My unyielding, relentless persistence to seek an external God ultimately resulted in a Southern Baptist conversion, a thirteen year reckoning with the evangelical face of God and–in the end– a public renunciation of conservative faith.
To clarify: there are people, including some good friends, who find traditional Christianity a healing experience. They are able to make valuable contributions to their communities at an active, vibrant spiritual level. However, my personal experience was not one that fostered healing, vibrancy or spiritual clarity. The constant pressure to conform filled me with continual conflict and doubt and I did not feel I had the “right” to disagree. During those conflicting years the support of my religious community mattered more to me than my own inner conviction. But inevitably things came to a crisis point and finally I gathered enough courage to leave, even at the risk of “eternal damnation.”
In my early thirties by this time, having barely survived with my skin, soul or any sense of dignity intact, I decided that seekers were better off if God stayed missing.
Though after a time I began attending some metaphysical events and took courses in shamanism, feeling particularly drawn to mesa (altar) work, no doubt influenced by the ritual and ceremony of the Catholicism of my youth, I resigned myself to the status of pilgrim without a destination.
I still believed in God, and still peered around mysterious looking corners occasionally– but I stopped expecting him to be anywhere, really.
Yet that inner voice, ebbing and flowing through the various spiritual experiences, never completely stopped communicating with me. No longer wrestling with the need to find or surrender to a culturally mandated version of faith, that inner presence no longer felt either confusing or threatening. I still didn’t think of it as part of myself, but we were no longer at odds with each other. Through the very real, human challenges of the intervening years, I learned to listen.
And ever true, it led me to Kelly Barn that fateful Sunday morning. Led me to a spiritual framework with tenets and principles that allowed me to begin making sense of my early spiritual experiences, and also affirmed in a very real and palpable way that God and I were never separated from each other at all. Ever.
However, Incarnational Spirituality isn’t exclusively about relating to the Self. In fact, the focus isn’t really on the self at all. It’s on the relationships we foster–with others, with our own immediate environments, with the subtle realms, with the Earth.
As David says, “We incarnate into relationships.”
Yet emphasis is placed upon the wholeness we are capable of generating as sovereign, integral beings granted a measure of spiritual agency by virtue of being human. The inherent worth and value of the integrated soul not dualistically split between the God part that’s “good” and the “bad” untrustworthy ego is the starting point. That’s the critical point I missed in my early days.
Of course evil exists. The challenges of incarnating on this dense planet cause many of us to feel separation anxiety and to act out, to embody our fear and confusion, our loneliness and our rage. (In some sense, the creation myths giving rise to shadowy split between the ego and soul, God and the self are born of this perception of loss.)
Yet it took me a long time to accept that where we go–to the heights, to the depths, back to seed–God accompanies us in most intimate ways. In our breath. In our blood. In our longing. In the dramas we enact, again and again, in order to remember that we are here with great purpose.
Earth really is not a graveyard where the ego must be slaughtered so that the higher self can escape the body and reunite with God (hence the moat around the kingdom.) It’s more of a paradise where the losing and regaining are all part of a collective dream humanity will one day awaken from–and see our home, like Dorothy (upon her “return” to Kansas) through fresh eyes.
As of now, my most coherent prayer is for holopoeisis, which means wholeness–an integrated self waking up each day to a very real human experience lived as an act of love for all entrusted to me to tend in the most ordinary, sacredly prosaic ways.
My connection with God, like many others, began with the story of exile. Though I’m still on the journey, still learning how to belong even more deeply to the God within, my relationship with Lorian (thanks to a divine encounter with Incarnational Spirituality along the way) allows me to ground deeply into a sense of spiritual spaciousness based on the divine calling of being human. Now I have the opportunity to move through the world, not as a pilgrim seeking God, but as a tiny light on the miraculous earth– an emergent self rising and falling through the days, through the struggles, yet ever- knowing as I am also known.
God is no longer a receding horizon.