For the first half of my life, I had a seemingly good relationship with what I understood as “God”. I was fairly sick as a newborn, and my family since told me that it was the prayers of the church that provided the miracle of my well-being. Thereafter, we dutifully went to church and Sunday school every week, where I repeated the tenets of the Apostles and Nicene creeds, ensuring that my relationship with God was grounded in the doctrine of the Christian Church.
After starting to attend a fundamentalist Baptist school in 6th grade, where I went to Bible class every day and had chapel two times a week, I started attending a Baptist church with a more active youth group than the kids who only met on Sunday morning at the Lutheran Church where I grew up. By the time I turned 16, I was going to church about three times a week and on the off days, I attended other events and concerts for Christian teens. They all included the tried and true outline of worship music first, followed by a message about how sinful humans are (you in particular), and a regularly emotional altar call to publicly give your life to Jesus… again.
Unfortunately, there were only so many times I could hear the same message and work through the same drama, and I began to question whether or not it was even true. Beyond my liberal arts education eventually revealing to me that the Bible wasn’t as perfect, inherent, nor infallible as I had been led to believe, the premise of Christianity started to lose its appeal for me. I didn’t really think God was so short-sighted in giving humans free will that he was forced to punish them for all eternity if they didn’t believe that he snuck on to Earth to make amends for his oversight.
I also found myself more often filled with the judgment of Jehovah than with the love of Christ I actually sought and resonated with. Basically, I didn’t think that God was as stupid or angry as the tradition made Him out to be. And neither the Nation of Israel nor the Roman Catholic Church, the two groups that started this whole scenario, have done all that much to showcase a healthy relationship with All That Is.
However, I still felt a connection with Christ, or God, or the Universe, or the Source of All Being, whatever keeps filling my lungs with breath and gave me the opportunity to have a childhood connected to nature and the relationships I formed with so many members of the animal kingdom. From gazing into the eyes of horses, dogs, or cows to meeting armadillos and possums in the woods behind my house, I sensed a deeper intelligence and connection to the world and what I know as Christ than the Bible had ever touched upon. Yet based on pretty much every supposed hero that I have seen lay down their lives for their friends since, Jesus has continued to serve as my personal favorite hero of all time.
However, at every school chapel session, Sunday evening church service, or Wednesday night youth group meeting, plus every Christian youth event I attended, nearly every preacher who took the stage told the story of what a terrible sinner they had been before Jesus saved them. They all had tales of drugs, sex, and addiction that would blow my mind, but the worst I’d ever really done was smoke a lousy cigarette when I was about 13. It seemed a bit extreme that Jesus had to die for just that.
So for the last half of my life, it seems like I’ve been getting into all sorts of things for Jesus to save me from. I was 27 when I came out to my family and told them that I was no longer a Christian and that I had instead chosen a life of smoking, drinking, and debauchery. Around that time, I had molded a sculpture of my own hand and placed a red candle in the center. After officially leaving Christianity that night, I lit that candle to meditate on whatever light would lead me down this new path. And as it continued to burn, that red wax started creeping past the palm and down the wrist of that hand of clay, and since it appeared as if I’d created a crucifixion, it was like Jesus was reminding me to just not forget where I came from.
Since then, although I’ve strayed far from the orthodoxy of Christianity, I have still maintained a relationship with what I know as Christ. And as I have studied other spiritual practices and learned of other religions, I have still felt the message of Christ shining throughout. Moving beyond the trappings of religious dogma, I now find myself cultivating a new relationship with what I know as Christ and opening myself to the truth that the Church has long been pointing toward but has never fully achieved in the mainstream belief system.
Somewhere along the line, I came across A Course In Miracles, a text that was purportedly channeled through a woman who served as the scribe for the spirit she called Jesus and the message he called her to write down. I’m fascinated by it because it came into this world around the same time I did, but I haven’t put much more stock in A Course In Miracles than I do the Bible as far as it being perfect or without error. However, as verbose as it is, I think it does cut more directly to the message of Christ. Having made it more of a regular practice as I’ve ruminated on the words over the last few years, I find that it truly resonates with what Jesus called the most important two commandments – to love God with all your heart, mind, body, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.
More recently, I was fortunate enough to meet a woman named Elizabeth Wilson who has written a book about getting back to the basics of the message of Christ called The Sovereign Way. As many mystics have considered Jesus to be an ascended master, The Sovereign Way realizes Jesus as the pinnacle of human consciousness, and his ability to reach that level of existence has made that state a possibility for whoever has the faith to follow the path to get there.
While I have yet to label myself as a miracle worker, I have realized the power of forgiveness that Jesus spoke about, and that has been echoed in both A Course In Miracles and The Sovereign Way. And the more I open myself to allowing my purpose to be found in bringing forgiveness to the world, the more I open myself to the miracles that are waiting for me. As I allow myself to be a living embodiment of love and share that love without need for return or recompense, God does some really amazing things. Some might even call them miraculous.
I still cannot check off the litany of beliefs that are called for to be a Christian, like the idolatry of their book or that humanity is some sort of mistake made my an egocentric deity. However, I cannot deny the role that the Judeo-Christian tradition has played in the development of the civilization I currently exist in. Although it has often been tempting to try to cancel the whole thing for the last few decades, I still feel a connection to Christ beyond the shortcomings of Christianity itself.
I understand that the language is still frightening for some, and that others will consider me a heretic for opening to the bigger picture beyond the frame that the Church has crafted. However, I feel my faith being restored and my relationship to All That Is renewed. While it is indeed a narrow path, I find myself again glad to be a follower of Christ.