Life in the time of Covid-19, Novel Coronavirus is kind of a liminal space; a piece of time that is outside of ‘normal’ time, and has given me long moments to chew on ideas. Some I’ve spit out; some I’m lingering over, bitter as they are, because I’m not done with them yet. Others get tucked into the back of the cheek, to be pulled out at a later time for examining and deciding what to do with them.
Here are a few I think I’m done with at this point:
I don’t miss the so-called fellowship of the church, because I’ve seen it to be a very shallow, self-centered, ego-driven, Janus-faced ‘friendship’ where you’re greeted with a warm hug, smile, a brief, ‘how are you’, before they rush off to the next person, and then never hear from them again until the next encounter. And yes, I’ve been guilty of doing this, too, and I cringe when I look back at my church life and see the times I’ve done it to others. I wish I could say that behavior from others is rare, but unfortunately, I’ve experienced it too often, in too many church settings and gatherings, to say that it is rare. I’ve grown tired of the hypocrisy, as well as the underlying sense of being ‘used’ to make others feel better about themselves, when they obviously didn’t give a rip about me or others. I am quite fine with walking away from it for good.
I’m still gnawing away at that bone called ‘hell’, and its companion, the rapture, though.
I thought I was fully done with those beliefs, but I still sometimes catch myself looking into that burning abyss, wondering if I’m imagining it or if it truly is there; a gaping maw waiting for the death sentence to drop, so it can consume those who haven’t spoken that magical prayer? Nah, I can’t believe that, not when I think about it in the context of a parent who loves their kid(s). And if ‘God’ is the epitome of love- the very essence of Love- then I just cannot believe that the idea of hell is real.
But here’s the thing- I did believe in hell at one time; once I was taught about it by well-meaning christian adults. It is a deep seated fear-based belief that is difficult to fully uproot, because its ugly tentacles reach everywhere and bury themselves in the smallest cracks and crevices of the mind. It’s insidious and tenacious, and takes a long time to get every last tiny bit of it pulled up for disposal.
For years after I was shown the evangelical movie titled, ‘Thunder in the Distance’, as a young kid, I lived in terror that my mom- a recent convert to christianity- might at any time just leave me the same as the daughter in the movie disappeared during the ‘rapture’, and I’d be left on my own because I hadn’t said ‘the prayer’.
And when I was thoroughly terrified enough by those ideas, I ‘accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart’, not because I felt loved and cherished by Him, but because I was utterly traumatized and too terrified by the idea of hell to NOT say that prayer, in hopes of not being ‘left behind’.
My entire christian life was based strictly upon fear- fear of my mom being stolen from me. Fear that I was going to be left behind in a ‘horrible, evil, wretched, godless world’. Fear that I was never quite good enough, no matter how much I prayed, how ‘good’ I tried to be, or how many verses I attempted to memorize, and so on. There was no love to be found there, none at all. Not from me to god, nor from god to me. It was all more rules, regs, and good behavior, and let’s hope it’s enough because, gasp!, if it wasn’t, the prayer may not have worked and I’d still be sent to hell.
Hell is one of the most damaging stories (beliefs) a person can tell others about; the psychological damage it does is intense, but no one wants to acknowledge it, let alone discuss it, because the fall out can be devastating.
Where does that leave me? Well, these days, I’m residing in that liminal place of in between: a place of not knowing just what to believe, and of having discarded much of what I used to trust and believe, terrifying though it was to me.
I no longer pray, nor feel the need to do so, or ‘worship’ (whatever that is), but I am discovering that there is a longing within me- a longing for an intimacy and a connection that I’ve never once had previously. I believe that longing and desire is there because, for the first time ever, the threat of hell, and punishment if I don’t get things ‘right,’ is gone. The pressure to always be ‘good, correct, godly’ has been lifted and now, it’s just me being who I am and THAT IS ENOUGH.
So I’m staying in a holding pattern now. I no longer want to force my round peg self into the square hole; it hurts, it’s not real, and it’s not safe. I’m waiting for the truth to arise from the ashes. I ponder what I do know, and pit it against what I’ve learned so far. If it holds up, great. I keep it. If not, I pitch it.
It’s not an easy process; it’s painful, and rather difficult to do. I mean, these are beliefs that have been ingrained in me for many, many years; done so under threat of pain and abandonment, so it is extremely difficult to just kick them to the curbside and not have anything to replace them with, you know? Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our brains. They just want to just grab the next idea/belief and use that to cling to, or sometimes it keeps going back to that rubbish pile to reclaim what was already ditched, because it is very hard to live with the unknowing and that emptiness, but it’s important to do it.
Living within the liminal space can be painful, disorienting, and it’s lonely because no one can truly join you there. It’s freeing in the sense that there are no rules or guidelines, but it’s also a freefall where North is no longer North, and there is no leader to look to for guidance. And, for me at least, there’s frequently an underlining fear of ‘what if I’m wrong and they were right, after all?’ popping up now and again.
But you know something? I’m finding that, for me, it is worth it.
Take care and #staysafe, y’all.