I trusted the Church. I trusted the Church to have the Truth and to teach me about it. The Church did not. What the Church taught me was that I was not good enough. Not good enough for the Church as I was and therefore not good enough for God. Because I was not good enough as I was, I needed to pray like the Church thought I should pray; I needed to practice the rituals the Church said I must to become closer to being “acceptable” to the Church and to God. And because I wasn’t good enough, my mind concluded that I was bad. And because I was bad I always sought to please God, please the Church, please my parents and teachers, please my friends and total strangers. It was like I was supposed to see within their minds what they desired and then I was to act appropriately to bring about the desire that person sought. This was a great burden and was a lot of work. And I couldn’t do it.
This heavy burden seemed to change in 2002 when my mother died. I loved my mother deeply and miss her still. But I think that perhaps with her death I didn’t have any reason to “please” anyone any longer. Over the last 14 years I have moved to a different place.
These days I find the holy on my walks to the ponds with Lori and Leon and all my other dogs that came before. There are the guardians, the tall fir trees around the ponds that watch over and guide me. There are the deer, ducks and other water birds, the osprey, eagles and Canada geese, the nutria and beavers that make me feel part of the “family of things” to quote Mary Oliver from Wild Geese. As part of the family of things I am included, and not only me, but everyone and everything. I am good enough out here by the ponds where God is. God is in the breeze, the leaves fluttering to the ground in fall, in the ice on the ponds this past week, in the stillness, in the coldness of the day. The Cedar tree on top of the hill holds me between its bifurcated trunks and listens intently to me when I talk. It seems as if the God Within is walking with me though the grass at the ponds and seeing that “everything is good”. Because this feels so right I do not understand why the Church never once taught me the Bible was metaphor. What was the Church hiding by not talking about metaphor, by not saying that the “rules” didn’t matter, by not telling me that I was complete, whole and holy? By its teachings was the Church putting me down to build itself up?
The Church makes mistakes. But it may have gotten one thing right. That is community. The Church brings people together in community. What community means to me is that I have relationships and empathy with many different people. However, the Church ought to do away some of the liturgy and make time for individuals to tell their stories of how God moves in their lives. Those stories would make better sermons than what many pastors and priests give.
These days I walk (almost) every day to the ponds. It is holy there. I am held and heard. I can hear the Voice that guides me. If I am not in the stone building in Portland on Sunday, I am, indeed, in communion with the holy and tending to holy things at the ponds.