It’s been a long and harrowing journey that has finally brought me to the place of being ready to invite others to peer in and see the transformation of my psyche. My story, my journey. A transformation from intrinsic shame, relentless criticism, constant pressure, deep worthlessness and complete unworthiness to a place of serenity, calm tranquility and wholeness.
Acceptance – whether self-acceptance or divine acceptance – does not adequately describe my place of complete rest and healing, as it still implies “accepting” or making exception for something that is less than or wrong or somehow imperfect. The state I have learned to enter and which I am trying to describe is deeper, richer, fuller – more alive and yet more still and serene – than “accepting myself” or knowing “God’s acceptance” or accepting his “unconditional love.” This home for my soul, this place of respite for my very being, this dwelling place for my deepest essence and personhood is a place of ceasing of striving or trying to be or become anything “ideal.” It is above all a place of tranquil rest. Complete and utter rest to the edges of my existence. It is relaxing fully, gently, completely into love, with no expectations, no attempt to perform or be or do anything that I am not. It could almost be described as letting go into pure acceptance. But there it is again – the word acceptance somehow implies a tolerating, enduring or forbearing of something less than or unpleasant or unwanted – and therefore it is not a state of “acceptance” that I am attempting to express.
Perhaps instead of “acceptance” what I mean is presence. That I can be fully present with myself, at home and at peace with myself in the deepest places in my present state. Without changing or growing or improving or repenting, right here, right now, I am present to myself and basking in the togetherness, the communion, the connection. Yes, CONNECTION. Unconditional connection. That I will not leave, shun, reject, judge or disapprove of myself. That all walls can be down, nothing needs to be protected, or tensed, or carefully presented in a certain way because nothing needs to be changed, critiqued, improved. That AS I AM, I am worthy of Connection.
This commitment to connection became my place of recovery. A place without theology or expectations. A place I felt invited into in the deepest part of my soul. I knew that my path to God – or at least my path to healing, wholeness and authentic life – if I ever was to salvage the wreckage of my life and mind, was in complete rest. Not trying to figure out a new belief system or trying “to get close to God” or finding “God’s will” or doing or being or becoming what “he wanted” me to do or be or become. But instead to just to be at home with myself and present to myself, unashamedly connected and standing in solidarity with myself at the deepest core level.
I let go of all the structures of the evangelical faith system that had been pressed into me and I chose to believe that if there is a God that is God of the universe, who is the very fabric of existence, who is the essence of love and goodness and restoration, who is the fountain of life, who is the deepest well of wisdom and compassion, that that God would require nothing of me to find connection in him and that God would not hold against me the letting go of spiritual life, formation and belief as I knew it.
For it was this relentless call to become someone I’m not that had to be released completely without reservation in order to heal my soul. The theology of never being enough, of being deeply intrinsically flawed and suspect at my deepest core, the belief I was only acceptable to God because he chose to overlook the unworthiness of everything that I am, that my friends was my death sentence and was a fatal flaw in the foundation of my psyche from which I could never recovery sanity. If that were to remain my foundation moving forward – that God was utterly disgusted with me and only could tolerate my being if I believed the right thing and postured myself in just the right way – I knew I would be utterly destroyed and unrecognizable as the person I once was. All life, health and wholeness would continue to escape me. I knew it would continue to bear the fruit of death, insanity and dysfunction in my life to believe that I was inherently evil and only acceptable to God because of a sacrifice where his judgment upon me was poured out on someone else so that he could tolerate being with me and “accepting me” because of looking at the worthiness of someone else. I knew at a deep, deep place in my spirit that I had to move on from this faith structure that promised life but only produced death. I knew this so deeply that I didn’t have words or explanations like the ones I offer here in retrospect. I just knew I was done. And I was ok with being done. If fear of judgment, rejection and abandonment were the final ties keeping me tethered to my construct of God, that God was not worthy of my allegiance and could never be the source of authentic healing.
Though it went against all the conventional “wisdom” of how to be pleasing to God, or “close” to God, or “growing” in God, leaving it all, leaving “God” as I knew him was the only path forward, the only path to life, healing and recovery from near insanity.
Instead I latched onto the knowing that a God who was the essence of healing and restoration would be present with me, as I am, without effort, without figuring out a belief system, or posturing my heart perfectly to “tune in” or reforming my character to be pleasing to him – for all of that was killing my spirit. It was the final and ultimate stage of healing my brokenness. To let go of “God” and with that, to let go of FEAR. To let go of every facet of being afraid. Afraid of not being enough, of not believing the right thing, of missing the mark, of not “being close” to God or “in” God’s will. All of that was suffocating. And I was drowning. The only option was to drain the ocean of fear and performance and effort and trying. To let go of every belief about God that engendered fear or shame or alienation or judgment of any kind. If that meant leaving “Biblical” faith or “salvation” behind, so be it. I didn’t have the luxury of trying to make healthy, life-giving beliefs, states of being or ways of relating to myself and others somehow “fit” into the Biblical landscape. I didn’t have the luxury of trying to deconstruct and reconstruct my faith in order to justify moving into this place of non-judgmental connection with myself and also simultaneously ensure that I was staying “safely” within the realms of the tenants of “being acceptable to God” in a “Biblical” evangelical sense.
And so I took the biggest leap of faith of my life and stepped out of the trappings of organized faith, religion and even a formal “relationship” with God into the core of my heart where I learned to be at peace with myself, at rest. With no need to analyze, become or build a belief system to make me acceptable or safe.
I was safe because I was connected. I vowed to never withhold loving connection from myself again.
And without naming it “God” or defining it as “holy” I knew (without needing it to be so) in the deepest place of my heart where unspeakably profound wisdom resides, that the place of relaxing into tranquil connection is where I could intentionally but almost effortlessly — without needing to feel, verify, define or prove it — commune with the divine, if in fact the divine existed at all.