Thursday, August 11, 2011

This is where I've been all summer.

CPE Final Evaluation

6. Summarize your spiritual journey of these past eleven weeks. How is your faith changing? Your practice of ministry? What has been most painful? Most rewarding? Who are you becoming?

Honestly? It's been really hard. I've just been exhausted. But even when I've felt totally bottomed out, spiritually I've always felt supported. I've never felt abandoned, not by God - maybe by myself, though. Emotionally and mentally, I've checked out when I felt too threatened, and I ran from anything spiritual then -- because I knew it would bring me back into myself, and reconnect me.

I don't know if my faith is changing. I think it's deepening. I'm going deeper into myself, and into my pain, and into the world's pain, and that means I'm going deeper into what I believe. I think I know better what I believe now, and it's simpler than any of the confessions or creeds: it's just that I believe that God is real, and here, and ready. That's what I know, at my core; everything else is built on that, but that what I can't get away from. God is real, and here, and ready. That's not anything different about my faith; it's deeper. I know that my expression of faith is changing, that I'm finding new words to give voice to that experience, trying to find ways to explain how I understand God.

The most painful part of this summer has been coming to understand that I don't love or trust or even accept myself. And yet I'm worthy of it. That's really hard to live into, to know that there's such a breach of reality in my brain. And to learn to say, not that it's wrong, but that it's holding me back from being who I was made to be. I want to grow into loving and trusting and accepting myself, and there's a lot of habits that keep me from doing so, and it hurts to know how long I've held myself back from myself and from the world. But it's also a little exciting (just a little bit, way down there at the bottom of the heap of pain) to know that I'm not at my most yet. Maybe that's the most rewarding thing, too: to have experienced myself as lovable and trustworthy and acceptable, and to know I'm not there yet but to be just a tiny little bit excited for how much growing I have left. I don't look forward to the growth but I have this inkling that if I can do what I'm doing - being honest, being intuitive, being actually good at things - when I've been holding myself back, then maybe as I become more myself and more okay with myself, I'll be able to do even more and it will be even more meaningful and transformative for me and for others. Yes. That's what's been rewarding: to feel as broken down as I do, stripped bare of all my illusions about myself, and yet still be able to do good work, to want to do it, and to know what that means for how I'll grow.

Who am I becoming? I'm becoming me. I'm not becoming more lovable or trustworthy, or less broken or anxious. I'm ... well, I'm not there yet, not anywhere close, but I'm being pulled (it feels like a pull) into something that's just more me. That involves becoming mindful, and self-aware, but also a lot more self-gracious. I want to get there. I had my Melrose kids imagine their future, not knowing that I was the one who needed to be awakened to how much more fulfilling life was going to be when I was finally okay with myself. And I'm sort of okay (tentatively) with being where I am, which is not yet integrated, not yet okay with myself, not yet integrating hardly any of what I've learned at CPE. I want to be okay with that, and I think a small part of me is.

7. Get into your right brain and write a fantasy, a parable, a metaphorical story, a song, or whatever captures your learning experience this summer.

I do feel broken, in some ways. Dismantled. I feel like most of what I thought (consciously or subconsciously) about myself has been broken down. That's the outer shell; the mix of greens, blues, and purples that made up who I presented to the world (and to myself). CPE has cracked that shell.

Inside is a pearl. It might be the pearl of great price, for which the merchant sells all he has. To find this pearl - who I truly am, and who I am becoming - I have to give up a lot of what I want about myself. I have to lose what I have called my life - my well-crafted persona - to find what is truly me.

Along the edge of the shell is a golden web, crossing color patches and stretching across the void the crack created. Even as I have felt broken down and taken apart, I've had a sense of being held together by something outside my shell, something larger than my persona or my essence. I also had a sense that this web (and my picture doesn't capture this well) is made of the same material that the pearl inside is.
This web meant I didn't have to be afraid of the process (although I certainly was, quite often). I could trust in a strength greater than what my shell could handle. The "cracking open" of CPE hasn't disturbed this web; it's simply stretched. There have been times when I have still needed the shell - still needed to be able to cloak myself, to pull back. I'm not actualized yet. The web allows me to do that, to pull the shell back over myself until the moment when I can feel free and safe again to be myself. And the web also calls to the pearl: we're of the same material, come on out, it's safe.

The web feels like God. The web is God. The web is what has been keeping me "together," not in the sense of rebuilding the shell or letting me hide, but in the sense that something larger than this tiny exposed pearl is there, real, present, attentive, protective, prepared.