Aug 252011
 

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Most of the questions I get from readers are about my faith, my weight, my addictions, or my marriage.

Today-faith.

My relationship to God is the most important thing in my life. I say to instead of with because I experience my faith journey more like an effort to align myself rightly with Him than to be friends with Him. I don’t get Him enough to try to be friends. I find Him entirely too unpredictable. To be friends with someone, I gotta be able to predict with some confidence what she’s going to do next, so I’m not constantly sweating. God makes me sweat profusely. Guessing God’s next move is like trying to make a casserole…no matter how closely I try to follow directions, I NEVER KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT. Scary.



Still, aligning myself correctly to Him is my only real goal down here. My relationship to Him is what sets right all the secondary relationships in my life – my marriage, my friendships, my parenting, my writing. And so I am constantly thinking about God. Truth, you can call it if you’re uncomfortable with the G word. I am always considering - What am I supposed to learn about God, about what is True… from this argument, this seashell, this tragedy, this rainbow, this friend, this enemy, this child, this disease? I believe that everything that enters my life is an invitation further into the heart of God, and if I accept the invitation, and step closer instead of hiding, I learn and grow and my perspective broadens ever so slightly. Things get lighter and clearer.

Drinking and smoking and binging and purging were all my ways of rejecting Life’s Invitations. I still reject them now, through over-shopping and overeating and talking too much and zoning out on the internet and TV, but my rejections are less frequent and less dramatic, and I call that progress.



You know, it’s a tricky thing- writing to a specific and incredibly diverse audience about my particular faith. Especially because I have never, ever, in my whole entire life, met anyone who agrees with my faith ideas. So please, don’t worry- I don’t expect you to, either. It is certainly okay if you think I’m wrong- as a matter of fact, I am certain that I’m wrong. How could any of us be “right” when guessing about God? I agree with whomever said that we have as good a chance of understanding the mind of God as a colony of ants has of understanding the minds of humans. And I’m just an ant, but so is everyone else. Even the most educated gals, even the guys behind the pulpits . . . they’re still ants like me. And I’d rather make my own mistakes about God than someone else’s. So I think and listen and write and pray and read and try, try, try to learn, to receive. And I trust that God can speak to me, and that it’s okay if I write about it.

A minister once wrote to me and said, “Isn’t this privatization of faith that you discuss dangerous? Everyone cannot just believe whatever he wants. What keeps people from deciding then, Jesus is a cantaloupe!”

Well, I guess I believe that things get more dangerous when faith is not privatized. When people are not encouraged to study and listen and think for themselves. It seems to me that things get dangerous when people blindly follow religious leaders. Because leaders can be good or they can be bad. And so I think that we can ask for counsel from educated religious leaders, yes. But as with everything else important in our lives . . . our health, our parenting, we must ultimately be our own leaders when it comes to faith. Because we can each read, we can each pray, we can each think, and we can each sit silently and listen. We cannot count completely on others to have the answer for us, ever. God is speaking to each of us, always. And I don’t necessarily want to know what He’s saying to you, I need to know what He’s saying to me.

And so I told the kind minister that while I respected him and his vocation immensely, I didn’t believe in mediators between God and man. I told him that I do believe in teachers. And I told him that I was a teacher too, and that I considered my most important role to be teaching students how to think for themselves.

And I told him that when I die, I expect to sit down with God to discuss my life. I expect that only She and I will be at that meeting – not She and I and my minister. And so I live that way now, too. It is not a lack of respect, it is just respecting everyone equally, including myself.

*As a side note, since receiving this email I have considered at least twelve ways that Jesus is just like a cantaloupe. But that’s for another day.

In general, my faith revolves around questions rather than answers, and I think that’s okay. I am very wary of people with too many answers about God. Faith is supposed to be a mystery. If anyone tells that you they’ve figured it out, they know all the answers, the rules, the system or equation that will set you right with God, run. If someone makes God small enough to fit inside her head, she’s made Him too small, I think.

Craig and I are considering becoming official members of our neighborhood church. This is a big deal for us, because a few years ago we promised ourselves we wouldn’t choose a denomination. We couldn’t imagine the need for it. Still can’t, really. We considered ourselves religious rolling stones. But we’ve fallen for this little church, and we started wondering if our religious “freedom” wasn’t just another word for nothing left to lose (thank you Janis.) Because we know that any faith worth a damn is a faith worked out over a lifetime of relationships with other people. It’s a commitment to and with other people, is all. Church is just a commitment to try to live a life of a certain quality, a life of love, of humility, of service, alongside others whom you will care for and allow to care for you, even when you are difficult. It’s a group of regular old humans trying to love each other and the world in superhuman ways. And so it’s a hard way of life, but to me, the only way of life that makes any sense. When people ask me if faith, if church, is comforting to me, I say – sort of. But mostly it’s challenging.

Anyway -I was afraid to join. Because I don’t want to pretend to believe anything I don’t believe. And I don’t want to pretend not to have doubts. And I don’t want my children to be taught things about God that I’ll have to undo. Before I joined any church, I needed permission from whomever was in charge to be different.

So I invited one of the ministers of the church over to my house.

I was scared.

But we talked for two hours. And I told her my concerns. I told her that I thought I wanted to join her church, but that first, I wanted to make sure she wanted me. I told her that I am a troublemaker.

I told her that I love Jesus madly and deeply, but my problem in church always seems to be that I understand Him differently than many other Christians seem to. And I love these other Christians, and I don’t want to bother or offend them. So I just felt like maybe it was better for me to remain unattached to any particular church than to disrupt a perfectly lovely one. She seemed to understand exactly what I meant by this. She reads the blog sometimes, I think

I went on to admit that I had all kinds of doubts and questions and even negative feelings about the Church’s role throughout history. But I told her I still loved the Church so much, which I thought was weird and interesting. I felt kind of like St. Augustine, who said, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.” I told her that if I were to be a member of her church, I would need her permission to speak respectfully but freely and differently at appropriate times. To be myself.

Basically, she said she wanted me. She liked me, I think. She said our church would fit me just fine. She doesn’t mind a troublemaker or two in her fold.

So we’ll see. My biggest fear when entering any church is always…Oh, Jesus. What are they going to teach my babies about God? This worry makes me sweat, too. So guess what I did? I signed up to teach Sunday school. And I’ve already fallen in love with my Sunday School Team. I’m not sure they know I’m a troublemaker yet, though. God help them.

I realize I didn’t get to my faith-y questions and doubts yet, but this is getting long. Next time.

Love you all.

G





Aug 272011
 

Here’s another one that sort of poured out- I’m not editing – my deepest apologies to my grammar and spelling experts.

I wish you guys could experience how scary and exciting this completely blank page feels to me each time I sit down to write. This empty, white page waiting for me to fill it up with something good – the black cursor hounding me with its relentless pulsing.

Oh blank page, hello. We meet again. You scare me, but I love you.

It’s appropriate that scared and sacred are virtually the same word. Those two often walk hand in hand towards me.

Here’s our Momastery FAQ for the day: I get lots of variations, but let’s use this one:

“G- I’ve seen some of your pictures on Facebook and you look really skinny. Makes me wonder. Are you sure you’re “better”?”

AHH.

We addicts, we refer to ourselves as recovering, never as recovered. Because recovery is a process, sort of like trying to be a person of faith or a decent parent or a loving spouse or a good friend . . . you’re never done. You gotta start over every single moment. By start over I mean constantly make decisions that carry you out of your hiding place and keep you bravely marching (or crawling) toward the light.

I’ll give you the real, raw skinny (so to speak) about my eating first, so you don’t become afraid that I plan to hide behind phrases like “bravely marching toward the light” throughout this essay. I swear I can hear Bubba gagging on that one all the way from the bay.

Speaking of gagging, I became bulimic when I was in fifth grade, and I binged and purged several times a day until I became pregnant with Chase, at twenty-five. I was never truly overweight, but when I was young I was never skinny either, and most of my friends were. At some point this difference started to make me uncomfortable. Back then I didn’t know that discomfort was an inevitable part of life. I thought the fact that I was uncomfortable meant that something was wrong with me that needed to be fixed. Bulimia seemed like a good plan to fix my wrongness. Anorexia was not an option because I found too much comfort in food. Binging helped me forget my worries, numb myself from anxiety, and best of all – hide from life, relationships, my own dramatic thoughts and everything else scary.

I lived in my little Bulimia World instead of the Real World, and it was a kind of a depressing, gross, unhealthy world but at least I understood it and I made the rules and there weren’t many surprises. In my Bulimia World, I was not vulnerable to other people or even to myself. Nobody was allowed in to my world but me. And really, I wasn’t even allowed in because there was no space for real emotion or thought in my world. The only feelings I allowed myself were, “fat” and “skinny.” And since those aren’t even real feelings, bulimia was a lot like being dead. Dead is safe.

In middle school my bulimia got bad, in high school it became worse, and in college it got ridiculous. My friends knew that I threw up after every meal. They’d wait for me outside the dining hall bathrooms. I constantly avoided the pained looked on my best friend Brookie’s face as I exited the stalls each day. There was a group of us who were known as bulimics, and it was cool . . . it was no problem. At least we were taking care of ourselves was the attitude of the guys I hung with. I don’t remember my college boyfriend, with whom I spent most waking hours, ever saying anything to me about my bulimia at all- other than a few jokes here and there. That ex-boyfriend’s best friend nicknamed me “Smush-Face,” and still calls me “Smushy” to this day. It’s an affectionate term, and I love it. Who doesn’t love a nickname? Makes ya feel loved. But it’s funny because the reason he called me “Smush-Face” was that I had these chipmunk cheeks (think Renee Zellwegger) that are often a dead give-away for bulimia.

I remember this formal announcement being made at a meeting in my sorority house: “Guys, if you’re going to throw up, please remember to flush. It makes us look bad when people come to visit and there’s puke in the stalls.” I also remember passing out twice in the bathroom of my college dining hall and then waking up, walking out, and joining my friends to go party. All of this seemed normal to me. It’s a scary thing- what can become normal.

The point is, I was really bulimic, really sick. And I needed my bulimia. I chose it, everyday. I think it started out as a way to control my weight but turned into a way to control everything. You can’t take away someone’s bulimia without offering something else better to replace it – a better way to control things, a less harmful way to handle life’s discomfort.

But even better – the best thing a bulimic can be offered is the idea that she doesn’t have to control anything at all. That the things she’s so desperately trying to fix don’t have to be fixed, ever.

I don’t know how to teach that or learn it- but it feels kind of like when Tish cries because she colored outside the lines in her coloring book and she’s saying tearfully “I messed it all up, mommy” and I tell her- Actually -that’s the way I like it. I can’t stand always staying in the lines. THAT- what you did there- is art.

She’s not sure she believes me yet – but maybe one day.

Until recently, I never had any idea how to just breathe and let life happen. How to say – yes, yes, that’s okay, and that, too- and even that. I never knew how to let things be and trust that I am enough and that everyone else is fine and that I don’t need to be liked or even loved by everyone at all times. That I was always going to feel a little left out, and that’s okay. I didn’t know that the moods and actions and words of other people did not have to affect my peace. I didn’t know how to forgive people even before they hurt me because they are doing the best they can. I didn’t know that it wasn’t all about me, anyway.

I just didn’t know that everything was okay. That my messiness and my dramatic, worried heart were what made me beautiful. I didn’t know that no one needed me to fit in. And I hadn’t learned that sadness and loneliness and differentness and fear and anger are not problems to be fixed or avoided, but inevitable places humans have to go and stay sometimes to learn and grow.That life is not a science, it’s art. And outside the lines is better.

I think I’m done for the day.

Stay dry and safe and I love you.

G

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