Posted by: Marie | February 16, 2009

(16) My spiritual journey – Part 3 of 9

Post #16
[Therapy homework assignment completed on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 – continued from previous post]

My internship had originally been slated to last a year or so; however, after these experiences, I decided that maybe I didn’t fit well in this church and that it would be best for everyone if I bowed out of the internship.  So, I got a “real” job in the defense industry, but continued attending the church as a parishioner.  I also retained some informal leadership roles within the singles group.

In the months after that transition, I discovered country-western dancing through some of my new co-workers.  I began spending one or two evenings a week dancing – and yes, I would drink beer while I was out dancing.  The dancing and the drinking did not sit well with the other members of the singles group.  So, between my history of disagreements with members of the church, my continued vocalization of my “personal choice” viewpoints and my newfound hobby, the singles group’s leadership decided that I was “backsliding” – they removed me from all leadership roles, asked me to not be so vocal with my views and started praying for my soul.

This was too much for me – it seemed arrogant to me for one person (or a group of people) to believe they have such a profound understanding of the hereafter, of the heart and mind of God, of the unique relationship between God and each individual and of each individual’s unique life experiences that they have the authority to make those kinds of determinations.  I believed that my relationship with God was very personal and was my business and my business alone.  I concluded that I could not be part of a religion that didn’t allow that kind of free choice.  So, I left that church.

I visited a few other churches, but I kept finding restrictive and controlling dogma wherever I looked, so I stopped looking.  Thus started my nine-year solo search for my own truth.  Basically, I spent those years listening, reading and learning – some of what I absorbed rang true to me and some didn’t.

Living in Washington, I was exposed to people from all religious persuasions.  I made it a habit to ask questions of religious and spiritually-aware people about their faith and their spiritual journey.  I kept an open mind and strived to really understand each one’s relationship with his or her version of God.

The conclusion I came to is this: I believe that all love-based religions (organized as well as unstructured) are built on the same universal truth.  I believe that God allowed different religions to be created to meet the needs of different groups of people.  Different people and different cultures require different ways of relating to and understanding the relationship between God and Man.  I believe it is all the same message.

I believe that, when we all get to the “end” of “life” and we are in living perfect harmony with God, we will finally have the wisdom to see that we all were worshiping the same God and we were all headed the same place – that we all traveled our own unique path in order to “arrive” – that religions were formed when a group of people in a geographical region were experiencing a similar journey and came together to share that journey, and when they needed to form a common vernacular or belief structure for the sake of community.

Shortly after my dad died in late 1991 (and maybe in the months before?), I started going dancing and drinking on a very regular basis.  I drank too much, drove when I shouldn’t have, went home with any guy who would pay me any attention and had lots of unprotected sex.  In the spring of 1992, I found out I was pregnant – the father could have been one of any number of guys.

Maybe because I had already worked through this issue in the years prior, the decision was a relatively easy one for me – I had an abortion.  I can’t say that it didn’t impact me – I still occasionally think about the fact that I could have had a son (the baby’s energy felt like a boy to me) in my life right now.  However, I didn’t (and don’t) feel the trauma, shame and guilt I had been told I would feel – if I could go back and make that decision differently, I wouldn’t – I would do the same thing again.  My only regret comes from making the choices that got me pregnant in the first place – and even those choices created opportunities to learn life lessons for which I am now grateful.

During those nine years, I found myself missing the fellowship of people who share similar beliefs.  I thought I was just “outta luck” on that matter because I didn’t think there were organized groups of people who believed as I did.  Then, in 1997, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and immediately started meeting people who shared many of my beliefs (especially the personal choice part).

In 1998, when I was 30, I met my husband-to-be, Ken.  For one of our first dates, he took me to a meeting held by an organization named Landmark Education.  The company specializes in personal growth and development.  I took several courses, which resulted in dramatic, permanent shifts in the way I interacted with the world.

Through the Landmark courses, I came to understand that I design and create my own experience of life.  I learned how to expect wild and unreasonable results from myself and from others.  I learned how to identify and realign the areas of my life that were inconsistent with what I want from life.

The truths and ways of thinking I learned through Landmark played a key role in my life during the next year as I married, then divorced Ken . . . I was able to see that the painful situation with Ken was a manifestation of what I believed to be true about myself – and what I believed to be true about myself was quite ugly.  I made a commitment to myself to learn why I had made those choices – I made a commitment to myself to make far more healthy choices in the future.  Thus started my quest to learn how to keep those commitments.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. Hi Marie,

    I too left a fundamentalist church when I was in my twenties. I left the church and less than a year later a huge scandal.

    I found it so sad that they were so rigid and unloving and yet one of the head pastors was having sex with female parishioners he was counseling. They sided with him and threw out the good pastor who was trying to address the problems, which was like a therapist having sex with a client and betraying and sexually abusing them.

    I still find this type of behavior and don’t care to be included into any group like this.

    Good for you for trying to find your own way.

    Kate


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