I wrote my “spiritual autobiography” (wince) today, and no, you can’t see it. In one fit of madness I completed five pages in no time at all. I had to cut myself off, ruthlessly, like my editor at the Tribune who emails me and says, 900 words. We talked about 900 words.
Trouble is, I usually need more words than that.
It’s interesting, and I’d challenge any of you to do this. Start from your earliest memory of church, and go forward from there. What moments hurt you? Who pushed you along on your journey? Here’s a little tip, these moments won’t all be exactly classified as spiritual, as in in the context of a bible study or a church service where at the invitation song you made your way hesitantly down the aisle. (For the record, I didn’t respond to an invitation song, but I know folks who did).
What you really see, if you just let your fingers do the walking, if you don’t pause and think about it, if you don’t think of how awful this or that makes you or someone you loved seem, if you don’t try to shape the whole story into some positive and light filled journey; is the person you have become, and the things or events that really stuck out in your head.
What I saw was that I am still mad about. Still. Mad.
How disheartening. Just when I’d thought I was past all that, that I was a better person and had moved on, look at what sucks up so many words. I may have shared my autobiography with someone else in our small little group of postulants, but he shared his first AND he said he wasn’t aware of any anti-sharing policy AND he’s a lawyer so he would know. He reads the fine print, I’m sure.
What I noticed when I read his was a) how similar our backgrounds were and, b) that he’s not really angry anymore. I will attribute this to him having had more years to digest and dispose of his anger, or maybe he’s just a better person, who knows.
Anyway. I didn’t particularly relish the experience, and I know I’m not the only one who’s had trouble sitting down to do this.
But what I also learned is this: I’m stuck. Stuck at St. John’s, stuck learning more and more, stuck with choral music and a different hymnal. And I also learned that I am so much more than ok with that.
I imagine sometimes (because a huge favor you can do for yourself is to imagine the worst that can happen and then to keep imagining it, feel your pulse quicken, feel yourself start to sweat, feel the panic; and then to move forward. That’s half the battle of all the bad things that can happen, just embracing them and checking them off the list of things to deal with.) that my brother will announce that he’s been called somewhere else. I imagine how I would feel. My chin gets all wrinkly like I might cry, my eyes fill, all those other symptoms up in the parenthesis occur. And then I imagine a new rector, and I know that I will be fine, and that though my fate is intricately woven with my brother’s, it is not the be all and end all, the last word. It is simply not.
I’ve learned, through this awful writing assignment, that much to the chagrin of the folks who thought so, I am not where I am because of any one person. First it was my brother, and then it was the music, and then some huge dam just exploded inside of me and it was the wide world calling to me, everything in technicolor and all of the sudden.
And then I think about this supposed spiritual autobiography.
And I feel distinctly not spiritual.
Most days I don’t feel spiritual. I wonder if this is the point, if I did feel like I was doing it right, like I had it made, there wouldn’t be anything else left to say would there? I feel frustrated as I work, I feel frustrated as people vy for my attention, I feel frustrated as really GREAT ideas flit through my my head before I can write them down.
Next Sunday my fellow postulants and I will be presented, with our beloved sponsors. Our congregation will start to pray for us as we discern what comes next. This makes me uncomfortable as well. I don’t want the intercessor to say my name, any name but mine. I’ll continue my discernment. I’ll continue to examine why ordinary things in the life of a church make me feel all, to quote my darling choirmaster, quivery.
And you can be sure I’ll let you know when I find the answers.
Until then. I’ve this old song stuck in my head from when I was writing that damned autobiography, that self cross examination. Here it is. I wish you so much love. I wish you more sureness on your path than I have. Above all, I wish you peace.