The Thursday After Ash Wednesday

It’s Lent. I am not fasting. I am not sure I care.

An alternate title for this post could be: “Just Like Any Other Thursday.”

Let me try to explain. As much as Tom the homeless guy has no physical house, as much as he walks around talking to people that no one else can see, and as much as he has no creature comforts like thick wool socks and gloves that match to keep his hands warm, I have no spiritual place.

I don’t feel like Agape could ever be my church “home.” I go there. I like most of the people. However, I am also pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, not sure I believe in hell, non-fundamentalist, mostly non-evengelical, and unable to commit to the idea that there will be a second-coming of Christ. And I don’t base every decision I make or belief I hold on the “Inerrant Word of God(t).”

“How did you make it through seminary?” you might ask.

“Good question,” I would respond.

Like Tom, I find myself (although not literally) talking to people that no one else can see. I have been on a manic rush—learning that I could be slightly manic came free with my seminary tuition via the psychological evaluations they made us take—for about three weeks now, and although I talk to people who really exist, I am not sure they understand me. I talk too fast. I space out. I jumble my thoughts. God bless Debbie for bearing with me through my independent study with her. And Becky deserves a badge for putting up with me right now.

It isn’t that I haven’t slept in three weeks, because I have, but it is the fact that my sleep comes in small spurts, filled with fitful/unsettling dreams. I would say my last night of good sleep happened before I went to Chicago, before I had my current “am I doing the right thing with my life” crisis, and before I had this, my third round of the amazing English department head and chest cold.

And, about talking to people I can’t see, I sometimes  think I have some strange, otherworldly perception. I frequently see little flashes of what I perceive to be people or spirits lingering about me. I haven’t seen as many in the house we live in, but I think my ability to sense what other people are feeling has increased, and I keep having a recurring dream about one of my professors.

In it, she is trapped in a house that is slowly crumbling and there is no way out. Even though the walls keep falling down, she can never get out. Each time she thinks she is able to get out another wall is standing in her path. Then it crumbles, and she has to run to another part of the house to find another way out. She can’t just leave through the crumbling wall because the actual pieces of the wall are detrimental to her safety. I get the sense that there is heat or a gas building up around her as well. She screams, but I can’t hear what she is screaming. All I can do is watch her suffer. I have tried to re-dream, so that I can get into the dream with her and help her out of the house, but it won’t work.

I am not sure I have ever had a dream like this before about someone I know so superficially. I did have a weird dream about my Aunt Winnie. I dreamed she died on the actual night she died. And, the other night I had a dream about one of my former students. The next day I received an email from her, which wouldn’t be weird if I had conversations with her regularly. But, I don’t. In fact, I haven’t heard from her since I had her in class two semesters ago.

This dream about my professor is different, though, I have had it for about two weeks straight, and then I stopped having it, but I had it again last night. Weird. So that’s my version of talking to people who aren’t actually there. I just have weird dreams and sensations about real people, which are particularly obvious and happen increasingly when I cannot sleep well. Or when, as the professor who read my psych. report said, I am “slightly manic.”

Back to my analogy about Tom’s physical homelessness and my spiritual homelessness, I don’t have the creature comforts that come with finding a perfect spiritual home. I have never been to a church where I feel completely comfortable. I know the point of church isn’t my personal comfort, but I want to be able to be who I am in Christ. I don’t want to have to mask or hide any part of myself in order to feel accepted. It isn’t that I don’t recognize that all of us have areas of spiritual growth and development; it is that I think differently about what those areas might be than the ways other people perceive them.

We know what our behaviors are. We know the bible says. We know where they don’t line up. Church should be about giving grace to people until they do line up, not about doling out condemnation because they don’t align. I don’t believe in tough love; I believe in grace.

For example, I know I should spend more time contemplating scripture. How do I know this? One quick example is Psalm 1: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” I do not meditate on this law day and night. I barely even look at my bible, nor do I memorize scripture. How then can I meditate day and night? My behavior does not align with what I perceive to be an overarching theme of the Biblical text. I know what I need to do to fix it, now I need the church to provide me with the support to do it.

The same would hold true for an alcoholic. Or a liar. Or a stern parent. Or a woman of ill-repute.

Typically, churches are so consumed with their own agenda (abortion, homosexuality, blah, blah, blah) that they can’t pay any attention to helping their parishioners foster the close relationship with God that is paramount in Christian life. Would we need to talk about abortion if everyone was willing to help an impoverished or single mother raise her child? Would we need to talk about it if we provided birth control education to teenagers? When was the last time you heard a sermon or had a small-group that focused on how we are to keep God’s words hidden in our hearts, so that it can inform our behavior and shape our lives? Come on. Be honest.

This might be a message of grace: through your understanding of and meditation on God’s words, your relationship with [Them] will be strengthened. In turn, you will better understand what God’s love means in this world, and you will be able to pour God’s love out to other people. I mean, if I was a pastor, I would preach about this. This would be the thick wool socks and matching, warm gloves I would give to my congregation.

So, all this to say, I feel like a spiritual homeless person. Does anyone know of any good shelters that will take me in? Mess that I am.

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One response to “The Thursday After Ash Wednesday

  1. There is so much I could say in response to this blog, but it would turn into a book–or just a long conversation over lunch or coffee. So, for now, just know that I read this and hope to talk to you about everything a little later.

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