Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Christian Mysticism and where I fit in the sacred spirituality

I stumbled upon the term today "Christian mystic" and it felt like coming home.
When I think back on my life, I can think of many times where I bounced around within the church. After a particularly life shattering event, I leaned heavily into the religion aspect of Christianity. I was under the impression that God cared what color socks I wore that day. I thought that if I did everything right and went to church and went to youth group and got myself a discipler things would work out for me. I did all of those things, and my life didn't get better. No one told me that this isn't how it works. And so, when things didn't magically get better after I started the radical pursuit of the "good Christian" I thought God didn't care about me.
Early on in my teen years, something in my mind shifted from that "good Christian" mindset to a more agnostic way of thinking. I went to church because I had to, not because I wanted to, or more accurately because I had an image to maintain and something to get from God. The tone in my writing turned drastically away from scribbling out prayers. I had Bibles but I didn't open them for years. I lost myself in the world of love and infatuation, of addiction, of anything I could think of to fill this hole inside me because it was made clear to my adolescent self that God wasn't showing up.
The process of coming back to faith (in anything!) was a long one. I can't pinpoint an exact moment when I started showing up again. I started going to a new youth group, one I went to mainly because I wanted friends and I think secretly because I wanted some kind of answers. I wanted someone to prove me wrong, that all Christians weren't the same, that God was still out there for a person like me.
I think back on my late teen years (from about 15 or so on) and I remember it being a really mystical time for me. Nothing was really working right in my life, one messy situation followed the next. It was one of the biggest times of pain and grief that I've gone through. And yet it seemed so sacred and spiritual. Not because I was reading my Bible or praying regularly again but because I began submerging myself in a world with people who were real about how hard life is (this is how I fell in love with slam poetry). I read blog articles and listened to podcasts from people with different perspectives. Suddenly the things I was absorbing were less about theology and sermons and rules, and more about every day life. I found myself drawn to the Christians who weren't afraid to say the word "Shit" followed by a story about how they encountered Jesus at the car wash.
So for me, it was kind of a funny place to be when I ended up at Bible college. I was submerged in theology all day long. On my first campus visit I remember commenting to the admissions manager I was with that these people were praying all the time. It was so foreign to me, and maybe that's why I was intrigued by it. I made my decision to go to PRBI based on a comment from a guy (he scared me at first, and when I told him this we bonded and became friends) who said coming to Bible College would tear me down and make me miserable. I didn't really like the idea of being miserable but I needed something to shake me up.
My first year at PRBI was great. I learned so much, my care group was beautiful, and I met some amazing people who are still in my life today.
I decided to come back for a second year, but somewhere between the end of my first year and the beginning of my second year I felt resistance. I thought it was just nerves. I thought that because my first year had been so great, how could anything go wrong?
But within a few weeks of my second year having begun, I knew this wasn't what I wanted. Not because I think there's something wrong with being taught the Bible and being in that Christian environment. But for me it wasn't where I needed to be. The theology I was taught became another thing to get through, more studies and rules, and it took all my passion for spirituality. Because of the environment I was in and some of the rules set in place (obviously a community like that needs to have some guidelines in place) I felt like I wasn't free to discover God the way I did best. And the good old Christian bubble slowly sucked the life out of me until I found it a struggle not to be bitter and resentful. I almost quit on a number of occasions, but pushed myself to finish because I thought "How can there be anything wrong with being at Bible College? This must be what God wants for me."
I did have some good moments during my second year. I made connections and was able to build into others and be built into, and I value all of that. Please hear me, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Bible college. I'm saying at this season in my life, there's something wrong with Bible college for me. Instead of feeding my faith, it shriveled it. Instead of making me come alive I felt like I was dying on the inside.
But being at Bible College for a second year did give me a gift, which was the eyes to see that the ways of Christianity I'd always been taught weren't working for me. I could push and push and push but I don't know if I'll ever be able to encounter God in theology, in organized services, in a sheltered environment.
I want to be the kind of person who sees Jesus at the car wash. I encounter God when I'm on my yoga mat. I see Jesus in the eyes of the broken, the hurting, the every day people. I learn about God most through stories of others. And when I am open to regarding the people and things around me as teachers, I learn so much about myself and about who God is.
I was having a conversation a while ago with my boyfriend about the different ways we view spirituality. The moment I remember most clearly was when we were talking about the importance of Bible reading, and I was struggling to get my point across. Because I do believe reading the Bible is important. I don't have a set Bible reading schedule. I've tried working my way through a specific book and find it becomes just another thing to cross of my to-do list. Sometimes, though, I'll read a story and it will minister to me in a whole new way, and show me something about God and myself that I didn't know before. But when I think of Bible reading, I don't want reading the Bible to be the only way I encounter God. I don't want to read the Scriptures, but live them. I want them to become real and active in my life, and I'm finding for me that doesn't happen by reading them over and over but by going out into my daily life and letting myself be used by God.
My spiritual practice is just showing up.
Maybe everyone else thinks like this too but just isn't vocal about it. Maybe I still have this idea in my head of what Christianity is because of what I've seen and what I know and I think people fit into this boxed idea of Christianity. Or maybe it is as they say, and I am just a little bit of a mystic.
I don't know why I'm writing about this other than the fact that I think its important. Over the past little bit I feel like I've had to defend my view on things and how I do God and faith, so maybe this is part of that. Or maybe its just that I don't feel like being silent anymore about the things that matter.
Maybe this all makes me a mystic. So be it, I've always felt more comfortable out there with the mystics anyway. But if I'm being honest, I think we should all be a little bit mystic.
Jesus didn't come to create denominations and ethical systems, but rather invited them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws (Rob Bell)
And I think maybe, just maybe, that's part of what Jesus meant when he said "I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)

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