I was recently baptized and in the days prior I was freaking out a bit. Freaking out not as in “Should I do this Christian thing?,” because I realized I’ve been a Christ follower for years upon years, but never used those words – Christ follower – because I wasn’t “that kind” of Christian. However, I appreciate living with the mindfulness that following Christ’s path has provided for my daily life. Now I was being baptized and that action was a public announcement of my faith. That’s where the freak-out comes in because up until now I’ve been stashing my relationship with God. Occasionally, I have ghosted Him, and I definitely haven’t returned all Her calls and sometimes I just slam the door in His face. Basically, I’ve been a bit wishy-washy in our relationship and sometimes simply a selfish brat. I don’t always like doing things Her way and I will likely, at some point, again find myself being selfish or not serving as best I could because I am human and will always be imperfect.
If we just stop being selfish pricks and look after each other the world can be a pretty damn good place to spend a lifetime.
The thing is, I don’t think Christ died just for our sins. He was God’s only Begotten Son which, to me, means He was the manifestation of God on Earth. God inhabited this body of Christ to say, “Ok, humans, lemme explain you how things should be done.” Then He lived as Christ and showed that love and humility and kindness are some fierce and powerful magic. It seems, if we just stop being selfish pricks and look after each other the world can be a pretty damn good place to spend a lifetime. As Christ, She demonstrated how the power of good can be transformational. As Christ, He didn’t have a lot, but He had all She needed and everything more. He loved like no one before or after because, as the manifestation of God into human, She had nothing to lose. He turned over tables in frustration, but stepped up to assholes with kindness and wit and caused everything to pause for a bit and reconsider their actions. She turned the world on its ear and let people see life could be lived in a different manner. She was always “too much” and that got Him in loads of trouble, but it never kept Him from loving even more. No one was ever too high, too low, too this or too that for Christ to sit down and spend time together. When you consider it, as mere mortals, what do we have to lose by simply living in kindness and from love?
As an 18 year-old, sophomore at the University of Wyoming, I spent a lot of time at the St. Paul’s Newman Center for Catholic students, but I didn’t often attend services. For me, a kid whose non-practicing Catholic mother administered ashes from the Webber grill on Ash Wednesday so we could sleep in and go to school late, “I grew up in Mass … it’s not like the prayers have changed,” The Newman Center was place to ask questions and be around people who were thoughtful and kind, but not actually a place for me. Even with their kindness, I didn’t let my guard down. I couldn’t believe God’s love could simply available to me without condemnation or abandonment for less than a pious life, I had no illusions that I was cut-out to be pious. With so many questions and doubts, I refused to accept Fr. Roger’s explanation that if you didn’t question you weren’t a good Christian – that God didn’t want His children to simply accept, but to think, know, and understand in order to truly love.
He told me it was ok to question and doubt, but always love.
Recently, I learned that Fr. Roger stood up as a voice of reason, justice, acceptance and decency after Matthew Shepard was killed in Laramie. He did this when the Catholic church was openly speaking against gays. He did this not because it was easy, but because it was right. This knowledge, coming during the week of my baptism seemed a gift. He was the first Christian I talked to, in depth, who was so open and accepting. He told me it was ok to question and doubt, but always love. Now, over twenty years later, I learned that he put action behind his kind words. He was truly a son of God who stood up and joined people at a time of divide.
In the current political climate, witnessing so many so-called Christians espouse vitriol and hate towards people who are not conservative and white has made me tentative to publicly vocalize my beliefs. I don’t want to be marked as a hypocrite Christian by either “side.” Well, I don’t care what the haters think, but I don’t want to be mistaken by my friends as a secret hater or judger. Thus, I quietly go about my business and my journey. Kierkegaard wrote, “Once you label me you negate me.” It goes along the lines of why I haven’t been quick to identify as a veteran or liberal or pro-choice or gender fluid or a gun owner. In my mind, the fewer identifiers / labels you ascribe too, the greater fluidity your life has and the fewer first impressions people place on their reaction toward you. Without labels, people get to know your fiber rather than your identifiers. This is why my journey with God has been quiet and steady for decades. I’ve lived on the edge of many worlds and it has allowed me to see & hear much. My openness has given me opportunities and angles that have sometimes melted my brain a bit. How can I be in so many worlds and remain intentionally undefined on so many levels?
I never felt there was anyone to whom I could really explain my complicated understanding of God and didn’t feel the need to explain it. Afterall, God is part of how I understand the world and only recently has S/he made any real, trusting sense, yet still not fully. I remain full of contradictions, but know that sense of confusion is okay. In the end, it’s just been between me & God. It’s my journey and even though I’ve bucked and questioned and continue to push and fail, God is with me. In moments of chaos where I don’t want to listen or in times where I am seeking stillness, I feel a connection that defies definition. The magic, the walk, comes when I choose to listen and the world seems to unfold before me with love, gifts, happiness, friendship, work, challenge, opportunity, or sometimes a warmth that is not exactly what I want, but what I need.