Who on Earth said transformation was magical, easy, glamorous?
When we are made new in the spirit of the Holy One, that means that something must die. Being born and dying is our first purpose, and the common thread we hold together as a human family.
When we emerge from our past a new person with a new testimony, We are left with the memories of what once was. We chart a completely different course, and the path of uncertainty begins. Our history remains.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
-2nd Corinthians 5:17
When I think about the person I was, the motives, goals, and ambitions I used to have, I sometimes miss being the wild-child, the hippie, the rebellious and divergent person that made it this far after living a life torn apart by dysfunction. I become nostalgic about the way things were – and sometimes I rely on memories that have been manipulated in certain ways, by my ego and/or the influence of others, to make me believe that what I had was good, if not better than what I have now. Imagine an old lover coming back and saying “Hey baby, want some of this?”
The creation of memories is an incredible gift of humanity but it is not a gift of reality most of the time. It is in our nature to survive, and when it comes to negative memories or even seeing ourselves in a less than perfect light, our survival instincts bend the light of truth to protect us from fallibility.
In my case, missing the former life I lead really means that I am struggling with the task of patience, responsibility, and the vow I took to pursue my spiritual path above all else.
These struggles are pebbles pressing into the bottoms of my feet, deep into the unknown forest and I have got no shoes. I’m totally unprepared; I am hungry, thirsty. I don’t know how long my path will continue but I have got to find coverage and nourishment. Fast.
They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.
Hello? God? I thought that this was going to be an adventure, like an 80’s montage where I am trying on clothes, dancing through the mall with teased hair. Where is my spandex? Where are my leg warmers? Where is John Cusack?
Ah…fantasy: memory’s faithful (and treacherous) counterpart.
Naked in the Forest
When we take that first brave step away from the familiar and the fantasy, leaving the baggage and personal demons behind us, we are essentially newborns. This is what it means to be born again, but this doesn’t just happen once after a spirited church meetin’.
There is a delicate refinement process that occurs as we journey through the many eras of our lives. Each era is a rite of passage in and of itself. We perpetuate the cycle of coming of age, maturing, dying and being reborn into deeper wisdom and faith. That is, if we are willing.
As we evolve on our spiritual path, we must be strong enough to remain faithful and consistent, to resist the well-traveled road of complacency once known to us, allow our feet to become calloused and bloody as we press on, with great tenacity, to the goal of greater spiritual peace.
On this path, I have recently discovered that no one, except for God, truly understands my heart. Knowing and fully experiencing this, I feel lighter than usual, I experience holy intelligence in my bones. The air is soft on my skin, and I don’t even realize or fear reprisal, when I stand before my God, that I am naked, vulnerable, and flawed.
You are the sum-total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there.
– Maya Angelou
While all those wonderful, angelic feelings are present, there is also a part of me that mourns being in the world, going on that crazy paper chase (be it a degree, a marriage certificate, money in excess).
My heart wishes that sometimes it didn’t stick out, hum and murmur so much love. I try to hide my exuberance; I have even pretended I am not as innocent and tender as I am. In this tempting past that calls me backwards, I have committed acts of betrayal to my infinite self by being inauthentic. When I start on the path to regret, wishing I could make my life like a fantasy, the darkness of the forest covers my eyes and I can no longer make out the life that I deserve before me. This scares me and I am tempted to act on my instincts.
Can you relate? Let’s strengthen our resolve to never betray but always remember our spirits.
In the midst of it all, God whispers to me and tells me to fall upon the rocks and shatter my false self, let go, fade to light. Break through yet another womb. Let others see the wonder of what has been broken, what skin has been shed, what has been transfigured.
for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.
I wish to follow Jesus completely and exclusively but also be inspired by the darkness, light, the otherworldly, and the mundane. God is in all those places, waiting to reveal wisdom and teachings and tokens of friendship,tiny morsels and too-big-for-yo-mouth delicious, buttery, and crusty bites of the bread of life.
Celebrate the Aftermath
Following Jesus means that I revel in God’s world where nothing is separate. It means that when I feel nostalgia and I wish to be unfettered by my vows, I can walk in prayer, accessing and commiserating with the man who bled from his face out of grief the night before his death.
Trusting God and not my faulty memory or misaligned human tendencies means that while I may think I see society and politics controlling the world for the worse, God is truly in control- sometimes cheering us on, other times lamenting our folly, but never apart from us in any single moment or era of our lives.
And so it is.