On Wednesday morning, before I left for one of my two jobs, my husband hovered in the hallway while I pulled on my jacket and gathered my purse and keys. "I'm meeting with a potential investor this morning. Can you pray about it?"
My gut reaction - always - to being asked to pray is to say no. I don't know where that comes from, but it reverberates, bouncing against the walls of my skull. No. No. No. Maybe it comes from a lack of trust that prayer really makes a difference.
Instead, because I'm working on it, I told Mat I would absolutely pray. And I meant it because there's nothing worse than being a liar; promising a prayer and never fulfilling the request. But the way I pray these days looks nothing like the way I used to - in the sense that it can't be measured as an "actual" prayer. I don't clasp my hands or bow my head or close my eyes or even speak out loud.
In a hurried, disjointed explanation - because defining my beliefs these days takes me time - I nodded, "I'm going to pray for you, Mat. And I'm going to pray for this investor. But not in the way you think. I'm going to cover the day not just the situation, because I'm learning that this is the way prayer is supposed to work."
I left the house feeling stupid, because of the way he looked at me.
Breaking up with church and Christianity.
I always lose myself in corporate environments; the more people there are, the more structure and rules are put in place with processes on how to do things and what to avoid altogether. I interact well enough in the beginning, asking questions and testing boundaries, but as time goes on I find myself restricted; I either get bored or extremely irritable while seeking new ways of doing things.
Even though I don't go to church anymore, I cannot dismiss the time I did.
Over the last eight years, my relationship with church and Christianity has been akin to a couple desperately in love with the idea of being in love with each other, but who clearly aren't. We have broken up many times, only to get back together, "This time, it's going to be different. It has to be."
There has always been a separation in my heart though, an underlying desire to leave accompanied by a resounding ache to prove I can make it work. I was consistently falling apart.
I want to give credit where credit is due. If it wasn't for my time in church, I wouldn't be where I am today. I don't think anyone should discount the times [in church] when it was really sweet; when everything from the turning and greeting to the worship set to the message impacted your soul. I had plenty of those moments, and I have to count them for what they were and what they did for me. I don't want to spend time wondering why I ever thought the way I did, shaking my head and disciplining myself with shame and guilt.
When I was a church staff member, I would describe myself as a seedling; and for five years I was dedicated to cultivating my Christian growth. I sprouted and I grew and grew and grew. I grew so much I hit the ceiling of the church. But when I reached the ceiling, I found I couldn't grow up anymore. As plants do, I began searching for a way to survive. I leaned and stretched and began growing sideways, winding my way throughout the halls of the church, underneath the seats. Eventually, I weaved my way throughout the entire building and realized I was stuck. I was contained within the box of the church - a planter much too small to continue nourishing me - and giving in to claustrophobia because of the knots I had willingly twisted myself into. I needed to be uprooted so I wouldn't choke and die. I needed fresh air.
So I'm broken up with church and Christianity, but I can't say we'll never attempt to play the game of love again.
I'm learning some things about my faith.
Prayer is most beneficial for the person praying; it's our way to plead our case and to express gratitude, it's the way we interact with The Universe - the tangible force around us reminding us of God's existence. Even so, I still wanted to say no to Mat on Wednesday morning. I didn't want to pray for his investor meeting because the ask was just so... Christian. But the ask wasn't mine to judge, and there was no reason for me to assign religion to it; it was genuine in nature, and he needed to know I'd do it - if only because he was asking.
And then that look on his face derailed me.
I called Mat from the road once I hit a steady stretch and let him have it, "Look. You need to know how irritated I am at your response, the look on your face. You made me feel dumb. And I don't want to feel irritated, or like my husband thinks I'm dumb, okay? Just because you were a pastor doesn't mean you're beyond or above me as far as spiritual progress goes. I'm working through a process and it's like I'm doing this for the first time. Ever. In my whole life. I realize there are things I'm saying that Christianity teaches, but they are finally making sense to me and I'm interacting with them in this new space. When I say them out loud to you, I need you to not look at me like I'm stupid."
Mat sighed and told me he loved me, I'm sorry you took my look out of context. I don't think you're dumb or stupid. I was looking at you in awe. I've never known you to be so spiritual. In all our years together, I've never seen this so obvious in you. It literally took us leaving church for you to truly become spiritually-minded. It was just an amazing moment to see you actively working this out for yourself.
If I felt stupid before, I felt even stupider now.
"Nothing binds you except your thoughts; nothing limits you except your fear; and nothing controls you except your beliefs. Think God, think Jesus, think Light, think Love, think whatever form of divinity calls to you. And all else will fall away."
Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation
I did pray, not on my knees or with folded hands or closed eyes, but from a position of love, extending light and warm energy from my thoughts to Mat and the investor. I thanked God for wanting the ultimate good for us, Mat and I together and individually, and called that good toward us asking for this transaction to succeed only if it was to bring about more good - for humanity and all involved - fulfilling Mat's purpose as a business owner and this man as an investor.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Everything I'm learning, I've heard before; it's what church and Christianity has taught me for almost 35 years, albeit using varied terms of divinity (i.e. The Universe). But what's different is that I'm not being told on a weekly basis, in a corporate environment where I feel boxed in, the how - how it's supposed to look or how it's supposed to be done. How it all plays out isn't important, it's the why that matters. The why is the reason I get out of bed every morning; it's the state of my heart, it's my calling, my purpose - it's affirming my soul's desires by seeking God in everything I do.
"I want to have a lasting experience with God. Sometimes I feel like I understand divinity of this world, but then I lose it because I get distracted by my petty desires and fears. I want to be with God all the time. But I don't want to be a monk, or totally give up worldly pleasures. I guess what I want to learn is how to live in this world and enjoy it's delights, but also devote myself to God."
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love