Because so much of my recent life has been primarily spiritual, I think it’s important to sit down and trace out the path I’ve taken.
My entire family is Lutheran (Wisconsin Synod). I was baptized as a baby, and then spent my childhood going to a Lutheran grade school (through 8th grade) and also going to Saturday school (like sunday school, but saturday) at my home church. That means I had religion 7 days a week. In fairness to my parents, the reason we went to private school was due to our local school district being less than stellar, and our church paying the full tuition. Therefore, academically it was the appropriate choice.
I rebelled early on, though I’m not sure what I was rebelling against exactly. I started listening to heavier music in fifth grade and by sixth was heavily into bands like guns n roses. It gave me an escape from my school life. During this time I was a good student, and I’ve always considered myself a pretty good kid, but I don’t do well when my freedoms are being squashed. So as the school tried to keep us in line, my friends and I found ways to step over it. When they said no rock t-shirts, we wore them under flannel shirts (thanks to the grunge movement lol) We swore a lot, and tried to be older than we were. At one point we were in the principle’s office once a week for ‘counseling’ after a note was intercepted. It was all quite humerous for me, because I knew I wasn’t going down a bad path, I just wanted some freedom and was going to take it.
Entering the public school system in 9th grade was an interesting turning point. I had a few friends from school, but we were drifting apart since I had my music to turn to. During this time my karate instructor also found god, and we had a christian karate club, which included bible study. In some ways I got closer to my faith, but problems also arose. For instance, I never felt comfortable talking about my faith with people. In the demos I was lucky enough to talk about staying away from drugs and alcohol, and avoiding faith all together. Looking back on it, I think it’s because I knew what I had been taught didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t have the words to understand this. Instead I just played along and really tried to figure out what god was all about.
Then, my senior year of high school, a big wrench was thrown into my religion. As Ellen Degeneres was coming out, so was I. It’s funny to look back on at this point, because it took a celebrity coming out publicly to finally put the pieces together inside my own head. But it worked. And then I had to really figure things out. I knew that homosexuality was considered wrong by religion, but I also knew that this finally felt right. Since I’m a book person, I headed over to the library and tried to find out where the breakdown in communication came. There are some very scholarly books that research the bible’s statements on homosexuality within context of the time period, and with the translation issues. From that I had all I needed to know, which was that god doesn’t hate me, and I’m not wrong.
During my freshman year of college we were required to take a class called world cultures, which examines culture through literature. In ancient times this means religious texts. I was exposed to writings like the Tao, the Gita, and the bible among others. It opened my eyes to new spiritual ideas, which broadened my ideas of what could really be going on in life.
I left college after a year to join the Marine Corps. Spirituality has a different purpose in boot camp than in the civilian world. For one, it’s the only break you get from the yelling and the constant surveillance. And two, it’s the only time you can touch another recruit and not get into trouble. It’s amazing how much a hug can help you out with your day! I found that church was very helpful in relieving stress, and I needed that spiritual connection in the midst of the very physical and mental experience of boot camp. It also helped that they never discussed hell, because quite simply we were already in it! Church was meant to reassure us, and encourage us to continue with training and life, which is really what it should always be!
After boot camp I found the Metropolitan Community Churches, a group of churches meant primarily to allow people of all sexualities to come together in a safe and comfortable place and worship. I really enjoyed this experience. Again we focused on love, not hate. We sang songs that lifted us up, and I found a respite from the hiding I had to do in training.
During this time I continued to read random books, mostly regarding sexuality so I could understand myself and the history of my people better. I was also struggling with my gender identity, and found great help in the writings of Leslie Feinberg. Reading about the history of transgendered people, I learned about all the ways the Christian church tried to destroy anyone who was different. Upon learning this history, I really couldn’t bring myself to go to any church, not even MCC. I know that it was a long time ago, but I just couldn’t do it.
This left a spiritual vacuum in my life, which sent me searching. I returned to writings like the Tao and read a lot about wicca. Nothing really fit though, so I continued to search. I joined the Jedi realist movement, which exposed me to many different philosophies and ways to live. One book that helped me out quite a bit was Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I think it’s a good place to start thinking about how to live a peaceful life in this modern world. Then, one day the same person who started me with Dan Millman recommended I read Conversations with God. I was highly resistant, because I didn’t want to read anything telling me to be a Christian. But, he convinced me to give it a try. I brought it with me on my trip to the South Pole, and made it most of the way through. I found most things resonated with me, and made me relax about the worry about where I was at in life. However, something didn’t sit right towards the end of the book, and I put it down for about a year. I don’t even remember what it was, so it was clearly just a temporary resistance, and probably a misunderstanding.
Sometime about a year and a half ago, my aunt sent me a book, Table in the Presence, about a Chaplain who was among the first units into Iraq. In this book truly miraculous things occur, and they made me think about our concept of god. So, I went to the only source that had told me truth up to this point, and that was the Conversations with God series (CWG). I started reading book 2 online, and couldn’t stop. It appeared that I was finally ready to know, and understand, what god was about. Over the next few months I read everything I could, and started to change the way I acted. I began to understand the connection between my thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and knew that if I really wanted my life to go smoothly I would have to cut out all the negativity and focus on my goals. And, it definately worked.
The book that marked my transformation into this time is definately Ask and It Is Given, by Esther and Jerry Hicks. Abraham, the group of beings that speaks through Esther, explains the way the universe works in simple language. It’s easy to remember, and simple to apply, though not always easy. Applying the laws of the universe to my life is changing my life in very real ways. Carrie’s dreams resonate with me, and we both believe them to be visions of the future rather than wishful thinking. Those posts in my blog are passworded, however, out of Carrie’s request. However, I do have other examples of how my life has been affected by this change in thinking and acting.
At this point in my life, I really feel, more than ever before, that not only am I on the right path, but it’s becoming more clear and smooth. It’s an amazing feeling, and one I hope others can find through my own experience. I know that not everything I believe is true, but it’s true to me right now. And in time, as I grow and learn, I’ll tweak these beliefs, or throw them away all together if they don’t fit who I am. I don’t think that will happen, but I have to leave the possibility open.
In case it isn’t obvious, I’m a very open person and will answer any questions someone has. So don’t be afraid to ask. 🙂