I spent the better part of my teenage years and adult life tucked deeply into the Christian Church. It was a snug and safe place for me for a long time. I met all 3 of my best friends there. One of them became my sister in a complicated switcharoo. I was a leader and a teacher. A special speaker and a healer. The Church gave me a good solid space to inhabit for a while. Until it didn’t.
College Campus Ministry
In college I joined a campus ministry. A bunch of students would get together throughout the week in big groups and little groups to support each other and further the cause of Christ. It was expected that we all attend church together on Sundays as well. At the time, I was teaching Children’s Church on Sundays at the place I attended with my parents and sisters. The campus ministry gave me an ultimatum: Attend church with the rest of the students or don’t come at all. This was a no-brainer for me. Teach kids. And just like that, I wasn’t welcome at the campus ministry.
A Ragtag Crew
During my twenties, my then-husband and I were the youth pastors at a charismatic church in the Midwest. It was a great job where we got to foster some beautiful relationships, be wildly creative, and each of us felt like we were uniquely skilled and gifted to do that job well. Some of the kids were from families in the church, and some weren’t. Eventually we had a little ragtag crew that included a homeless kid, a kid gender-transitioning, an autistic kid, and a couple of little addicts. It was perfect. We had our meetings in a neutral space, our home, since a number of these kids had never been inside a church and were afraid of being judged.
And then there was a church split. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically war. One group decides to be offended by another group. The other group gets defensive and pushes back. Everyone arms up with weapons and there are severe casualties. It is devastating.
At some point in this mess, a group of men were appointed to find a middle ground where everyone could coexist. We were told that it was offensive that we allowed homosexual kids and kids that smoked cigarettes in the youth group. And if we wanted to keep our jobs, we would move the whole enterprise back inside the church walls and foster a more appropriate group of Christian kids. We quit. And went to work doing enumeration for the RL Polk Directory. A miserable job. And we kept our ragtag group meeting in our home, every Wednesday night, for a good long time.
You Don’t Belong Here
I experienced this “you don’t belong here” a few more times throughout my 30’s and 40’s. It reached its peak when I was getting divorced. A number of my church friends had opinions and advice: How can you do this to your kids? You are betraying your family. God hates what you are doing. It was my final eviction notice, so I left. For good.
I was a f*cked-up wreck of a human by the time I made it home to Washington. I fled like a refugee in the night and left nearly everything behind me.
And then I was angry. And ranty. I ran through quite the gamut of emotions in my silent and mostly private rage against the church. Eventually the hurts began to settle as I settled. Time and space washed through me as a healer. And I became a Reiki Master.
Reiki is not religion. It isn’t even necessarily spirituality. Reiki is energy. A Reiki Master learns how to acknowledge, work with, and utilize for healing, the energy that flows everywhere all the time around us. Working with Reiki is a deeply spiritually revelational journey. As a Reiki Master I not only get to connect to my deepest self and find love and flow there, but I also get to help other people do the same. It is a magical journey. A journey of open-heartedness and wide-eyed wonder.
Healing and Forgiveness
One of the things that my Reiki adventure has given back to me is the Holy Scriptures. I always loved the bible for its stories and prose. There is some breathtaking poetry in there. It was a great sadness for me to be lashed by the words of that good book. I have some hefty scars from whippings over what women are allowed to do and not do, and the men who upheld those rules. But time and space. And healing and forgiveness.
Some days, verses like song lyrics will loop through my brain: “ . . . you, being rooted and grounded in love . . .” Ephesians 3:17. “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens . . .” Daniel 12:3. And my favorite: “It is for freedom that you have been set free. Now make sure that you stay free.” Galatians 5:1
There have been plenty of times in my life where I have left one prison only to flee into the next. A life characterized by a series of locked cell doors is not the story we are meant to tell. The worst part for me, is knowing that I’m the one who closes the door, and locks it, and holds the key.
These days I am learning to wield my key. Some seasons it seems I’m letting myself out of locked rooms as much as I’m inhabiting them. But my key is kind and gently reminds me to choose love. And forgiveness and peace. And these wide-open spaces I’m living in now, sure are healing.
Also, there are good people from my time in the Midwest, who have loved me tenderly and supported me on my healing journey. Thank you. Thank you. For shining the light for me in some very dark places.
If you have been hurt, or angry or rejected or need a key, let’s be friends~