When we walk out, or indeed are thrown out, of an organized faith group, it can be likened to experiencing a death or a divorce.
Our old religious persona is well and truly dead following our disillusionment with God and His religious representatives. We grieve the passing of our ‘old believer Self’, the one who rode the roller coaster of religious life with both exhilaration and dread. The ups and downs, the twists and turns of metaphysical desire and its accompanying ‘rush’ have well and truly gone, leaving us in our darkest moments with cleansing tears as our only form of comfort.
As in a marital divorce we leave behind a group of people whom we genuinely believed loved us – the communal authenticators of our old religious Self. As the light dawns in the death throes of our group committment, the desire mechanisms of the quasi community and its powerful dynamic become all too clear. Here, love was of the conditional variety, not that of Divine Love itself. As long as we bought into the group’s collective belief system we were loved; as soon as we begin to doubt or question it we were viewed with growing suspicion, a possible agent of the Enemy in the purified air of the holy camp. Such a realization is further borne out following our departure from the Sunday morning game. A lack of contact from those once considered dear friends only confirms their diagnosis of spiritual leprosy or ‘unbelief’, a virulent disease that might contaminate the remaining ardent followers whom we once counted as ‘family’.
In such a vulnerable state, the Divine Presence begins our much-needed program of healing. Bathing the wounds of grief and rejection our recovery takes place in a sacred space far from the environs of organized religion viz. the desert place, the ER of our psycho-spiritual Attending Physician. Far from the battlefield of belief, something gentle, yet authentic, begins to take root in the furrows of our ploughed psyche. Little shoots of Spirit growth begin to break through the compacted ground that protects our highly sensitive, fragmented psyche. In the darkness of Self doubt a little light of validation appears on our soul horizon. A sense of belonging to the One who lies beyond the definitions and religious franchises of men.
So how does this recovery of Self continue further down the metaphysical road?
Not surprisingly, our healing may continue under the canopy of a self-imposed agnosticism or indeed angry atheism. Divine Love doesn’t seem to mind not being believed in as long as He/She can find the space to stitch up our deeply felt, psychic wounds. Many of us mistakenly view belief as the evidence of Divine connection, one that Sacred Unity desires in its insatiable desire for validation. Not so. The One outside desire, only seeks the wholeness of His/Her Created Children, a wholeness that can only be produced on the Potter’s Wheel of our choosing. The metaphysical label that we give ourselves during our lengthy recuperation doesn’t bother Divine Presence in the slightest. It is only too happy to work with what and where we are.
Needless to say that our contact with believers from our previous particular faith brand will be limited and necessarily so. The old language of ‘belief’ just doesn’t do it for us anymore. Such words or clichés now act as sharpened daggers reopening the still healing wounds of our scarred psyche. I remember meeting one of the main leaders from my particular group a few months after my hurried departure. After a hasty and embarrassing ‘hello’ I was immediately asked which church I was now attending. In my stunned state, I quickly answered in the negative and that was that – conversation over to the great relief of both parties. Interestingly, the very same guy later left the group after an extra marital affair had nearly destroyed his marriage, consequently finding it extremely difficult to fit into a traditional run-of-the-mill faith group.
In our non religious desert Divine Love brings along those who can help us in the healing process. Often they are fellow wounded souls, who can identify with our checkered Journey. This is part of our re-validation as a person. To know that we are not alone is literally a Godsend as we camp out in the wastelands of our recently stripped psyche. The mutuality of such a vulnerable joining can help us receive and pass on Divine Love in a form that lies outside the old definitions of religious discipleship.
As with visiting strangers so with spiritual reading. As we detox from our old Sacred Writings and our previous interpretive specs we find new sources of inspiration for our tenuous God connection. These may be psychological in nature or flow from an alternative, spiritual belief system. Whatever comes our way will channel a Divine energy that we sorely need. We will want to understand why we became devotees of our previous faith group in the first place. We will also look for reassurance that Ultimate Reality is bigger than the box we previously viewed and indeed imprisoned it in. Divine Love itself will be our librarian suggesting books that you need to read at certain times in the Healing journey.
I remember sitting in Belfast airport and Divine Love whispered that I should say hello to the man sitting beside me at the boarding gate. After a few minutes, Sean, a recovering alcoholic, was advising me to read, ‘Awareness’ by Anthony De Mello. On my return I gave it a go and it was one of the most empowering books that I’d ever read. The right book for the right time. Some of us won’t be able to face religious or spiritual books for quite some time, still undergoing the cold turkey experience of withdrawing from a fundamentalist reading of Holy Writings. Best to read good novels or hobby books for a while. God won’t be offended!
In my next post I’ll continue to explore the Divine going’s on as we continue to be molded into a new and somewhat exciting shape for the Journey that still lies ahead.