Sweaty Palms? Check.
Nervous Energy? Check.
Checking the time on my phone every five seconds? Check.
I was nervous, no doubt about it.
I’m just so out of practice with this sort of thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have my “usual” that I visit every other Saturday evening at 5 p.m., but this was so stark in comparison.
I was EXCITED!!!!
Man, I couldn’t hold my nervous enthusiasm and somehow…someway, I felt like this was going to be a positive experience.
It’s totally different from my “usual”. I suppose I see my “usual” out of habit more than attraction and certainly it’s not their personality to be frank, my “usual” is aesthetically pleasing, sings the latest tunes, has the right numerical measurements. And if I’m being really, really honest, my “usual” is an empty spiritual corpse who is emotionally unavailable.
Shit, we’re almost here.
I get out of my compact and look myself in the mirror; modest eye makeup, long romantic tendrils, nude lip gloss, modest dress that hits my knees, but showcases my bronzed tan.
Shit, I’m getting real nervous as our Mitsubishi Lancer turns the corner on Dexter street at 23rd in Denver.
I think I appear passable.
Okay, I smell pleasant despite the 90+ degree temperatures with humidity.
The butterflies in my stomach are doing the electric slide as I walk up to St. Thomas Episcopal Church and waiting to walk through the corridor to House For All Sinners And Saints (HFASS).
You thought I was going on a blind date of some sort? You do remember I am married, right? And no, I’m not embarking on a date of the human-to-human variety, but on a blind date with a new place of solitude, peace, and possibly love.
A CHURCH DATE!
I know what you’re thinking, “But Tammy you said you weren’t Christian. What gives???”
You’re right, I don’t identify with pop culture Christianity, but I think what is lost in translation when one doesn’t adhere to labels, is those same label-making folks drop a situational atheist mentality on them…on me.
I am not atheist.
I love God. I love the God, my God, that is loving, compassionate, helpful, tender, inclusive, not the vicious, vindictive, and vengeful God that some portray.
I, also, love my Rabbi, Jesus. Tremendously.
With those two benchmark connections to the Christian faith noted, I do have a spiritual connection with places of worship that focus on a higher deity’s peace and love over being an exclusive, judgmental, legalistic ball of crap.
That’s what this visit was….it was peaceful for me.
It was so intimate, artistic, and beautiful.
I forgot how much the church and its legalistic douches had hurt me in the past…how much they spiritually accosted me. All that dissolved as I slid into a blue, four-legged chair in the back of the parish hall alongside Steven, Kenneth, Andrew, Alicia, and Zach. My eyes may have looked like I was a deer caught in headlights as one energetic, youthful, and vibrant woman exuberantly said, “Hey guys!!!! Where you from?”
Suddenly my anxiety and nervousness melted off of me (or it could have been the no air conditioning thing) like butter and it just felt right.
My theology may have been different from some of the parishioners, heck, it’s different from my husband’s, but it didn’t matter.
Theology, the various doctrines, even my own personal conflict with so many folks that have abused me (and others) in “God’s name” didn’t matter at that point.
I felt giddy. I felt whole. I felt validated. I felt like I was never spiritually abused. I felt at peace.
I. Felt. Peaceful.
Peace, despite our different theologies, beliefs and non-beliefs, experiences, hurts, that is something, that humankind has longed for.
For that 60 minutes, I had mine.
There was chanting the Psalms which touched my spiritual heart so much…it just made fucking sense (Why, yes, I just used a curse word in the same sentence as mentioning a biblical book).
HFASS was so inclusive…OH MY GOD, it was POETIC!!!
I have tears forming in my eyes because it felt like a safe place….like every church …every place of worship should be.
It just made sense…those are the only words I can even write to explain it.
It. Just. Made. Sense.
I remember months ago reading Nadia’s book sobbing like an infant and I said to myself, “Tammy, one day you have to attend one of her sermons” and by golly, here I was watching her…listening to her…listening to all the parishioners… the children were so actively involved….observing (remember, I’m a people watcher) the different creeds, ages, sexual orientations of folks and it made my heart swell with happiness.
Nadia’s sermon was contemporary yet vintage; It was religious, yet spiritual; It was hip, yet old; It was bold, yet modest.
It was fucking awesome.
This is just a paraphrase of her sermon, but there was a point (or most of it) in her sermon where she delivered it with expressive flair how we aren’t representative of God’s light because of the things we are strong at, but it’s in our poverty that one can truly see a higher deity through us.
That isn’t a profound statement in itself, but it is profound because it’s something I remember talking about in a group of spiritual warriors this week. …. It just really sealed the deal for me.
In fact, our strengths are what we’re arrogant about. Look, I’m a pretty good basketball debater. I’m arrogant as hell about that…I’m cocky…I’m prideful. I know I got it goin’ on, but that’s not a redeeming light the world can see, is it?
My poverty though? Being a survivor from being raped? Surviving a narcissistic mother? Being a spiritual warrior from the confines of my spiritual abuse? Having a stutter so bad I didn’t want to talk and now, no one can shut me up? Being so insecure about my writing style I would go years without it?
That’s the stuff that others have been able to see the divine light, even if it’s just a speck at times, through me.
It was just beautiful.
Nadia was beautiful; from her rocking tattoos, to her broad smile that screamed “peaceful love”, to the way she fist bumped Andrew when he eagerly read the announcements in a microphone, to her amusing banter.
It was authentic.
Nadia was authentic.
HFASS was beautiful, authentic, and inclusive.
Inclusive…something I haven’t really observed, not to mention experienced, at a place of worship, but here I was at HFASS and it was inclusive. Very inclusive.
This meant more for my son, Kenneth, 13 who came out last year. The places of worship he has seen thus far has been either a.) fundamentalist in nature a la “You’ll burn in hell if you’re gay”, b.) Softly masking any homophobia or xenophobia as “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, and c.) Institutions who claim they’re gay affirming whilst not allowing any homosexual to take part in communion, blessing, or leading the church in any fraction.
Basically, up to this point, Kenneth has seen the worst of Christianity.
But on this day…on this splendid day, Kenneth was able to witness what God’s love and inclusive nature was all about.
There were two women seated right in front of us and right before dismissal Nadia brought them forward for a blessing as they are exchanging wedding vows (others call it a commitment ceremony) this week. She asked the entire congregation to come forward and lay hands as she blessed them both.
It was BEAUTIFUL!
I know I have used beautiful like a BILLION times in this post, but that’s truly what it was.
I hate hugging people, but my inner child yearned to run up to them and hug them so tightly. Not just the two women, but Nadia, and the guy with the amazing vocal range, and the guy with an English accent…..
Fuck it. I wanted to hug them all and I hate hugs like a religious cult hates free thinkers.
It was the best blind date I have ever been on. Easily.
It didn’t come with its clumsy moments (just like on an actual blind date) such as during Eucharist, when I should have gracefully accepted the bread from Nadia and said ‘Amen’ I nearly dropped the bread and my tongue was caught in my throat. When it came to dipping it into the wine, I nearly lost the whole piece in the wine. Pretty sure, no one was going to drink from that particular community cup.
If I’m being painstakingly frank, this is the first time that I have taken part in Eucharist since my former church spiritually abused me and left me naked, bruised, and battered on a heap of hot coals.
But this felt right.
It felt magnificent.
It felt spiritually at one with my deep emotional innards.
Isn’t this what a spiritual journey is all about? It’s having those clumsy moments when we aren’t sure what the hell we are doing, but in the end, the spiritual Rubik’s Cube becomes perfectly aligned and there is this feeling of relief, contentment, and validation.
I could probably write 20,000 words (I told you I’m long-winded) on this experience and how it softly touched my inner spirit and just resonated like the soft wind.
HFASS, Nadia ( I found her like a refreshing glass of lemonade, the way God’s light shined through her was amazing!!), and the congregation were so warm like the sweetest feeling of a cozy blankie and the feeling you get in a cold lake when you tinkle a bit (C’mon, you know you have).
It felt right.
And maybe I’ll visit this place of positive contemplation next week.
And I won’t be so nervous.
Best. Blind. Date. Ever.
Suck it, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.