When I was in my late teens, heading into adulthood, I was unsure of myself. I wasn’t sure about my spirituality, or how I felt about my family, or what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t even entirely sure that I was sane. I went through a period of intense questioning. My biggest questions were about God. Who was God? Was God really even there? If God was there, was he a good and loving God or some cranky guy in the clouds with a big stick and a score to settle?

What was the real point of Christianity? If someone asked me my opinion of church, I wouldn’t equivocate. I would smirk and say that it was a load of crap, that I had other things to do. Church made me feel guilty and dirty and even more unsure than I already was. I saw people getting joy from it and I hated them, I hated myself for not feeling what they were feeling. The only thing I did know with any certainty was that the status quo wasn’t working.

So I gave up. I stopped going to church. I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped doing everything. I started buying books about the Dalai Lama and Taoism. I read about Wicca and elemental spirituality. I buried myself in hope- hope that even if everything I grew up believing was wrong, that there was still some essence of goodness in the world, that there was still something I could connect myself to, to give myself purpose. Here’s the thing: I never questioned if there was some higher force or higher power. I was sure of it. And even at my worst, I still believed in a kind of god. That god just wasn’t the God of Christianity. Or, at least, that’s what I thought.

Because my God was a loving God. He was compassionate and tender. He didn’t want for people to suffer, or be judged, or be tossed aside. Yet the way I saw God’s name being used seemed to say something different. People used God to set themselves apart, to judge others, to justify their bigotry. And I couldn’t let myself believe in the same God they did.

I found a lot of the elements of the God I sought after in Eastern Spirituality. Here were systems of belief based off of truth and observation. They talked about a natural order, an observable rightness, aligning one’s self with the right patterns in order to be whole. They talked about how man kills himself with anger, judgment and bitterness. How pain is not your enemy, but a way to find truth. They talked about how the greatest good comes from sacrifice. And as I read these words, I found myself thinking, “isn’t this Jesus?”

Jesus spoke in the same sort of parables as the Dali Lama. He spoke observational truth. His words rang true because one could watch the world around themselves and see the evidence. He cautioned against anger, bitterness, judgment, and idleness. His death itself proves that there is no power greater than sacrifice. And certainly he didn’t view pain as the enemy if he was called the “man of many sorrows.”

I had an epiphany. No matter my contentions with the church, everything brought me back to Jesus. And I felt sure that I could embrace all that I loved the most about Buddhism and Taoism while still following God: mastery of one’s will, one’s body, one’s emotions, self-sacrifice… these are concepts that are very at home in Christianity.

(To be continued…)

From Emphatic Asterisk

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