For past 8 1\2 years, I have been on an unique and brilliantly dynamic path of spiritual growth and evolution. It hasn’t been easy to say the least but no path toward enlightenment ever is. There is this funny and ironic misconception that the enlightened have no real problems and we remain perpetually cross-legged on a mountain somewhere, chanting all day every day. However, the truth is enlightenment requires going to the darkest corners of the human mind on a regular basis and constantly diving head first into our most painful and ugly moments of our past and owning up to and calling our own selves out on our bullshit. But it is through revisiting our personal world wars, cruel, unforgiving and relentless as the next person yet toting compassion and empathy, that we are able to learn how to be calm and find calm in the storms our lives encounter.
The genesis for my emotional healing and personal growth started on my first Sunday in Mississippi. I had just left an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship (which I discussed in my previous blog) and I may have been walking and talking but I was the walking dead. I was this mentally battered, lost, shell of a person, doing only well enough to know when I needed to eat and use the bathroom. My first Sunday in Mississippi, my Mom asked me if I wanted to go to church with her. I said yes based on not having or knowing of anything else to do.
The old, rickety van found its way to a small church five minutes outside of Columbia, MS. The congregation couldn’t have been more welcoming as my Mom introduced me to everyone she met. After we sat down, one of the choir members led the church in gospel hymns playing only a tambourine. The music was so simple yet soothing. It slowly started to wake my soul from the inside, scraping off the dirt and anguish I couldn’t articulate at the time.
Once the choir finished their set, a visiting pastor began to a sermon he entitled, “How much can one heart take?”, a message about the power of hope when life gets weary beyond our realm of conception. Every word that came out of the minister’s mouth felt like a direct yet empathetic narrative to everything I was feeling and everything I was going through. As continued preaching, I could feel that emotionally dead part of my being slowly becoming revitalized.
At a certain point, he brought the entire congregation to stand around the pulpit. The pastor started going to select individuals in the crowd, telling them the things that were put on his heart to hear, and then laying hands on them. While a large part of me prayed that he would skim over me and not call attention to me, the part of me that didn’t think I was worthy or deserving of such healing and solace, the wiser shred of me that moved me away from Michigan knew that I needed something like that more than ever at that time.
Out of what seemed like nowhere, he singled me out of the back of the crowd. At first, I thought I was in someone’s way and I was much obliged to let them through. But the pastor knew who he was calling out and I was it. As I made my way to front of the church, I felt every egocentric thought leave my mind and I decided to yield completely to whatever was to happen from there. When I got to the pulpit, he looked at me and said, “Don’t ever be afraid to say you love God.”
With that, he lightly pressed his pointer and middle fingers onto the middle of my forehead and I fell back in what felt like slow motion. Floating to the ground, I felt every bit of depression, resentment and sadness get subtracted from my body, almost as if they had never been there to begin with. They were replaced with a peace that I had only heard about, the peace that surpasses all understanding. It was a peace so intense that once I eventually hit the floor, I was already in tears. I think it was also realization that I was free to do and be myself on my terms and at my own pace and I was no longer subjected to the wrath of someone else’s insecurities and issues. An intense sense of peace indeed.
Once everyone I was around helped me to helped me back on my feet, the pastor laid hands on again. This time when I fell back, I remembered there was a pew just far enough behind me to where I could possibly hit my head. But at that point, let go and let God!!! When I reached the ground for a second time, I looked to my right at find the end of the pew just three inches away from my face. As I began to sob, the residing pastor, who I had met earlier that morning, sat me up and let me fall apart on him. He told me, “You’re gonna be alright, son. You’re gonna be alright.” And he was right.
Since then, I have come to understand that learning about God has really been learning about myself. It had been a journey of learning how to dissect old wounds, breaking old habits created by those wounds, some of which I wasn’t even aware of, and gaining the wisdom they were meant to teach me. The journey has also been about how to become a kinder, more compassionate version of the person I was yesterday. It doesn’t matter what religious or philosophical ideals you subscribe to, we are all looking to connect to something greater than ourselves. We call it by a different name but it means the same thing to everyone. And ironically, in order to connect to that which is greater than us, we need only look within our own unique, imperfect, beautifully flawed selves.