluded park, or staring at the night sky, or praying on purported holy ground. Thoughts would invade my mind, giving me understanding of a situation which defied approved thought, but which turned out to be right in the end. For a while I was bombarded with such, making moves which led me, I hoped, towards the God who called, and who I pursued without reference to my standing in this present world. I made decisions which if they do not have eternal merit have no merit at all. The measure of violence which this contemplation asserts has kept me from being content in many ways which others pursue. I see the depths of a reality unseen, and no one else listens or understands. I feel the measure of a reality beyond our own, and others are confused by my seeming sensitivity.

But, for years now all has been silent. I finished seminary and wandered around hoping to spark that divine voice, hoping to see that Divine answer. Only I was in a room with no doors and no windows, and seemingly no way out. To who could I turn? Pastors so called, I have found, have little measure of spiritual guidance these days, putting religious words on secular drives and calling it church. Their heart is good, only the present church is so built on pursuing people that it suffers in the pursuit of God. That this is not true universally is a fact… only to be blessed with such an environment is a gift of God for those who find it.

I have not, and over the years my pursuit of God as the sole focus in my life has made me turn to ancient texts and expensive training. I went to college and then seminary for the purpose of meeting God, learning about his ways and paths. This I did, there is no doubt about the fact, learning enough to find peace in at least my intellectual pursuits.

But now? What? I come to the mountain because when one is trapped in a room with no doors or windows, and a little trapdoor opens… it is the one way to go.

I wander into the empty places, where wind and birds are the dominant sounds. I listen for the voice of God to reveal new paths. And I hear a clear voice, and it does not say anything I want to hear.

My soul is rebelling this morning at being so far from life. I spent many months trying to fight this, applying for jobs I didn’t want in order to eke out a living amidst the people I enjoyed. My soul told me what to do, and I ignored it. Two inexorable forces contend with my soul.

I’m turning thirty this next month and want to be a person who has all those things a person turning thirty should have. I have none of it. My soul tells me this is fine and right that all is well, my being rebels at the thought.

I don’t go to those secluded places anymore because I know for a fact what the word will say. It will say what it has for many months, for years. Wait. I don’t want to wait. The doubts swirl about, doubts internal and external, from my own desires and from the palpable perceptions of purported friends who enjoy my company while feeling sad for my reality.

In the past I would wander the eternal fields feeling the pleasant breeze and warm sun. Now, the breeze is abusive because it brings with it a distasteful air.

This has the sound of a typical depression. It’s not, not at all. Rather it is the words of profound eternal longing, a contemplative spirit which suffers from insatiable ambition to become and a lifestyle which seems to negate all of my hopes. I know what depression feels like, where the soul rebels against itself and condemns all it sees. I write this now without that same condemnation. I like myself, what I can do, who I am. It is the deeper realities of the eternal which I wrestle today.

This morning my heart calls out for a God who seems to have deposited me out of the way, my tears flow for the lack of substantive results for my constant efforts.

My soul yearns for comfort but there is none. From friends and extended family come only thoughts of condemnation for taking the leap outwards. I do not go to church because I am weary of being judged for not living an acceptable secular life. I sit and I write because my soul demands it, my very being rebels at the thought of mundane tasks for the simple, and vital, pursuit of money.

I yearn to be productive, to matter, to step forward in life, embracing some measure of purpose which extends beyond mere dreams and wishes.

There is none of that and when I stop to pray all I hear is that hated word– wait.

morning

The air is chill, stirred by a breeze from the west. Jays fly about, silent. Only the wind through the trees, that gentle whoosh, that quiet shake, can be heard. The air is moist, and the smell of the forest drifts, bringing variously the aroma of soil eager for life, cedars and fir.

The spice smell of a candle fills my room, cinnamon wax finding cracks in the candle holder and pouring out onto the desk, aromatic lava.

I pour through volumes long resting in dusty shelves, finding not only research answers, but indeed my soul within. The reasons I spent more time and significantly more money in wandering halls of learning than practical decisions would encourage. I taste of worlds long since gone, echoes of which remain, but different in character and vastly different in appearance. Worlds both over-familiar and strikingly unknown.

This week I begin.

Begin to study the Gospels in depth. Not to impress a PhD, or add more letters after my own name, but instead to seek after the life which brings life, to fill my mind with more than the stories of my youth and through imagination journey back through time and discover what world it was which brought forth the Messiah.

The goal is to then translate this study, making it approachable and interesting.

Whether this becomes a way to pay for my own existence is still a question. That it is a joy beyond measure to my existence is without a doubt. For this kind of study I’ve sacrificed myself, choosing impractical paths, putting off vital stages of a normal life.

Now with encouragement and outside pressure of sorts I feel able to settle into this life with a renewed vigor. The palpable goal is to write, and produce a work worth reading. The immeasurable goal, which encourages my own heart, is to delve once again into the realities of a faith which too often drifts.

It is in this study that my soul resides, and so in delving the depths, I hope to find it once more.

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