For all of you who are telling me you feel fake and you aren’t sure, either, if you are a Christian because of the Bible – I get you. Maybe you aren’t sure about coming out of the closet yet. It’s okay to hold silent while you figure things out. Here’s an entry from my Questioning Faith journal where I was doing just that.
It was written not very long after my amazing father-in-love, James D. Seitz, finished his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. At the time, I was the head of a non-profit whose mission was to make movies, books, and TV shows embedded with culture-enriching values (which was often mistaken to mean solely “Christian” values).
Week 3 Day 2
Today I am going to return the pastors’ calls. And I’m going to give myself the leniency to play pretend. I know the language well enough. It’s funny that I spent years believing in the concept of the holy spirit in me recognizing the holy spirit in another, helping me discern who the “true” believers were and who they weren’t. If that concept is real, then things are about to get very interesting.
I think that concept is more an endorsement of intuition than anything else. I know when I’m in the presence of a liar, usually. Don’t really need a holy spirit to tell me that. Just need to pay attention.
I don’t want to be a liar with these pastors and others in the church.
At the same time, there’s something to be said for holding one’s counsel until one is ready to speak.
You know, I’m beginning to understand why gay people feel the need to announce that they’re gay (not that losing your faith has ANYTHING ELSE in common with being gay – or, if it does, I don’t know about it because I haven’t lived that experience). I walk into every situation knowing that the person in front of me (if they know me at all) assumes we have a common faith in Jesus. And it feels deceitful to let them operate under that assumption. It’d be like letting someone believe I’m a man or a billionaire or a beer drinker (wine or whiskey, please!) and then standing there while they go on and on about being male or rich, or how that oatmeal stout was to die for and they’ll run grab me a bottle.
It’s letting someone operate under a false pretense about me. And then putting myself in a position of holding up that false pretense.
Nearly every single person who has learned of Jim’s passing has reminded me that he is in heaven and I’ll see him again. And I have smiled and nodded. I have furthered the pretense. So, on top of wrestling with grief, I’ve got deceit raging through my system and I do not deal well with deceit. I’m the chick that wants to write every wrong I’ve ever committed on a blog and blast it to the universe!
But I think I have to let the pretense play on for a while. It doesn’t feel like the right time to “come out” yet.
Besides, I’m learning so much by just listening to all of these believers and realizing how much of the language I used in my own day-to-day existence. I’ll miss all those insights once they know I don’t believe. They’ll guard their language, many will probably remove themselves from my life even. It’s going to be a lonely time, I’ll bet. That’s probably another reason to hold off. I need to let the loss of Jim settle into a peaceful place before I start saying goodbye again.
Also, Grace has got enough on her plate without having a deserter daughter-in-law.
So much is running through my brain today, it’s hard to be organized about it as I sit here and write. I had an incredible night of sleep, wrapped in Charles’ arms. I woke up feeling as if I could move mountains. My first real laugh – not the fake one I’ve given so people feel better in my presence – since Jim died happened this morning, when both kids hopped in bed with us to watch the news.
I’m getting through it, finding a way to accept that “missing” has a bigger part of my heart forever now that Jim is gone and yet I can still do the “living” and “loving” alongside it. I can even, for a couple of seconds, set the missing down and laugh. It comes back, in a split second of thinking Jim would smile at this or Jim would enjoy this, I’ll have to remember to tell him – oh. And then there’s a split second of guilt that I forgot and laughed, and then a correcting of myself because Jim would not expect me to never laugh again. He’d tell me to enjoy life while I could. He said as much when he was alive.
So, I guess part of enjoying life today will be calling pastors back and living under the pretense in order to keep the peace and continue moving forward.
It’s going to be an interesting day.
End of Day – Another Knock on the Closet Door
I called them back. They didn’t answer. I left voicemails.
I also got an email from a ministry worker today, introducing me to a pastor who needed SON’s help. He described me as, “…this gifted and passionate disciple of Jesus! Her mission, in part, is to encourage Christian authors to bring their message to those who would be blessed to hear!”
I cringed. I’m gifted, yes. (Am still learning to accept this and to determine the limits of that gifting – and I’m not sure it’s gifting [which implies a gifter] more than just being lucky with genetics.)
I absolutely accept that I’m passionate. Yep. Lots of passion here. Passion in spades. For things both acceptable and unacceptable in polite society. Ridiculous amounts of passion, truth be told.
But the rest? Yes, I feel as if my life has a mission. It revolves around the power of stories to help people be better…to be our best selves. Stories move us. They awaken us. Told properly, they urge us toward action that makes things (people, places, situations) better.
Stories are transcendentally powerful.
The Christian faith roots people in a lot of truth – sacrificial love, forgiveness, courage, kindness, goodness, and the like – but it isn’t the sole root of creating powerful storytellers. So, I guess I need to reject that portion of this man’s description of me.
Not that I can do such today. No. Today, I stay in the Christian closet and try hard to be okay with what feels like deceit. I read his words, change them in my mind to what feels more like truth, and attempt to set the rest aside.
And I go back to grieving over the loss of Jim. Either he is one of the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) now and is witnessing my struggle, or he is long gone and I’m on this journey without any of the people I’ve loved and lost alongside me.
I think it could be the latter.
That breaks me.
It rips at the fiber of me.
I want my Aunt Retta to be watching me, manipulating what she can to ensure that I eventually arrive at Truth and Understanding. She loved me – in a more pure, self-sacrificing way than any person before or after. I don’t want to let go of this idea that she’s hovering in a cloud of witnesses above me, even though I’m pretty sure I have to.
And this knowledge requires me to be stronger. Can I be stronger? I thought forgiving my past abusers made me the equivalent of a warrior woman. Really! I honestly feel no ill will toward them anymore. Through more hard work than it took to build an Egyptian pyramid, I found a way to realize they knew no better than what they did to me. They, too, were trying to live. Trying hard to be better than what they knew. I’m doing that, too, and probably hurting people along the way.
Can I be stronger now? This is not necessarily a bad demand of life. A hard demand, yes. A bad demand? No.
I can be stronger. I can take, deep within me, the grace and wisdom of Retta Harris Moultrie born in 1896 and single her entire life and the woman who, in part, raised me on a farm my family has had since before the Civil War. I can feel her blood in my veins and love that her genetics are my genetics and hear her lilting accent in my own and love that her adoration of the written word is what keeps my eyes glued to pages so many nights. She is a part of me. She lives on, in part, in me. Because she lived into my life.
Jim did, too. He lived into my life.
Granddaddy did, too.
That “great cloud of witnesses” referenced in Hebrews 12:1 – a verse reference that is tattooed on the inner part of my left wrist – lived into my life.
My great cloud of witnesses is here, within me. It is a cloud that surrounds me not because some ancient book with contradictions references such but because I am aware enough to know that their words reverberate within my being, that their ideas swirl within my mind, and that their love filled holes in me that otherwise would have remained cavernous and echoing.
We love each other and, in so doing, secure our immortality.
I am not a disciple of Jesus, pastor. I do not encourage Christian authors. I encourage writers – no adjective, no descriptor, just WRITERS – to impart themselves into the lives of others and I specifically seek, encourage, and help those writers who have life-giving, enriching principles to embed into lives beyond their own.
I am a writer as well.
That is who I am.
That is my passion.
Because a cloud of witnesses lives on in me, whether I’m in the Christian closet or out.