Tag Archives: Spiritual Journey

Struggles and the Shattered Myth of Fairness

When I was about eight, my mom took me to see some specialist at some big-shot hospital. (I can’t for the life of me remember what was wrong.) While I was at that hospital, I saw a little boy about my age, but he didn’t look like any of the boys in my class. He didn’t have any hair, and he was sitting in a wheelchair hooked up to a bunch of IV’s. I asked my mom what was wrong with him, and she pulled me aside and told me he had cancer. Up to that point, I thought only old people got cancer. I asked my mom if that little boy was going to die. She didn’t say “no, he’ll be fine.” She said, “Yeah, he might.”

I cried my eyes out on the way home from the hospital. I wasn’t crying because some nurse had just taken a dozen tubes of my blood. I was crying because I had just learned an excruciating life lesson: life is not fair and sometimes shitastic things happen.

I’m going to be honest: life is not being fair to me right now. I have an autoimmune disease called endometriosis, which came out of remission last year. Autoimmune means the disease is not a virus or bacteria. It’s my own cells going wackaloony, like a malfunctioning smoke alarm that won’t shut up even though there’s no fire. When you have a disease that’s made of you, things get complicated in terms of trying to find effective treatments.

My endo is not going away quietly, to say the least. I won’t go into all the details about my symptoms and treatments on here, but I’m tired of hiding my emotions about the whole thing. This has been freakin’ difficult because there is no solid explanation of why shit happens. I don’t know why some people die young, and some people get diseases that don’t kill them but make their lives a living hell. I don’t know why natural remedies aren’t the cure-all that some people claim they are.

Pretty much the only thing I do know with certainty is I didn’t get sick because I’m a failure any more than that boy in the hospital 20ish years ago. I’m not an extraordinarily good or bad person. I’m just a plain old person, and sometimes crap happens to us plain old people and we don’t know why.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately. (I’m not Catholic, but there is a lot about Catholicism that I appreciate.) If anyone understood the pain of unfairness, she did. Watching your 33-year-old son being brutally slaughtered by an angry mob is about as unfair as it gets. I don’t even care that thinking about Mary is on the Unofficial List Of Things Good Protestants Don’t Do, because this is keeping me afloat right now.

 

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The Church, School, and Health Care Connection

In a weird way, my beliefs have paradoxically stayed the same but also changed drastically over the past year or so. I still believe in G-d. I still believe in heaven and hell, although I’m different from many Christians in that I believe it doesn’t just exist on the other side of eternity. You think selfishness and abuse (in any form) don’t make life a living hell? Think again! I don’t believe that every other religion is completely sound per se, but I also don’t believe Christians have a monopoly on truth. C.S. Lewis didn’t either, for the record.

I’m starting to look at church the way I look at the public school and health care systems. We need both of these systems to exist. I have had some extremely positive experiences with both. But I’ve never been so delusional as to think they’re perfect and don’t need any improvement. It’s a bit of a paradox. I’ve received significant benefit from public school and the American health care system, and yet at the same time, I have some honest questions about how we can improve them.

I think this is exactly how we need to look at westernized churches. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not only okay to go to church while remaining critical of it, but it’s extremely necessary.

Positive Changes I’ve Noticed After Leaving Destructive Church Environments

By now it’s not exactly a state secret that church and I have had a bit of a bumpy ride this year. As I said before, a church I was involved with had a very ugly church politics situation that people on both sides of the issue handled poorly. (And that’s the nice way of putting it.) Combine that with leaving a cult-like church about five years ago and I really needed a church detox. I have not attended any church services at all this calendar year, and it’s been a very healing experience.

Several people have told me that I need to come to their church because their church is “different.” I have to be honest: right now, no church is “different” enough to be worth my time. I am the westernized, Americanized church’s worst nightmare. I’m an introvert. I don’t vote Republican. I have friends of all backgrounds and beliefs. I have friends who identify as GLBT. I give smaller amounts of money to charity quietly instead of bragging about giving large amounts. I believe in vaccines unless there is a legitimate medical reason to avoid certain ones. I wouldn’t say I’m a hard-core pacifist but I’m not thrilled with how our country has handled military involvement from Vietnam onward. I absolutely believe that heaven and hell are real, in this life as well as the next, but I have issues with evangelism since I can’t make anyone believe anything before they are ready. I believe that toxic, manipulative people are a bigger danger to me than the “spreading” of Islam in America. The stigma against chronic physical and mental illness in the church needs to go, and it needs to go now. All of these viewpoints make up who I am, and they are not acceptable in most churches today.

If anyone at your church would berate me for any of these things, I’m sorry, your church is not “different” enough for me. That is the truth, and it is my decision to make, not yours.

Now that I’ve explained why church and I need a good long break, I want to share some of the positive changes I’ve noticed after leaving destructive church environments:

1.) I’m starting to own my own spirituality. I read books and listen to teachings when I sense there’s something in them I need, not when someone demands that I do it.

2.) I can actually answer when people ask me what my favorite food or my favorite color is. For years I couldn’t, because I have been told that it’s sinful and selfish to have a favorite food or favorite color when there were children starving in Africa. (Again with the over-focus on Africa when there are children starving in the US!)

3.) I don’t feel like a piece of crap 24/7. I’m not constantly trying to work harder at being a better person, and I actually have more energy to work on the character issues that are legitimate problems.

4.) I am becoming a nicer person. I actually listen to people now. I suppose it helps that I’m finally surrounded by people who actually listen to me.

5.) I have more time and more energy now that I’m not in tons of studies and small groups. Permanently quitting both was seriously the best decision I ever made.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I have been exploring Messianism and we are going to check out a Messianic congregation sometime soon. I’m hoping to go to at least one of their Rosh Hashanah services, health permitting. Messianism has had tons of positive effects on my spirituality. It doesn’t feel like the right time to write about that, but once that changes, I will make a list of reasons I am falling in love with Messianism.

Hard Questions

(Note: The poem I’m about to share with you is not directed at any particular church or ministry group. This is in response to several issues I’ve encountered in a handful of different churches and groups over the years. My intention is not to slander anyone but to be honest about the fact that I have been seriously bruised by many people in many different circles. My intention is to express the truth that our words and actions can affect others in extremely negative ways.)

When you stop going to church after ten years,
people ask you, “Why did YOU stop?”
“What are YOU doing to stop this format from working?”
It’s you, you, you

They expect you to answer THEIR questions,
not turn the tables and ask any of your own

I went from being afraid to ask questions
to not having anything but questions:

“Where are you when people need you?”

“Why do you scare people into eradicating healthy boundaries?”

“Why do you question my integrity when you have no reason to do so and when you know full well I have every reason to question yours?”

“Why do you care more about being right than about unity and connection?”

“Why do you assume I’m worthless just because I’m an introvert?”

The list could go on and on!

A good rule for writing is to write about things that scare you, especially when they don’t scare anyone else.

It scares me that no one has been able or willing to answer my questions.

More than that, it scares me that this doesn’t scare anyone else.