the “i see you” aspect of Jesus

This entry has turned out to be very personal and a part of my life I don’t talk about very often.  It’s not something easy for me to talk about partly because it’s painful and partly because it’s hard to believe, and I don’t wish to add the burden of asking for belief to all of the other burdens that people bear in this life.  The things I’m about to share, I don’t half believe myself even though it was my own experience.  My warning, dear reader, is that what follows is also not for the faint of heart.  If you like me as you see me and wish to keep seeing me as you currently do, then please don’t let me shatter your bubble.  If it’s going to make you afraid of me, then do yourself a favor and read no further.  However, if you think it can help you to understand me and others who’ve been in similar circumstances, and you would like to be able to understand then please read on.  I am honored to bare my soul in the interest of helping to bring understanding.

I have walked away from Christianity, it’s true.  However, it is important to make known that what I have walked away from – and, more importantly, renounced – is a disenfranchising subculture that is making every attempt to contaminate the broader world’s psyche (and with some measure of success, I might add).

People who knew me as a Christian might want to know how I could walk away when they heard me say I had an actual encounter with Jesus apart from the church.  And this is true.  I did have an encounter, and it is no less impacting and profound – and even confounding – to me to this very day.  I have not sorted through whether it was a psychological construct or one person meeting an actual other, and there is a possibility I may never sort that out in this lifetime.  I am growing more comfortable with that possibility every day.  For a long time, I was hung up in a perceived need to know which it was – real or a hologram that my survival instinct created to get me through a time when I knew I was floundering with a very real chance of not surviving for much longer.  Now, at this juncture, what is important to me is what I take away from the experience.

So here is the takeaway as it stands now.  That encounter, whatever it may have been, was significant because, at that time, mental disorders being managed (very poorly, I might add) with substance abuse had, in the eyes of the the world around me, made me one of the disposable ones – except that, a little bit here, and a little bit there, people would come along, and when they did, I had a safe place to sleep, and/or I had food, and/or I had clean clothing – when before they came along I had none of these things.  At times, when certain people came along I even had coffee and cigarettes.  I would lie in whatever bed (be it a couch or actual bed) was provided and wonder: What unseen force has intervened and seen to it that I’m here and not out in those streets outside that smell of urine and feces?  I began looking in earnest for the source of each benevolent gesture, and one night all my searching and all of the bread crumbs of hints that seemed to point to Jesus led to seeing a vision of him.  And when I saw him, what I saw, indeed what I experienced was, “I see you.”  That’s what it was – and just what I needed at that time.  I saw someone who could see through my appearance and through my disturbing behavior and actually see me – the me I’d been looking for in the mirror who’d been eluding me for some time.

So this was Jesus, I said to myself.  I had never seen this aspect of him.  All I’d seen of Jesus before this was people with wild, judgemental eyes and shaking fists saying on his behalf, “Turn or burn.”  My encounter/experience revealed something the polar opposite of all that and led to a desire, suddenly, where no desire had been before, to get my hands on a bible.  I wanted to know what this Jesus said, and I knew of no other source to learn his words.  In that vision, there were no words spoken.

The visual aspect of “seeing Jesus” was significant to me, and there was a whole series of things that led up to certain things being significant, but what feels important for me to share is what I would come to take away from the encounter.  Though I’d been clean having newly started a rehab program for substance abuse, I was by no means sober.  My thinking was by no means sober.  Anyone who’s been through a significant erosion of who they are and/or of sound thinking due to substance abuse and related factors will know what that means.  The first most immediate takeaway of seeing Jesus in this vision was the experience sobered me up.  Seriously.  Prior to the vision, my head was swimming around and around in the goldfish bowl of addictive thinking.  Coming out of the vision was like coming out of a dense fog and being given the ability to see things more clearly than I’d been able to for a very long time.  In this vision, Jesus didn’t utter a single word – yet I understood that he could see me and that my life…that I…mattered.  This was something I’d spent the whole of my lifetime grappling with: whether or not I actually mattered, whether or not my life, my existence, whether any of it mattered, so, yeah…the immediate takeaway from this experience was a pretty big deal, a life-changing kind of big deal.

I was in San Diego when this vision occurred.  The events leading up to it started several months before while still living in Northwest Arkansas.  Not long after the vision of Jesus and feeling a desire to get my hands on a bible, I was in Pacific Beach and found a bible in a parking lot.  It was open, pages flapping in the ocean breeze.  I mean, what are the odds of wishing for a bible and stepping off of a bus a few days later and walking right into one?  A few days later, I ran into someone who was going through a difficult time, and we talked with each other about a desire to know Jesus.  After our conversation, I gave her the bible I’d found.  I was sad after she left with it and wondered if I’d just given away the most precious gift I’d ever received – and even more importantly, if the “giver” of the gift would be insulted by it.  But a few days after that, in a sobriety coffee house downtown, I was presented with a whole shelf of bibles and encouraged to take one for myself if I so desired, which I did.

I absorbed the words of the gospels like a sponge – especially the words in red.  The things that stood out to me and resonated were the things such as the woman being thrown at Jesus’ feet after being caught in the act of adultery and discovering Jesus’ response: “You who are without sin, cast the first stone” and the man of the Gadarenes who was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind…I could relate.

These experiences, these things that resonated with me about the life of Jesus Christ are now my takeaway.  The Jesus that gets down to eye level when one is down and looks into the face of the disenfranchised and communicates in a meaningful way, in a way they can understand, “I see you.

We don’t get to read the accounts of what occurred in the lives of these formerly cast off and invisible ones after an encounter with Jesus.  I’m writing this to document, to put it out there in some form, that I am 21 years out from my encounter with this Jesus who looked at me and communicated very clearly with me – without so much as uttering a word…”I see you.”  And I’m still sober as a result.  That’s important, because I’m alive and able to function (except at the times where I struggle – or don’t struggle [which sometimes happens too] – to function) as a result of this sobriety, this gift that I feel was given to me.

So when I openly – and sometimes even brazenly – declare that I am no longer a Christian, I am declaring that I no longer wish to align myself with a subculture that actually breeds disenfranchisement.  What was given to me when I saw Jesus was the understanding that there was someone/something that could see it all and see beyond it all and understand.  And that’s the thing: if one actually takes the time to get to eye level of a person they find distasteful, disgusting, what-have-you and look past all that they see on the surface and chooses to actually see and understand, then that one can never stand behind a pulpit or hold up a sign on a street corner and call someone an abomination (or get up under their innermost private soft spots because of their reproductive choices, or all the rest of the ugly, dehumanizing things that are said and done in the name of playing “the bible says” game) ever again.  THAT is the difference between the Jesus that sees and the Christian who is blind.  I do not wish to walk in the high and lofty place of being above all of the suffering around me – choosing not only to be blind to the suffering but to also leave a trail suffering in their wake by saying that the very God whom they claim sent the Jesus they claim to follow is not anything like the humanity that Jesus came to introduce humanity to.

I know I keep saying I am walking away from Christianity and attempting to explain why.  I’ll keep saying it – as many ways as is necessary to say it – until some kind of flicker of understanding is sparked – – – because it’s important.  It’s important for you, entitled Christian, self-proclaimed child of the Most High God, to understand the damage that you are doing by not seeing people like the Jesus you claim to follow saw them.  He didn’t go about trying to convert anyone or convince anyone of his rightness.  He simply lived out his rightness for those to see who needed to see it, and it made all the difference (I speak from experience).

the Christ myth and the relevency of the church

the-christ-myth

I just watched an hour and a half long PBS Frontline special on Netflix called “Secrets of the Vatican” about the actual evidence (as opposed to hushed whispers and innuendo) that has come to light in recent years about the corruption and crimes against humanity within the Catholic church. Some things kind of came together in my thoughts about corruption in all of the IC that I have been processing for years.

If the church, by definition, is the body of Christ – with Christ as its head and foundation – and it cannot continue on with Christ’s example to the world, then there really is no justification for its existence. In this context, to me, it doesn’t even matter if Christ was real or not, if there was indeed truly a person, Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Christ. The point of it to me in this context is that a set of not only ideologies was put in place for its followers to adhere to but also a lifestyle in which everything that is central to this ideology of Christ is to do no harm and do all that is within one’s power to alleviate suffering wherever one finds it. That is the bulk of the text concerning Christ, and I mean specifically the gospels. Everything else is superfluous if it is to be called Christ.

If the very body, i.e., group of followers and believers of this ideology, fails to carry out this as its primary mission and reason for existence then it has no reason to exist. It can grow and fester in as much corruption as is possible in the entirety of the universe, but all that is obtained by such corruption is irrelevance…and, unfortunately, irrelevance that grievously injures a lot of living beings in the process. I believe that killing only leads to more killing and someone has to draw a line and start the process of making it stop. When the very thing that was founded for the purpose of alleviating suffering not only fails to do so but, rather, inflicts untold, unspeakable suffering, then its very foundation has been shaken and shattered out from under it.

What speaks to me about the significance of the crucifixion is not merely some sort of substitutionary form of atonement for the sins of the whole of mankind but, rather, an example of how deeply held the ideology, and/or Christ’s, convictions were to do no harm and alleviate suffering at all costs – even at potentially the cost of one’s very life. Rather than save his own life, Christ allowed himself to be put in harm’s way and be killed. In order to escape that end, harm would have had to have been done to someone else in the fight to get out of it. I believe the message in it was, “No. I won’t fight this. The violence – the inflicting of suffering on other living beings – stops here, stops now, with me.”  Atonement, to me, is definitely not the “get out of jail (hell) free” card that evangelicalism has presented with its substitution theology.  For me, atonement is the result of integrating this way of being and living life, and the inspiration, the example of what Christ did and showed in laying down his life is the introduction, showing that it’s possible to make the same kinds of choices.

To me, this is the foundation of the church. If the church is to survive, it must find its foundation again.

I think if we saw more of those who claim to follow Christ doing as Christ did, a lot of the debates as to whether Christ was a real person or not would effectively be shut down. Those who believe that he was a real person would continue to do so. Some might believe who otherwise might not have believed. Those who don’t believe might also continue to disbelieve even with nearly irrefutable evidence of the power of the Christ ideology to change a life from being a violent self-preservationist to a selfless giver of one’s own life to benefit the lives of others, but the evidence would still be hard to ignore. And even still, if people will ultimately only chalk Christ up to a myth, there wouldn’t be so much to baulk at concerning the myth. I mean, what is there to say to a life healed from hopeless despair? That’s what intensified alleviating of suffering makes possible: healing from a life of hopeless despair. I think the argument that Christ never existed would be like, “Meh. Who cares if it’s a myth or not. Look at the result.”

Here is the Frontline special that was aired on February 25, 2014: Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican

almost a year

Wow!!  Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since my last post here!

My spiritual journey has taken quite a few twists and turns.  That kind of sounds like I’ve been in the brambles.  Indeed, I have.  Yet I feel clearer for having fought through the entanglements.  I’m still fighting my way out.  These days, however, I am not getting cut and beaten up nearly as much.

I created another blog to process many of the emotions I’ve felt while detoxing from my religious past.  It is not for the faint of heart, so if you like where you are and do not wish to have your current views challenged in any way, I would advise you to not visit the new blog site.

For those of you who also feel as though you’ve been fighting your way out of the brambles, and it’s been more than a little bloody and smelling more than a little poopy, I welcome your presence and would love to share the journey with you in whatever way or measure you’d like to share.

In some ways I miss the religion I left behind (specifically, evangelical Christianity of the Charismatic variety).  My husband I have been attending a very kind and gentle little Methodist church out in the country for the past 4 years now, and we love it!  I never thought I could ever do church in that way again (all is calm) once Pentecostalism got hold of me.  But needs change, and the change was indeed what I needed.  I don’t know where I’m really headed these days, doctrinally or otherwise.  I’m just living my life and doing the best that I can with what I know.

I wish you well, fellow sojourner.

Here is where I’ve been writing these days if you care to drop by: two to beam up: permission to speak freely, sir…

humility

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  True humility is like Jesus…not a thing easily described, yet when it appears it is instantly recognizable.  There is something about it that the spiritual senses pick up on.  It has a sweet fragrance, a sound that awakens the heart and imagination, a pleasantly disarming demeanor; it’s something tangible, yet it can’t really be communicated easily with words.  It cannot be confused with, or compared to, anything else.

Pride, the antithesis of humility, is the same way.  It has an stench unique unto itself, and it smells exactly the same on everyone it has infected.  It has a look, a feel all its own, and it looks and feels the same on every person: Same face; different features, hairstyles, textiles, etc.  You can dress it up, doll it up, put it in the latest and most widely acclaimed fashions and accessories, but it still reeks of the same foul odor, has the same obnoxious sound to it, the same ugly, dull, dreary look.  It too is easily recognizable.

Humility in its purest form is not something seen or heard all that often.  Perhaps that is why it is so refreshing when it does come around.  People don’t necessarily know what it is they like about the person in whom humility has been made to feel welcome and at home.  I have seen truly humble people very few times in my life – in fact, I can probably count on one hand, and maybe a portion of the other, the number of times I’ve encountered such a one – and each time such an encounter has taken place, I have come away changed in some manner and for the better…not a huge slapped-up-the-side-of-the-head and turned upside down slam dunk kind of change…just a little something in me has been softly shifted – or at least an imprint has been left that might easily go unnoticed if not given special attention and care.

I have been around pride almost to the point of total saturation at various times in my life.  I have emulated its mannerisms, sprayed its stinky scent on me from head to toe.  I’ve dressed like it, talked like it, walked like it, I’ve tried on all its twisted expressions, and walked about with its mechanisms fastened to me, manipulating me this way and that, for extended periods of time.  I’ve eaten its delicacies (that taste sweet to the tongue but turn sour in the belly) and become intoxicated on its sour mash posing as sweet fruit from the vine…and I’ve come away from it all so very empty, so very disheartened and disillusioned, each and every time.

So it seems a fork in the road lies before me.  Which road will I decide to explore?

Here’s hoping that humility will find in me a favorable travel companion and eventually find within me a place to call home…yes, most sincerely hoping…

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normalcy

I have no idea if this is true or not as it came from a source I consider to be slanted, but I read somewhere that it’s becoming illegal to counsel people from unwanted sexual leanings and the like.

There is a profound difference between exhibiting behavior or seeking to convey to one (and that one may include oneself) or to many an air of normalcy and having a sense of normalcy from deep within one’s being that elicits a sense of well-being.  I’m not against counseling to achieve that inner sense of normalcy.  I believe that counseling is of the most benefit when 2 people are working together to truly commit to searching out and not stopping until the truth is arrived at no matter how deep, how broad, how high, and even how long it takes to find the absolute truth that truly makes free.  Therein is freedom where that sense of normalcy, that sense that all is well, becomes possible.  If the goal of counseling is the manipulate the outcome, it has failed before it has even begun.

If words spoken are the agreed upon words of truth, but they are spoken with a manipulative heart, the truth becomes lost in the words.  The words become meaningless.  In fact, depending on the degree of manipulation behind the words, the words that were designed to bring freedom become kidnappers, hostage takers, they become weapons that can inflict much damage – and can even become destructive.  Preachers please know and remember this as you step up to that pulpit to counsel your flock.  May we all encounter the truth that truly sets free this morning.  Amen.

weighing in instead of “duck”-ing

duck decoy

I was hoping to get away from talking about this, but it alas, I cannot but express my feelings about the whole patriarch of the Duck Dynasty furore.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past decade, you pretty much know who Phil Robertson is and what he is about.  If you ask him to weigh in as a “Christian” about how he sees homosexuality and the like, you’ve probably already had enough exposure to him to get an idea which side of the fence he is on.  He’s not hiding who he is, what he thinks, and what he believes.  That being said, to be fair, I can’t help but wonder if the man was being baited – just like when the Pharisees threw the woman caught in the act of adultery down at the feet of Jesus and asked Him to weigh in on that particular sexual issue.  The unfortunate thing for Mr. Robertson was that he didn’t grab hold of the same wisdom that Jesus grabbed hold of in His time of being baited that helped Him refrain from taking hold of the rope they were offering with which to lynch Him.  It wasn’t about the woman.  It was about setting a trap for Jesus.  He let them stand there holding that rope out to Him and, with facing down one simple question, they had nowhere else to go but to be hanged by their own pricked consciences.  The bait they were offering was, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery – in the very act!  The Law says such a one should be stoned.”  Jesus answered, “Okay, then.  Whichever one of you is without sin, you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one, they all dropped their rocks and walked away leaving only Jesus and the woman at the scene.  He asks, “Where are your accusers?  Has anyone condemned you?”  The woman answers, “No man, Lord (some translations say she addressed Him as Sir).”  Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”

Here is what I am going to say about the whole controversy, all across the board.  God is infinitely more than the sex that human beings are having.  I would venture a guess that He is not hung up on sex like we are, as in, who is having it and with whom.  He is calling us all to a higher realm, a realm of pure and radiant love where we are kind to each other, and we are taking care of each other; we’re making sure that if we recognize that someone has a need, we are doing whatever we can to see that the need is met.  Life is hard.  People are suffering – all over the world.  If we are truly doing God’s work then we are doing whatever we can, however we can, at every opportunity we can to ease the pain and the burdens of whosoever we encounter who is suffering.  If we are truly doing that then we really don’t have much time to obsess over and give our two cents about someone else’s sex life.  That is the way that I see it.  This is what I believe.  This is how I feel.