Maybe

I was raised with the rage of a righteous man
The walls of my childhood
Painted colors of distance
Hues of abandonment and fury
Exasperation and bitterness
Shelved next to the bible

I was raised with the resentment of a distant man
Irate at the audacity of the world
To happen to him
How dare we all
Nothing fit into what he had in mind
The boxes, binaries, black and white finite

I was raised with the anger of a holy man
Talk of overturned tables
In the temple, of righting wrongs
Permission to become a moving minefield
and burn shadow shapes of the cross in his wake

I was raised with the faith of a dangerous man
there is nothing so wholly destructive
As a man convinced god wants him angry
Daring to name me worthless, sinful, lost
As if he knew what grieves the heart of god

I was raised with the certainty of a fearful man
Dogma lifted, a shield against the Mystery
Never searching beyond what made him powerful
Walls of belief to keep him safe
from being wrong, from doubt
from maybes
Joining hands on a sword
with his god of absolutes

Maybe god is a woman
She’s tired of being talked over
Maybe all these righteous men
with their righteous rage
would pale at the sight of god
full-breasted, flowing hair
belly swelling
Blood and water and life
dripping from between her legs
Birthing universes and magic
Maybe these men want to forget
they came into this life
through the straining and sweating
the feral wrenching unbridled energy
of a woman.

Maybe god is a black woman
and she sees how you stand
on the backs of women of color
comfortable with your feet on their throats
at ease with their strangled silence.

Maybe god is queer
and they see how you seek
to wrench the divine
from the chests of trans people
and raise walls where
there should be acceptance.

Maybe taking god’s name in vain
means telling someone they can’t touch Her
they can’t sit in the holy Silence
and feel the Divine thrumming
in their heartbeat, no matter who they love,
under their skin, no matter the color,
Telling someone they’re cut off,
a branch dead on the ground,
because someone long ago
wrote their human scars
as divine word and law.

Maybe god doesn’t need to be invited
They are already there
and we must remember
the road further in
instead of the one to power

But does oppression taste good when
you’re the one drinking?
The blood in the cup
isn’t Jesus’,
it’s drained from the veins
of the immigrant, the poor, the feminine,
the brown, the black, the child,
the vulnerable.

And you lift the cup – absolved
As red stains your teeth
You rise
certain that your straight white male
upper middle class Jesus
pats your shoulder and smiles at you
for keeping out the unworthy.

god’s design, you say
as you step on the fingers of those
grasping the edges of safety.

you look god in the eye
and decide for Her
the kind of box She will live in.
Paint over her ebony expanses
Binding canyons of magic
in eggshell or cream
Stitch her mouth closed
Slice away her breasts
Cut her hair
Wipe her tears

And rise, certain you know
She cries for the lost

Look her in the eyes
and know she weeps for you
Know she mourns
for the hearts you crushed
when you said She wouldn’t love them
Know she cannot be bound
She cannot be silenced
She is in everything
She is everything
She whispers instead of screaming
the warrior cry you created
She rumbles
and you fear Her
because she is all you have tried
to label
to limit
to squeeze into binaries
to erase
She is nuances
grey liminal spaces
She is what you can’t define
or cage
or name
And that terrifies
because She is part of you.

Witness

Do you remember what it feels like to be curious?

I’d forgotten.

In a religion that values certainty, obedience, blind faith above all, curiosity is not encouraged. Curiosity pokes holes in the boat.

If you start asking questions, eventually you might ask the right ones. The ones that lead to thinking for yourself, outside of the verses memorized for times of doubt, a bandaid slapped over an oozing wound that grows bigger instead of healing.

Curiosity wants to know why.

You’re not supposed to ask that.

Why?

Because.

But why?

Because God’s ways are not our ways.

Sounds like excuses to me. Sounds like gaslighting, like abuse, like “because I said so”, all united in holy matrimony.

Do you remember what it feels like to wonder and honestly, truly not know? To see possibilities instead of finite answers, to envision magic where some want to paint black and white certainty.

No one shows me curiosity better than my kids. A thousand thousand questions every day, anything and everything they can think of, connecting the dots of the universe with paint and chalk-smeared fingers. They reach for threads constantly, weaving their own tapestries into the spiraling mercurial cloth that is the Mystery.

Telling them I don’t know something is freeing in a way I never expected it to be. Not trying to crush “absolute truths” into their hearts, but instead allowing them to grow their own, has opened my own heart in incredible ways. To see that the universe is duality and not the binaries taught in Christianity, to witness Her breath and magic in the flight of hawks, the gentle lap of waves on the sand, to hold these things in a heart that is breaking slowly for so many reasons, but at the same time breaking open – these are the curiosities I am here for.

When my children ask me why, I tuck it away in my mind for later, and I look deep into the eyes of the moon, at the bark on the walnut tree, the droplets of rain on the leaves. I look at the sky blue eyes of my oldest, my fire and water babe who challenges me more than the others, and I see why. The searching hazel of my middle child’s eyes, asking already to be told he is heard, reach deep into mine and ask me why. The youngest, still a baby but so independent, sees so much and doesn’t understand and the curiosity sits under his fanned eyelashes that he got from my spouse – why?

Sometimes there is no answer except to witness the question.

There is power in unknowing, in witnessing, and it lives in between each word and settles like a shadow waiting to be embraced for what it is.

Open the door every moment to curiosity and allow the shadow and light to tumble in and tell you about itself. Or better yet, be present while it says nothing. Witness.

Open

The messages I’ve been getting lately are simple and short: stay open to love.

In tarot cards, in books, in signs of spring, on the cusp of Valentine’s Day – She is speaking loud in my ear and I can’t ignore her.

I hold the words in my hands and stare at them. My fixing mind wants to rush in with a plan, a solution, an answer – anything but sitting in the uncomfortableness of knowing the message but not being able to grasp the threads of how to move forward with it. Because it is uncomfortable. Part of me screams for concrete answers, a checklist, a solid path into the darkness. But my intuition, my crone voice, has begun to speak this past year, and she says wait. Sit and stare longer at this message; search for answers in the crackling fire, in the flight of the vultures overhead, in the words that embed themselves and sprout into a new idea. Wait.

She hasn’t sent me down a wrong path yet, so I wait. I’m still waiting.

I think when I started deconstructing my faith, I naively thought (hoped, perhaps) that it would be a matter of months to delve into the heart of it. But I’ve always been impatient, and deconstructing laughed hard at my desire to follow linear time with my healing.

I underestimated how much grief was buried in the caverns I was excavating.

I didn’t see how unprepared I was to handle it all.

It’s been a year of hard, raw, dirt-smeared digging in to shadow work, and yet I feel by comparison I’ve been digging with a teaspoon. I’ve barely broken ground into this holy, scarred mess.

How do I stay open to love when my conflict response is still a strong fight or flight? When that feels like new and unfamiliar paths in my mind, and I panic and isolate when I feel unsafe?

Love was often trapped, wings beating against a glass jar set high out of reach on a shelf. It collected dust from being moved so little. There was no room for love to spread her wide wings in my childhood, shrunk and tight and tense with conflict. I had to earn getting that jar down, staring at the creature inside without realizing it was only a mirror.

When I started tearing down my childhood faith, the nuances were what I wasn’t watching for, the little blades hidden under something I picked up, assuming it would be black and white. Assuming it would fall into some sort of easy pattern like I had been taught – good and bad, right and wrong, holy and evil. But shades of grey with knives in hand were what carved slashes across the boxes and binaries I clung to so desperately. Even things I thought were safe are being sliced open, bleeding out under the light of my seeking.

God is love. God is love, they said. But also raging anger, jealousy, a hammerfist crushing the innocent. He’s love, but also just, they said. If it doesn’t sound like love, it must be justice. You deserved it, earned it, worthless wretch that you are. If love isn’t love anymore or ever was, if that wing brush spread of unconditional love never made it into my life then, how do I change what I’m looking for now?

If love is painted red letters wide on the temple wall of the Christian god, it drips not paint but blood – of the marginalized and oppressed, of the queer, the brown and black, the female, the young. It’s a new and old testament to how not to love.

It was abuse, it was gaslighting, it was fear. You can’t tell someone they have to love you, serve you, stay with you or burn forever in fires you held their feet to, and then hold open arms, smiling daggers behind lips saying I am love. I’m the only love, the only way, the only one who can fix you. No one else will love you like I do, no one would have you. You’re so broken, so in need of my saving.

A deep embodied breath can be rebellion against a system founded on the hope of disconnection, of tearing us out of out of our bodies, away from the root of our intuition.

I wake up every morning newly birthed, and hold a chance to rewrite what love means. Fluttering wings, dancing lights spreading as I decide that my conditioning will not dictate what I hold as love.

Even on hard days when all I can hear is the voice of scorn and shame telling me I’m doing it all wrong, may I listen for the voice of love saying ‘look how far you’ve come, take a deep breath and open your heart.’ May I continue to thaw, to stay soft like water (as Stephanie says) and know that I’m unlearning decades of abuse that travelled through generations.

There’s grace for that, so much more than I ever thought there could be. I’m laying down the edges, the barriers, the limits self-imposed on my own life, and saying there is no end. There is no end to love and grace and all that I thought was finite. All I thought had to be earned, to be scraped and grasped at with desperate fingertips as if there wasn’t enough. I stretch as far as I can, knowing I will never brush up against a wall that I didn’t put there. There is no end of my worthiness and that of every other being on this planet. There is room to slow down, to listen, to trust, to re-member old stories and learn how to be all over again.

Breath

Sometimes I think leaving a cult-like religion is like almost drowning. You drag yourself out onto the shore, choking and raw and stinging, lost in what you thought you could trust. Knees run red from scrabbling over rocks, hands leave smears on salty cheeks. For awhile you just…lay there. Settling the dizziness, getting to know the ground under your fingers. Remembering what solid feels like in your body, even if your mind is rocking from unseen waves. You eventually sit up, sand everywhere, bits of dogma stuck to you. It’s uncomfortable and you hate it.

But you know you’ve just escaped something, feel the depth you sank to, entangled in the manmade net in the shallows of the divine. Can you see the emotional abuse better from the surface, can you see the manipulation clouding the water, what you never noticed before because isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? Your eyes hurt from the saltwater inside and out, the glare from the harsh reflection of truth is painful and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to look at that mystery again.

You come back later, because deep calls to deep and your stardust body remembers the magic in the longest dive. Healed hands kiss the shore and the Mystery, the Midwife, reaches out past those nets and envelops you. Feel into the depths and put yourself back together, saltwater healing seeping from the cracks. Never wonder now how you can breathe underwater now, love, you were born for this. How well you can see now the glint of the traps, sunlight on lies, a lure so well fashioned. What a thing to miss the first time, but forgive yourself for the time you spent gasping for air not knowing how close you were to She who is breath.

Taste freedom and salt and love and death and the hard and the raw and the achingly beautiful depth of this life on your lips, and breathe deep. Breathe yourself into being, birth yourself new in this womb-water magic. Rub salve into scars from the hooks dragged through and love the you that stayed long in the grip of the lies. Speak healing and wholeness into the cracks, flooding them with the blood and water you are shedding to bring yourself into the world every single day.

Update to add: I couldn’t find the person who originally introduced me to the idea of the divine as a midwife, but finally got it! Halley Kim is a writer and exvangelical, and absolutely brilliant. Find her on Instagram @halley.kim_ and enjoy ❤️

Spiral

A friend pulled an oracle card for me today, and it focused on earth as a kind of school: “These aren’t one-time lessons but themes we choose to circle around, deepening our experience of them as we make our way through the spiral of life.”

That imagery of walking a spiral over and over again is so powerful. That with every step, I am carving canyons from the darkness, learning the same lesson and yet a different lesson each time. I always hated feeling like I was revisiting the same “sins” when I was deep in Christianity, trying my hardest to “fix” myself and begging a macabre, manmade face of the Divine for help.

Trying harder.

Surrendering deeper.

Trusting the church and suffocating my instinct, my intuition.

Thinking I was done with what I didn’t know was trauma every time I “gave it to God”, and wondering why I was so angry, so tired, so defeated, was years of my life.

Trying harder.

Surrendering deeper.

Abandoning myself.

Trusting man’s idol wearing the face of white American Jesus, and slicing me to pieces inside.

The idea that healing is linear is a lie that made me feel like a failure every time I saw the same old “problems” floating back in on a wave. Christian patriarchal conditioning had me thinking in straight lines, shunning the flow and curve of the Divine Feminine. Beginning to see the path in spirals, ever inward and outward, freed me to tell myself the truth that healing is nothing like a a straight line.

Deconstructing has been the hardest work I’ve done, and I’ll never see a finish line because there isn’t one. The wilds stretch out infinitely in front of me, and I may walk the same path again and again, but at a different place in my spiral journey of life.

A return isn’t a failure, it’s another piece of self being integrated and healed, loved and told how much it matters.

Releasing things along the way isn’t a failure, it’s the core of the impermanent nature of walking the spiral.

My failures are many and I hold them tighter than I should, refusing to let them sink to the floor and dissolve in saltwater soul because I’ve made them my masks, my identity. But rewalking a familiar path holds no shame if it means deeper healing.

May I be supported and support others, all of us knowing we are enough to walk away and into the bones and grit of the wilds of ourselves.

Engraved

7/1/2020

In all the things I’ve told myself I was unworthy of, and others told me I was unworthy – here I have discovered one of the biggest lies I’ve ever believed. I have always been worthy. Even when I was told that nothing about me was inherently worthy, when I felt like shame would burn me alive, when I wasn’t connected to my inner voice – even then, I was worthy.

My worth is bone deep, engraved on each rib, my own and not taken from someone else, not conditional or debatable. I am worthy because I AM. Because stardust and fire and flesh came together to house this soul.

I was always worthy, always a part of of the whole, always the whole contained in this stretchmarked skin of a mother. Every breath in and out is a reminder that I am worthy,, that I have all I need, that I bow to no one and let no angry sky deity tell me who to be. That I was worthy when i was young and told that to be accepted, I had to be quiet, I had to disappear under layers of clothing to avoid being a distraction. Stifled and sweating and unaware, still worthy. Angry and confused at changes I had no tools to handle, still worthy. Drowning in emotions with no idea how to swim, swirling lies clouding the water, my true self obscured. My maiden self left to make sense of it all. But how can you “make sense” of destruction of a hurricane? When no one told you it was coming or how to take shelter, it becomes impossible. Even torn and twisted and lost, I was worthy of more than I got. I was worthy of knowing that there was more than what I was taught as absolute, more than my small white-washed angry tight-lipped keeping up appearances childhood. I was worthy of being heard, of being safe, of being authentic.

I am worthy of all of that.

Always worthy.

Worthy of time.

Worthy of effort.

Worthy of taking up some goddamn space instead of shrinking to keep the peace, is there really any peace when you live in a minefield? When no one stands between you and the fire, one wrong move and you’ll remember that the ground is stained red for a reason, heart-blood thick on the air, is that really peace?

When I’m walking on glass inside and out, not sure where to step but bleeding everywhere already so does it really matter? How well does the church ignore the red on the bibles.

When I can’t trust my own inner landscape for the hidden traps I was told I breathed sin into existence, and my outer world has always been a mirror – shattered tiptoe dust across tile, please bleed quietly, don’t fight when you slice your foot, you’ll set him off again.

I was worthy of a peaceful childhood and instead I got an emotional war zone, painted pretty flowers with blood and tears for outside eyes.

I was worthy of having needs, of having a voice, of allowing my throat to resonate with the words of one who knows she’s loved. Instead what came out were the low rumblings of a cornered wolf, a tiger, a fierce but injured wild thing, angry but used to the cage and not breathing fight. I’ve been growling in the back of my throat all my life and my parents would say “don’t growl at me”. Did they know the wolf would grow up and leave her cage behind for the wide forest? That she would raise her pups in the free air, a suspicious sniff to the winds, watchful for the cagers.

My growls, my “disobedience”, my blood rushing in my ears and knowing something was wrong because no one should be so small in their own life.