Sunday, September 6, 2015

Spiritually Homeless

It's a burden that's been weighing on me heavily this past month. A loss that went unrecognized by many and other losses that went unrecognized by all, including me.

When I started my summer unit of CPE, I wasn't particularly excited. I was overwhelmed and terrified and fully expected to fail. Horribly. Again.

And then it went on and it felt right and I was confident in my place and comfortable with my role and I knew that I was in the right place because I could effectively evaluate the results of my work and they were good enough (though my supervisor recently told me that my "good enough" surpasses anyone else's "excellent"). I became excited and began to plan for the future.

But as the summer moved ahead, I grew frustrated and angry and felt lost. I was grieving. I was grieving the loss of the one person I wanted to be at my CPE graduation more than any other. The one person who was supposed to be there but couldn't be. And oh, how I appreciated those who did join me on that day or who celebrated from afar, yet it was his absence that hurt, deep in my marrow.

Once I realized I was grieving, the anxiety and frustration and anger disappeared. "Ah...." I said. "Hello, old friend. So, you're back. Welcome."

And grief and loss and I communed in the space of love and acceptance that I'm working really hard to build inside of myself.

Then, though I was exhausted and overwhelmed and not quite ready (because if you've taken CPE, you know, a week off is just not enough), I started my residency ten days later.

I was delighted to learn at the end of that first week that I had gotten my first choice in clinical placement for the first unit. Wahoo! The mentor I had hoped for was the mentor I wanted. To be honest, I wasn't clear initially why I wanted this mentor, only that I knew I had something to learn that only this one could teach me.

On my first day I asked about my mentor's level of comfort working with someone from a faith tradition that is radically different from their own. I was born and raised UCC; my mentor is from the Evangelical Free tradition. My mentor said they knew this question would come up and there was no point avoiding the elephant in the room and shared a bit of their view on working collaboratively in patient care. I asked how they had developed this viewpoint and they indicated their own time in CPE as they sought to become a Board Certified Chaplain.

I was surprised by a number of things in this conversation - the first that my supervisor seems to believe that my faith is as radically different from theirs as one can get; second that my supervisor seemed to think my question was addressing some awkwardness in the realities of our theological differences; third that my supervisor left no space for me to respond; and fourth that I went home and cried. A lot. Because I came to understand another dimension of my loss.

While it is true that the UCC is denominationally extremely liberal, it is also the case that being congregational in structure, one is likely to get anything from liberal-we-barely-acknowledge-Jesus-and-may-as-well-be-UU to plenary-verbal-inspiration-women-don't-belong-behind-the-pulpit-and-gays-can-worship-somewhere-else if one simply pops into a random UCC church on any given Sunday.

I grew up somewhere between the two extremes, but certainly far closer to the second than anything that could even be defined as the radical middle.

During college, grad school (the first round) and immediate following (the first round) and before (the second round) of grad school, I attended a couple of varieties of Evangelical churches, pending on where I was at in the country at the time. And I deeply loved all of them.


Until Tim died and his death, which followed several other traumatic losses in the course of a couple of months, undid me.

Until I was grieving.

Until I was aching and desperate and lost and confused and clinging to Jesus but asking, "Why?"

Until I was told over and over and over again that I shouldn't be grieving because....

Because I had only known Tim a short time.

Because if I just had faith.

Because Jesus.

And it was invalidating and shaming to be told that my grief was unacceptable and indicated some moral or theological failing within myself to be deeply grieved that the first person in my life ever to love me (as I experienced it) unconditionally had died instantly.

And the problem was, it wasn't just some of the people I shared my grief with in the Evangelical church; it was all of the people I shared my grief with in the Evangelical church.

Though I had been raised UCC, I had fallen deeply in love with Jesus in the Evangelical church, and I never had any plans to leave it.

But my grief was not welcome. My heartache was not welcome. My anger with God was not welcome. My disappointment in Jesus was not welcome.

And as I experienced it, if any part of a person is not welcome, the whole of the person is rejected.

So, I lost this community that had been the foundational influence in the growth of my faith in God and my love of Jesus for over a third of my lifetime.

I left the faith that had rejected the wounded and broken parts of me and I returned to the UCC where my grief was accepted, where my pain was acknowledged, where my anger and disappointment and frustration were affirmed. In some places. With some people. At some times.

And I still grieve. And I still feel anger and frustration and disappointment and untenable anxiety until I can identify the grief.

While I feel that people ought to be accepted exactly where they are at, just as they are, I do not feel the same holds true for theologies. And just as I would call out people on their behavior that is harmful or damaging to other people, I believe in calling out theological positions that are harmful or damaging to people.

So, while I dearly love my evangelical and conservative Christian friends, I love parts of their belief systems and I utterly despise other parts of their belief system (and I suspect this confuses and frustrates a LOT of them).

But a lot of this blog post is just sort of there and it's a very long way to say that I feel spiritually homeless at present. I go to Temple on Fridays and I miss Jesus. I go to church on Sundays and I do not like the Jesus they have to offer. (Because it's the same Jesus who utterly failed me when Tim died).

And so I grieve.

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