I’ve always lived more inside my head. Things just felt safer and looked more hopeful in my imagination. I grew up in the Christian tradition, with those stories of hope, yet it became harder and harder to reconcile them with the world I knew. Spirituality became an escape from the world rather than a way to be part of it and so my two ‘worlds’ diverged. Half laziness on my part, and half heavy burden on my shoulders from the obligation of my faith tradition’s beliefs. It was the beginning of the end.
When I emerged from the ashes of the empire I created as a young man, there was a desperate hunger for something real. I had gone as far as I could with my escape from reality and I could see where it was going. It was going towards despair, isolation, and loneliness. It was very tempting at the time to double down on that. To simply let myself slip away into the shadows and be forgotten by a world I didn’t know if I could ever trust or love and just live for the moment.
It has not been a quick process. Absolute beliefs were easy signposts of where to go but they also allow you to bypass others for whom that road is not a good fit. In finding compassion for my own failures I’ve been surprised to also discover compassion for others. In acceptance of my own limitations I’ve become more tolerant of the limitations of others. My head was used to being in charge so it was a new experience believing things with my heart as well. But it feels like peace to me when my wild and unruly heart is comforted and invited into choices rather than forced by the domineering logic of my mind. It just takes time to teach the procedural memory of your body that it can live another way.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to make the choices I did. Others seem to thrive by following road maps. All I can assume is that they are trying to find a different place than I am. If I was going to describe it I’d use the same words you might use for exploration. I learned to sail a boat not to just catch fish, or trade goods, but to go to the places no one had yet been. I became curious and went off the beaten path into the bush to find God. I learned a faith there that was not dependant on following instructions but which was more about learning my limitations and discovering my potential. I’ve seen something there that was more beautiful and healthy than the road maps of others could promise. A place that is worth staying in.
Since then my faith has become more mystical in nature. More enchanted and magical. But it isn’t like the magic I imagined in my youth. The kind of power that changes the world to suit you. Instead it feels more like the kind of magic that changes you so that you can enter into the true world and know that it will not hurt you in the ways that matter. I’m becoming more a part of the world rather than trying to escape it and that feels like getting bigger somehow. More connected to God through others and through the trust forged by my unique self-imposed wilderness adventure.
It feels good to know where I belong but it also feels good to leave the places I don’t belong. The sense of freedom to go wherever I desire is very satisfying. It gives my curiosity freedom to create which is another way to talk about hope. The sense of choice and the confidence in my power to shape a beautiful yet imaginary future by being more firmly rooted and alive in the present moment.
What do I hope that will look like?
That I can be angry and yet choose how I express it. That I can be sad and feel freedom to let it be heard. That I can be silly and not be embarrassed about how it looks. That I can feel hatred and let it go. That I can feel love and attraction and make healthy choices about it. That I can do things I’m not good at and my failure will not erode the excitement of trying something new. That the hard work is becoming more like hard play in that my inner compass directs me more quickly each time I fall apart so that I’m starting to enjoy the journey itself more.
This hope makes my life more fun because it speaks to me of being uniquely qualified to be myself and a part of this world we live in. Now I would say that my faith is equally defined by my practices as it is by my beliefs. They critique each other and encourage each other to make me feel more real and permanent in this world. How could I not feel hope when my heart and mind tell me I am an eternal creature slowly becoming more alive as the fear of death subsides. It’s just exciting to watch myself and the world around me change and wonder what it will look like tomorrow.
When God inhabits the place I’m in it’s like we experience the world together. Today I was in a church leadership gathering and there was an invitation to contemplate where Jesus was meeting you in the Eucharist and it was instantaneous. I best saw Jesus manifested in a small but vocal Filipino girl, not the crowd of older white men who had the power. I tried to play it cool and give it a little time but there wasn’t really any question about it. If you are invited to the table and you get the chance, you jump at the opportunity to give Filipino Female Jesus some bread and wine because you’re just excited to be in the same room. I’m not looking so far ahead to find God any longer and maybe that is why I’m finding God more often on the path beside me. When your eyes change, the view just seems more magical.
– Chris Peters