Boat – on an anchorless faith.

I’m starting to think that the Episcopal church is better off without me. The whole deacon discernment process was put on hold a year ago. I understand now that there is no way I could speak freely and have them put their stamp of approval on me.

Because how dare I say that God is talking to me?

As Christians, our goal is to be connected with God. How can we possibly do the will of God if we can’t hear God?

Oh, right, I forget. We are supposed to trust that the priest/minister/pastor is hearing from God, and telling us what to do.

Yet, this isn’t what Jesus wanted.

So I’m on my own now. I’m non denominational. I’ve been without a church home for half a year, and it is a bit terrifying. There isn’t a road map for this. I keep wanting to go back to the old way, but then I feel a pain in my gut every time I think about it. I know that I can’t. I know that isn’t my path.

I’ll go to a Christmas Eve service. I’ll take communion in a gym. I’ll celebrate Christ in the pool at the Y. I’ll go to my spiritual director. I’ll go to a friend’s house where we share what the Spirit leads us to share. I’ll host events at my house. I’ll pray over my meal in silence at a buffet. I’ll make healing jewelry for a grieving friend. I’ll write.

God is connecting with me in new ways.

It is like I’m on a boat, sailing far away at sea. I’m no longer following the coastline or the man-made lights along the shore. The lights I’m following are the same lights that sailors have followed for thousands of years.

I’m going backwards to go forwards.

The radio doesn’t work here, this far out. There’s no map on the sea either. I have no way of knowing if I’m headed the right way. I have no way of knowing if I’m lost.

I’m pushed along by the breath of God, and that suits me just fine.

This is the same breath that created the world, that gave life to Adam.

I feel safe in this boat, this ark, the ark of Noah, the ark of Moses as a baby. Both went out on trust, went out in wooden boat on the ocean, adrift. Both were there because all was lost and the old ways didn’t work anymore. Both were there because to stay where they were meant certain death.

The Covenant has an ark too. So do Torah scrolls.

The main body, the sanctuary of a traditional church building is known as a nave. It is from naval, from ship. It is an ark for people. It looks like a ship, upside down. The sharp pointed roof is the hull of the ship, pointed towards the sky.

I don’t want that ship anymore. I want to take it and turn it all upside down and set it afloat again.

I don’t think that God wants us to be grounded or set in our ways, or stuck in one place. I think God wants us to be forever trusting in God’s ways, and the only way to do that is to set sail, rudderless, anchorless, free. God wants us to take us further than we’ve ever gone and right where we need to be.

God is, was, and shall be. The Hebrew YHWH is a contraction of these words. It is a good name for God, the infinite, the forever, the now and always is. God is endless and eternal.

We can’t understand this, we humans. We invented time. We invented the idea that tomorrow follows today and each day has a separate name and that time takes place. Perhaps that is why we are confused. We don’t understand God because we can’t limit God. We can’t define God because God is indefinable.

Wake up. Hear the gulls. The day is dawning here.
There’s no shore, but we are not alone.
The beings of the sea and sky keep us company.
Wake up, and smell the salt in the air.
We are safe.
We are home.

“I’m sorry” – on forgiveness.

There is a difference in saying

“I’m sorry.”
or

“I’d like to apologize for…”
or

“I’m sorry that you felt hurt when I….”

They reflect different degrees of admitting responsibility. They reflect different degrees of accepting how the other person has been hurt by your actions.

There is the true sincere apology statement, and then there is the one where the person understands the social obligation of at least acting sorry. One is real, the other is fake. Don’t be mislead. Even saying “I’d like to apologize for” doesn’t mean anything. The person would like to apologize, but isn’t actually doing so.

And worse, saying sorry doesn’t really even mean anything. If you hammer nails into a tree, and then pull them out, there are still holes there.

Expecting the victim to forgive can actually revictimize her. It puts the burden on her, instead of the abuser. It minimizes her feelings. It glosses over the reality of her pain and loss.

If there has been no apology, no restitution, then there is no closure or healing. Even if there has been an apology or restitution, then is no guarantee that closure or healing has taken place. Once a person has been harmed by another person, sometimes saying “sorry” won’t fix it, and the damage is permanent, especially if the offender has a habit of repeatedly hurting people.

It isn’t fair to the victim to expect her to forgive at all.

Sure, Buddha says that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. Sometimes you have to forgive so you can go on with your life. But forgiveness comes when it comes, and no sooner.

Saying “Aren’t you over that by now?” isn’t kind, or helpful.

Saying “But have you forgiven him in your heart?” makes no sense. What about the liver? Is it OK to still hold some resentment there?

It is the same as getting frustrated with someone who is grieving. Grief takes time, and there isn’t a fixed amount. It takes as long as it takes.

I think people are nervous around grief, or unforgiveness, or anger, because it frightens them. They want to rush right ahead to the happy bit, where all is good and everybody is loving and kind. That Hollywood ending isn’t real. That’s why it is in the movies.

Movies don’t show reality. Sadly, a lot of us have used movies as our role models. This is why a lot of us are in pain. A lot. Our reality never matches up to that reality, and we feel like we are doing something wrong.

Working through feelings is a long process, and our society doesn’t give a lot of help along the way. You have to process your pain, just like how a cow chews its cud. You have to work on it, and wait, and work on it a little more, and wait. You have to transform it into something else. Cows transform grass into energy for their muscles, and then milk.

There is a sort of alchemy here.

Trying to take shortcuts on the process only results in it not really being processed. It will come out half way, unfinished, lumpy. It will come out sideways, if it comes out at all. Sometimes it will get stuck inside, with little jagged bits poking into your soft parts, just causing more pain.

Take as long as you need.

You don’t have to forgive to the extent that you let the abuser hurt you again. You don’t have to forget.

It helps if you can move on, where this rock of grief and pain doesn’t define you, doesn’t limit you, doesn’t keep you stuck in one place.

Work on it. Chew on it. Draw. Paint. Write. Go for a walk. Take your anger with you.

You aren’t running away from your anger and pain and loss, you’re using it as fuel. You’re transforming it into something useful and necessary. It takes a while. It takes as long as it needs to take.