Hope is often described as a spark or a light of some kind. Katy Perry’s song “Firework” reminds me of what I picture in my mind as the spark appearing to be like. Hope was the topic yesterday during a group therapy session that I attended. That spark can enter our lives in the strangest of ways. God and I have had a tense relationship over the years. You might even say that for a time I was the prodigal daughter who ventured out into the world on my own.
As with any story it is probably is best to start at the very beginning. I was born into a religious Lutheran family. My parents, and grandma and grandpa both attended church most Sundays. I grew up attending Sunday school from about the age of four years old. At 16 years old, I took Catechism to prepare for my first holy communion, and to confirm my Christian faith as an adult member of the Lutheran church.
After I had my first communion I stopped attending church. My sixteen year old mind was questioning the meaning of life, and the existence of the soul. Most teenagers try to figure out how life works, what the rules are, and how they can negotiate their way in the world. My spiritual seeking was a pretty typical reaction to my religious upbringing. I also saw a lot of hypocrisy or false faith, which turned me off of attending church.
My parents weren’t really keen on my decision to stop going, but eventually the arguments wore thin for both them and I. I had started to read everything I could my hands on about the unexplained, and about other religions. For about two years I read everything that I could get my hands on especially books about a religion called Wicca.
Now Wicca is an earth-based religion that divinity exists in the dual form of a Goddess and a God. Sex is a sacred act born out of love rather than something that is sinful or shameful. A Wiccan is personally responsible for their spiritual development rather than turning to an authority figure, such as a pastor or priest. At 18 years old, I initiated myself into the spiritual path of Wicca, and I practised for many years as a solitary.
When I was 19 years old my friend Jason died very suddenly as I mentioned in a previous blog post. Jason was a Catholic and a homosexual. The priest refused to hold his funeral in the Catholic Church, because he had committed suicide, and I suspect also his sexual orientation was a factor. My thought here was that I don’t want any part of a religion, or a God that does not love someone unconditionally. The song by Joan Osborne “One of Us” reminds me of how I wondered about God’s nature.
About six months after his funeral, I was raped by someone who I trusted with my vulnerability and who betrayed that trust. The second traumatic experience affected me so deeply that I had a hard time connecting with any form of spirituality for a while. Anger was probably the reason why I stopped spiritual practice for a time. “Hey God” by Bon Jovi is a pretty accurate description of what that anger feels like. It was a lot like someone had dropped me into a deep pit that I needed to crawl out of and would continue to slide back down into repeatedly.
During my first year of university I started to skip classes, drank excessively, and was dating a man who was abusive. I survived two attempted suicides to manage to pass my first year courses. It was not until many years later that I realized despite my estrangement that God was watching out for me even if I was not acknowledging it. I practised my spiritual path as a Wiccan, because the attitude that female sexuality is sacred, and should be valued was very healing for me.
After university, I spent a year and a half teaching secondary school in England. During this time I took a trip to Tintagel, Cornwall in England. My blog post “St. Nectan’s Glen” talks about a mystical experience that I had while I was at the waterfall. It was a memory of peace and unconditional love. Now I have no explanation for what brought this feeling on, but it is part of my realm of experience.
About two years ago I began a really rough period of my life that was like an earthquake knocked me down to my knees. Everything around me in my life began to crumble down around my ears. I became legally separated from my husband as things had gotten really difficult at home, my grandmother died of lung cancer, and I hit a brick wall in my teaching career. I realized when I walked out of a meeting that my passion for teaching had been lost, and I could not continue to do the job the way that I was feeling. For months, I had been fighting to keep myself together as I was experiencing insomnia, and other symptoms of the post traumatic stress disorder.
Now earlier this year, an old friend who I hadn’t spoken to in years contacted me out of the blue. He kept the spark of hope alive for me, and encouraged me to start the recovery process. He has proven to be an important confidante as I continue on my journey. I am so very grateful for this blessing. Perhaps God sends us a person to help answer our prayers.
Right now I can say that I am working on a personal, spiritual relationship with God. It’s a little like getting to know someone again when you haven’t seen him in a long time. I do not trust people or God easily. I am taking this day by day and a step at a time. When I experience doubt I try to remind myself of the times that despite my rejection of him that he has come through.
My spiritual journey has taught me that all religions and spiritual paths have something valid to teach us. Buddhism taught me compassion for myself and others, and the importance of letting go to ease my suffering. Wicca taught me that sex is a sacred and spiritual act between two consenting partners. Christianity taught me about God’s unconditional love. Sufism taught me to have a personal and loving relationship with God. One faith is not better than another. God is pure unconditional love, and once in a while we can see evidence of it in our lives.