Religion vs. Spirituality

pexels-photo-1245066Like a lot of folks, ​I remember being beat up and put down, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for such a very long time. Some of my misery came from my own poor choices, to be sure, but a lot of it was a response to trauma and/or mental illness.

Regardless the causes, the blackness where my spirit had been eventually became too much for me to bear. No amount of self-medicating was enough to relieve the pain. So I began investigating options.

I found my way to a place where they said they wanted to care for and help me. They told me about a Savior who loved me, and then they shamed me for having scrapes and bruises. Their words and actions told me that my wounds were my own fault: I’d not sought God enough, I’d not suffered enough, I hadn’t conformed enough for them to give me the love I so desperately needed…so I changed my hair, my clothes, my makeup, prayed more, I cried more, and I did my best to be who they seemed to want me to be.

None of that was enough for the people I met there, who claimed to represent HIM. And I didn’t know any better than to believe them.

I left there more wretched than I’d arrived. I left with no hope, where at least when I had arrived, I had a glimmer of hope. I went to other places where “God-loving” people congregated. The results were the same.

Having once had an ENCOUNTER with the Spirit of God (and the feeling of complete love and acceptance in SPITE of my sins), I knew that the problem here wasn’t HIM. But these folks were seriously doing me more harm than good, so I had to go.

I went back to the gutter where I’d crawled out from, back to the mire. This slow death was familiar; at least there was no false hope. Nothing to cause me to think that life could be better, and simultaneously rip out what little there was left of my heart and soul.

This is the story of a sick and dying person who sought help from pious, uncaring  religious people.

The street life sent me seeking the safety of a loving God. Churchianity sent me back to the streets. At least I knew what to expect, there, and was familiar with what came next.

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Once mental illness, addiction and spiritual bankruptcy had adequately broken me, (or more to the point, I found a REASON to live that was greater than what I’d ever had before) I started looking for a spiritual solution. Again.

Thankfully, I was allowed to observe someone I’d admired, as he began to climb up out of a similar place of pain and misery. He had tried to find answers in traditional religion, as well. But, like me, he had come out of the church seeking for MORE.

I mean, when you think of God, at least in America, don’t you usually first think “church”?

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Anyway, I found that when I began to earnestly seek to know Who God really is, He showed Himself to me. I bought a new Bible, w/o the highlighting that someone else had influenced. I looked for the FULL picture of God’s personality. Is He angry? Not usually. Does He want to discipline his children? No, actually. He goes to GREAT lengths to keep from having to do so.

A thing that I learned about God is that our idea of Him is MASSIVELY affected by our relationship  (or lack) with our earthly dad. It was a turning point for me when I looked at God and purposely did not impose my ideas of human men onto Him.

Today I am still learning and growing. I know for a fact that God loves me and is on my side. Like a strongwilled child, sometimes I may rage on, wanting MY WAY. He lets me rage. He loves me too much to let me have my way, a lot of the time. When I am finally exhausted from struggling, He holds me and gives me good things.

Firstly, seek Him. Learn about Jesus. Dont put too much stock into what most folks tell you. People will always let us down. He NEVER has, and NEVER shall.

God didn’t send His son to condemn the world, but that through (Jesus) the world might be saved.

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Yes, I have scars.

When you think of scars, do you consider them flaws, or signs of damage or vulnerability?

I did for most of my life. I have some scars that are quite apparent, and more which are not. One of the more obvious (to me) would be the scars from where my ear was re-attached when I was about 18. Yet, in reality, I wear my hair up most of the time and I can recall literally no one noticing it. The closest I’ve come was recently when a co-worker mentioned that I had only one earring in that ear. She hadn’t noticed that it was because the other earring hole was too close to the edge of my lobe, due to the scarring, to realistically put in an earring; just that there were 2 earrings in one ear, and only one in the other.

I read a post recently that talked about the Japanese art of mending ceramic flaws with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, so that the repaired item is more beautiful than the original. Sometimes the broken area is replaced with a right-sized piece of another piece of pottery, making a quilt-like appearance.

It’s called “Kintsugi” or “Kintsukuroki”. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this, if you’ve ever been to an art museum or looked at a National Geographic magazine.

This got me to thinking about my scars. Like most of us, I have both external and internal scars, as we all have. Is it a cultural thing, that when we see a scar, we see a flaw? And is a flaw necessarily a bad thing? According to Kintsugi, the scar is simply a part of the items’ life experience, not bad or good. But once it’s been repaired, the damaged area actually adds to the beauty of the original.

Then there’s the western culture of throwing damaged items away and buying new ones.  The spiritual philosophy of Kintsugi is one of awe, reverence, and restoration. Kind of like how the Japanese traditionally honor their elderly, and embrace all that they can offer. And America, well, does other things. Not the least of which being how in our culture aging is made out to be a dreadful, almost accursed thing. God forbid a woman let her hair gray naturally or not buy the best wrinkle-removers she can find!

Anyway, it has me thinking about my perspective. Some people say that scars are a sign of something that DIDN’T beat them. That’s good, right? It’s not untrue, is it? But I (maybe you, too, I don’t know) was sold a ridiculous bill of goods that said that scars are imperfections, need to be hidden (there’s a cream for that, you know), and certainly will disqualify you from being picked first for…anything.

Where are you going with this, Ab? I’m glad you asked.

Traditionally, for whatever reason, people wrestling with alcoholism, addiction, and/or mental illness have been considered defective, or broken, at best. So, ok, I’ll give you that. I, for one, was fairly shattered long before I discovered how to self-medicate. But not broken beyond repair, as I discovered. Drugs & drink were the Scotch tape that held my ceramic heart and mind together. The cracks and chips were incredibly obvious, and the tape did no more than keep the pieces in the same locale. It didn’t make me functional.

I consider my Higher Power to have taken the broken shards of my being and fit them all together again. He used the gold and silver of the Steps, Spiritual Principles and the folks who came before me to hold me together, and the result became more beautiful than anyone could have foreseen. The shiny veins of gold and silver make what was once a plain vessel to be even more valuable than before it was broken.
I was convinced that the wreck that was me when I came into the Rooms would never be much more than a leaky clay pot, if that. God has taken my brokenness and turned it into something closer to what He intended me to be. All I had to do was hand the broken pieces to Him and let Him reassemble me. The beauty is demonstrated when I reflect the Light He shines on me. I can reach out to offer others the tools for living that have been freely shared with me, and I have the scars to prove that I’ve not always been this way.

I’m 2019 Abbie. I approve this message. God continues to amaze me by His mercy and grace.