I grew up up in a very "religious' home and I use quotations because we all thought it was a "spiritual" place and not a "religious" one.
Boy, were we wrong.
I would like to say that not all of the experiences I had growing up in that environment were bad; there were moments of actual spiritual enlightenment and of joy.
The majority of my time spent there was being called so many names in the book that grace or compassion were thrown out the window. Being the 'black sheep, labeled with a 'scarlet letter' or called a "sexual predator" among many other terrible things before I was ever sexually active was ...confusing. I was made to apologize publicly (to the congregation) for many things that shouldn't have been public at all.
I was considered a bad influence on those younger than me and so was ostracized amongst my own peers as a 'bad apple.' This did so much damage to my idea of 'normal' and to my ability to make friends and to have a peer group.
After about the 100th lecture about how I was still not "behaving" according to this man's (the church leader) idea of what a "godly teenage girl" was supposed to be like; after the 100th time of telling me I was unworthy of forgiveness; that I just was wrong all around, I couldn't take it anymore, I had to leave, but I was more terrified of the "world" than I was of the devil I already knew. It took me another 3 years to have the courage to leave, and in doing so, I was ex-communicated.
Talk about damage.
It broke my 'faith button.' And it broke hard, like Chernobyl when it blew up and the leaking radiation poisoned any faith vibes I may have had after that.
I lost all interest in growing personally, I lost all interest in faith, in worship, and communion with people or a group or even in a building. Walking into a church causes me so much anxiety, I cry. I long to stand and sing in harmony with other believers and yet I can not. I long for the community I used to know, the feeling of family lost forever.
Why did I need to be baptized THREE times? Why wasn't the first one good enough? Was I really that much of a sinner that asking God's forgiveness for my sins became conditional. What a crock of bull. And yet, I did what I was told; I listened; I really did try.
This "pastor" destroyed my sense of faith and what forgiveness was, and what a man in power (as in a spiritual power) was supposed to be like. Was he not supposed to emulate how the Creator would want his children to be treated? Was he not to be the example?
He was none of those things.
Instead I grew up with a man who hated women, who wanted to know everyone's business so he could shame them...and I for some reason became his poster child for all things wrong with the teens in our community. I WAS the problem. Instead of me having issues that could be dealt with I, me personally, was the issue. It was torture knowing I wasn't wrong, nor was I a "problem" I was a wounded child living out my trauma, and there was no room for that, only condemnation.
I have always had a soft spot for spirituality, I believe with all my heart that we can commune with the Creator through nature, through living out kindness and compassion, forgiveness and grace, through listening to my intuition (also known as the Holy Spirit or that small quiet voice that always rings true). I have had to change my own vocabulary to avoid breaking into a rash every time someone uses the terms, 'God' or 'Jesus' or 'church.' My heart does a weird flip and I start to retreat. This always causes me more pain.
I am spiritual, I do believe in faith and love abounding. Just not the way I was shown as a child.
I have taken a leap of faith that I am not wrong about my Spiritual journey.
It is a tragic loss for me as I would have loved to have the community that comes with a proper fellowship, I am too jaded, I am still too hurt by the actions of only a few people.
I hurt for the fact that it makes it even harder to share these things with my own children, with partners or friends. I do not "preach' or 'reach" to anyone. I have chosen to try my best to LIVE by the faith I have built and in the truth I have learned.
And that truth is that the Creator WILL meet me where I can hear, where I can feel and where I am ready.
It does not take church or a man to teach me the ways. It takes me being willing to be still and listen, to give gratitude when it is needed and to be in awe of the beauty and struggle I see every day. I choose to live through compassion and grace because I have so desperately needed them at times and was thrown away, not embraced.
A loss of faith is so tragic. My spiritual journey could have been way different, I would not have had to go through years of self doubt, years of thinking I was a backsliding sinner who could not be helped. It took years to realize that the words I chose to use in reference to the Creator didn't matter, it was the FAITH I already had, it was the listening, it was the walking and the changing when I learned I was wrong in my thoughts. Faith is subtle, faith is patient, and faith is Strength in the moments of terror.
I may have lost "religion" however I never lost my faith. I had to adjust what I learned had to unlearn a few things too.
I still don't go to church.
I do sit in nature and commune with it and I hear Peace in the wind, I feel love and kindness from the sun, I feel strength from the trees and songs of worship from the birds. I feel the moon and am reminded that even in the darkness there is always light and hope for the morning. ALL of these things are my "church." All of these things have become my way to worship, to be thankful is my song, and to voice it when I feel the need. That makes me spiritual and not religious. I will hold onto the truth that I will be met where I am!
I will forever hold to the FACT that I am forgiven, that I am worthy of love, and most of all I am not wrong in how I choose to live out MY faith.
It is tragic and yet it lead me to true faith and wisdom.
Don't give up if you're feeling like you're a little lost in all of the hype of what faith is supposed to look like. Its' my journey, it's YOUR journey and that is all that matters!
It is tragic when one human tells another their faith isn't faithy enough, or that your idea of spirituality is wrong because it should be based on action and not heart. Spirituality is ALL about heart and action follows. I can't begin to think what my journey would have been like if love, acceptance, grace, and compassion were not just preached but actually lived. Maybe I wouldn't have cried so many nights thinking I was a lost cause, or thinking I didn't deserve these things in my life because I was "so bad" as a Little.
If you're struggling yourself, I implore you to sit in the quiet and know that you will be heard, you will be accepted for where YOU are at!
Much love my people.
Until next time,
"Iphelia Mann" is the pen name of a very articulate, creative, amazing human on a journey of self-discovery...with the goal of unpacking her baggage and throwing away the suitcases.
P.S. I still feel weird even writing about this; like talking about it is a falsehood, again one of the tragic things I learned to believe. I am working on it tho.
P.S.S. I send you all love and patience for yourselves on your Journey.