"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Becoming Human


I was sitting in a pew, alone, enjoying the final rehearsal for the Christmas program I'd come north to see. My brother Mark sings in the choir and it's become a tradition for me to be in the audience for him. This year I went a day early so we could do some antiquing, which is how I found myself at the practice. Because it was my fourth year, as I watched, many people were familiar to me. I know outlines of their stories. I'm happy when I learn about their successes, sad when I hear of their suffering. I like these people.

I have an uneasy relationship with church. It's very difficult for me to feel anything but judgement, shame and not enough in the formal company of people who follow the religion I was born to. It's not their fault, mostly. Raised with a God used as my mom's hit man and enforcer, baptised into a church where the pastor did not practice what he preached, a decade spent in a small Bible-based cult where obedience and fear were everything - there was nothing in any of those places of love or relationship or simple acceptance.

Some have suggested that I should walk away from trying to believe in any God, but that's never been an option. It sure would make things easier if it was. However, somewhere along the line I decided that the only chance I had of experiencing the light of his love was to be very very still and to separate myself as much as possible from all that made me human: my passion, my body, my temper, my impulsiveness, my heart, my impatience. If I could be good enough, then  - I'm not sure exactly what, but it seemed the only way.

A quarter of a century of being good, respectable and careful left me with not much but exhaustion. Still no closer to feeling completely accepted or acceptable, loved or lovable.

Don't get me wrong, it's been a great life. I've felt love and loved. I've felt joy and success and pain.  I've experienced moments of pure light where there was not one doubt of God's presence or care. It's just that I've felt all of it through so many layers of separation from my humanity, it's been like listening to glorious music through a fortress wall. That wall grows thinner with each new insight, each new miracle, each new stirring of my heart.

As I sat in the dark watching the band and choir practice for a program meant to celebrate God become human in the form of Jesus, I noticed how very human these people were. They talked when they were supposed to listen. One of the soloists looked like he should have been in a studio recording rap music. Another, the pastor's daughter with a voice of angels, wore clothes that spoke rock concert much more than church. People didn't follow directions, wandered off stage in the middle of a song, dashed in late. There was silliness, laughter, and occasional sarcasm.

All shapes. All sizes. Each person a story filled with all the same elements that mine is, just manifested in different forms. And each person on that stage was there in relationship with a God unavailable to me because I'd always felt too human.

Becoming human, as I've worked so hard to do in the last few years, turns out to be the only path to a relationship of any kind. It's only by first knowing, then accepting, all that I am that I can be willing to reveal enough of myself to be available for relationship. The irony of having spent so much of my life doing the exact thing (trying to be some form of perfect) that kept me farthest from the exact thing I wanted and needed most (love and acceptance) is not lost on me.

There is a Buddhist parable about an old blind turtle living at the bottom of the ocean who swims to the surface for air once every hundred years. A golden yoke floats around in the waves, never still for a moment. The likelihood of the blind turtle swimming up and putting his head through the hole of the yoke when he surfaces is the same likelihood of our being born as a human being.

It's a story that's stuck with me since I first read it years ago. Being human is a rare and wonderful gift, not to be taken lightly.

This month we celebrate a birth of a boy given to the world as proof God loves humanity. For the very first time, sitting in the joy-filled, song-saturated dark last weekend, I began to understand with more than my head. Becoming human, being what I was born to be, embracing it all, is the only true path to everything I've ever wanted.

23 comments:

Carrie Link said...

Love this, "It's just that I've felt all of it through so many layers of separation from my humanity, it's been like listening to glorious music through a fortress wall. That wall grows thinner with each new insight, each new miracle, each new stirring of my heart."

deb said...

oh, yes, this is exactly it.

we are all beautifully broken and human.

Niki said...

beautifully said, Deb...and so very true.
blessings,
Niki

Donna said...

Your post touches my heart and I understand you exactly. How great that you have faith anyway! Perhaps if you tried another church until you find one that fills the right place in your life, it might be good...otherwise just having him in your heart is indeed enough!!

Barb said...

Your thoughtful reflections seem like faith to me, Deb - faith in yourself and in all humanity. Often, when I read what you've written from your heart, I feel blessed.

Lilith said...

I"m thankful my parents were not religious people, it allowed me to find my own spiritual path which is kind of a hodgepodge of religions and beliefs. Works for me though, sans guilt.

I'm glad you're finding your way Deb.

Retired English Teacher said...

A belief system that can't be questioned is worse than no belief system at all. Thanks for sharing your deepest thoughts, hopes, fears and desires. We are human. I find comfort in knowing that the one who brings us hope and healing is also human.

Linda Myers said...

My faith has grown simpler and simpler and that is a blessing.

kario said...

Absolutely gorgeous, Deb. And very human.

Do you have Brene Brown's newest book? I think it may speak to you very loudly and deeply.

Love.

Wanda said...

I find myself being surprised at times by the humanity of other believers--because after all, weren't we told to be perfect? Oh, wait. Perfect = authentic, complete, fully oneself. Ahh...better now.

#1Nana said...

This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your journey.

I've become a little less cynical about organized religion as I get older and hopefully wiser.

Tabitha Bird said...

I so agree with you. And can I just say, I felt the same about church and God for years.

The thing I am still embracing and still learning is that God created me to be human there for He knew I wasn't going to be perfect AND he loves me because I am human. Truth is I don;t have to do anything to deserve His love- He just gives it. Sometimes I feel like He says to me, Tab I am not that hard to get along with. I am not sitting up here with a big stick waiting to hit you. I enjoy you the way you enjoy your kids. And I know I don;t expect my kids ot be perfect. I love them because they are my kids, not because of anything they do or do not do. Somehow this is starting to seep into my soul. May you find the reality of what it is you are looking for :)

colbymarshall said...

What a beautiful story. Loveit!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Sister.
M in Vancouver

LauraX said...

"Becoming human, as I've worked so hard to do in the last few years, turns out to be the only path to a relationship of any kind. It's only by first knowing, then accepting, all that I am that I can be willing to reveal enough of myself to be available for relationship." Yes, and in this relationship you are cultivating with your human-ness your Divinity will become more clearly revealed...God is not separate from you...God is within you, through you, who...you...are...and beyond you and me and all of creation as well.

Yes, Deb, ONLY in your HUMAN-NESS...only in all of our human-ness, our idiosyncrasies, imperfections, failings, sorrows, joys, loves, losses and growth can we truly KNOW God. Perfection, is not real...honesty, kindness, compassion these are very real...and God can be found in ALL of these qualities, as well as the suffering. The stillness, is a good place to sit with God...but stillness in your body...and movement, doing, being, connecting with the world in action, through your writing, through listening, watching, waiting, creating...all excellent ways to cultivate the relationship you already clearly have with God.

Sending you so much love, beloved one.

Suzy said...

"Becoming human, as I've worked so hard to do in the last few years,...

And quite a beautiful human!

Love you

Suzy

Shelia said...

Wow!


I love this.

Love and miss you!

yaya said...

Have you read the book "The Shack"? You might find it interesting. Good post and I hope you continue with your journey to find peace, love, acceptance and God.

Katie Gates said...

Beautiful...

Amber said...

Gosh, I love love love you.
Reading your writing of your heart, I am again so blessed to have found you on my journey.

:)oxoxoxo

Crawford Family said...

We have a wonderful Heavenly Father who loves us despite our humaness. I believe he expects us to be human and loves us inspite of ourselves. I'm glad you felt his Spirit in the pagent practice you watched.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh my heart soared for you as I read this post:) I am so grateful you are letting go, becoming that human GOd intended you to be--not perfect in any way--but just you Deb. That's all we need to be--ourselves and He loves us:))
I've had my own walk and did some comparisons and never measured up until one day realized I don't have to. We are all humans and it's okay.

M said...

I loved this...and the opportunity we shared to talk about it while you were here. Humaness is an amazing gift...one that we oft times take to seriously (trying to become "perfect" humans-an impossibility) or too lightly (casting away our lives in a wave of flippant destruction.) I'm so glad you're at a place in your life where you can accept the gift for what it is...simply a gift from God.

I love you
Mark