Updated: Dec 13, 2019
My spiritual practices have been on my mind a lot lately. As someone close to me has become more and more aware of where they belong spiritually, it has made me think about my journey this year as I have transitioned into a new spiritual awakening. I have not really discussed my religious preferences bluntly. I have alluded to God and Christ on my social media and have posted pictures of myself in ‘habit’ or traditional alter style clothing, but in the last year, a lot has changed. This is the story of my most recent breakup.
I have always been a very spiritual person. I think a lot about my purpose, my reason for being, and I think about the concept of a higher power often. A year ago I was attending a Lutheran church, where I had become very involved. I was on the church board, helped with the youth group, and committed time to several service projects. I was also one of the first alter girls the church had had in a decade. And this time last year I had told my mom that I was considering going into ministry. I have always wanted to serve people and at the time I felt very spiritually fulfilled and deep in my faith and felt called to commit to spreading my religion.
One of my biggest inspirations, our pastor, had died in August of 2018. He married my husband and me, helped me learn about Martin Luther and his doctrines, and had shown me true love and honesty. He had died after a short battle with a rare cancer and following his death, I had questioned my faith but had returned to the church, continued to be involved and felt inspired to be who Pastor Cam was to me.
On Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world gather for a church holiday that observes the beginning of the forty days Jesus spent in the dessert and it begins a journey of repentance. Pastor Cam particularly loved this day, and took it very seriously. It was an honor to serve on the altar with him, and the last day I served on the altar with him was on Ash Wednesday in 2018, which is crazy looking back on it because on that day we say, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” and 6 months later he was nothing but dust.
This year I decided, despite the pain, that I would serve on the altar for Ash Wednesday 2019. I was hoping for some closure, for I had been struggling to serve on the altar with a pastor that was not pastor Cam. I had hoped for a spiritual catharsis and a renewal in my love for my church, religion and more, but instead, it was revealed to me that the church I had dedicated so much love, and time to was no longer my place. I served on alter that day, with a pastor who I feel did not take the words seriously. I served with a pastor who was going about the motions, and not stopping to think of the true meaning of the words he spoke.
At the end of the service I walked out of the sanctuary and for a moment I stood there. I took a deep breath and looked around. I don’t know what I was looking for but I think I was just hoping to feel at home. Instead, I felt as though I was in a different church, with a different purpose, and with people, who I felt had forgotten or moved on from our old pastor and his passion for justice, mercy and grace. These people had moved on fast after our pastors death and some felt his death was exactly what the church needed. I stood there realizing that it was no longer the church I had fallen in love with, and that the religious practices I had subscribed to were no longer what I loved nor needed.
I left, without speaking to anyone. Following Ash Wednesday I officially left the church the week before Easter. And because I hadn’t missed a single Easter service for years, I went to a different church for Easter and cried during the service. I had hoped for my religion to comfort me but instead found sorrow for grief, and the tides of change were happening at the same time.
Since then I have not gone to church. I went on All Saints Sunday earlier this month and did not feel what I had hoped to feel. I feel as though I have broken up with religion because I am still a very spiritual person. I still meditate, pray, and observe energy. But I no longer want to participate in religion. I used to find a church so comforting. It was my second home, my place to reflect, and love and connect and I don’t regret a second of the time I spent there. I was married in a church, and I still feel very much called to go to church for those reasons. But now that I have broken up with church and have not participated in organized religion this year I feel as though it’s not my thing anymore.
Why did I tell you this story?
I shared it to introduce spirituality to you. Religion can confine you to a church, or to specific practices, whereas spirituality is connecting to a higher power, meditating and is closely affiliated with mental wellbeing. Religion is developed whereas spirituality is an innate connection created within you and fostered by you. The two are often intertwined but can be separate. I would consider myself spiritual. I would consider myself Christian, and I believe in a higher power. I identify with some of the pagan beliefs such as the notions that come along with Mercury and the waxing and waning of the moon. I do believe Jesus existed. Do I believe in one god? I do not know. But Jesus existed, he was a prophet, he brought with him a story of love and I truly do ask myself ‘what would Jesus do?’ in hard moments. And I share all of this because I want you, my reader, to know that you do not have to fit into a box. You do not have to subscribe to religion to consider yourself a Christian. You do not have to subscribe to religion to be considered spiritual. You do not have to assimilate. You choose what you want.
May I one day return to religion? Maybe. But what I have learned is that spirituality is far more important and that through growth and transformation within your spiritual self, you can become who you wish to be.
I feel as though Pastor Cam would be proud of this blog post. He always talked about what a rebel and badass Martin Luther was for sticking it to the catholic priests, and I feel by choosing to no longer participate in organized religion it is a way of sticking it to all the those who warm the pews, but do not act in love. And honestly, at the end of the day, it is all about love. So if you are reading this I love you. If you went to church with me, I love you. If you’ve never stepped foot in a church I love you. If you would consider yourself an atheist or a satanist or a whatever I love you. Because nothing is more important than love.
Song: Blind Leading the Blind by Mumford and Sons
Thank you to a friend of mine. I told her about this pending blog post and she said to me, "Do you feel guilty?" and I answered yes and she proceeded to say, "It's okay." In change and transformation you move on and often abandon what does not fulfill you and that can be hard. So if you are leaving something, or reshaping your life and are choosing to say goodbye to something that was toxic and no longer what you want, I just want to tell you, it's okay.