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Leaving Church ~ A Dream Finally Come True

Reflections from Solitude and Silence Retreat No. 30

Jun 26, 2018

Saying For Today: Yet, when you are left alone, there, right there, you can realize a world of people have been left alone. Realizing that, being left alone can be redemptive for you, rather than destructive to you.


Alone

This is the thirtieth of the series of reflections arising from a month in silence and solitude; the musings invite the reader to explore the Truth for himself or herself. May the writer's reflections be windows to look in, or out, onto the vista of our one Beloved, our deepest, truest Self. Peace! Brian K

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The following poem depicts one of the memories that arose during solitude. The poem, unlike most of mine, is raw, blunt, and I could be tempted to hide it or tone it down, making it more presentable. That would be a disservice to the sacredness of what happened and how it scarred my life, even how it was a contributing factor to my divorce with possibly the only woman I have ever truly loved as a woman, one whom I had been married to 17 years. All that has happened, however, is soon seen to be holy, even the painful, even the betrayals, other's betrayals of us, our betrayals of ourselves; this holiness, not meaning what happened in itself is holy, but our story becomes holy. Every detail is taken into that story, and you begin to be thankful for it, all of it. Your life, all of it, you begin to celebrate as sacred.

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I was raised in the church. We lived about a half-mile away, were present twice on Sundays, every night of revivals, every evening of Vacation Bible School. Bibles always in hand, and do not dare talk during worship. Be quiet, listen, be a good boy. Church was part of the air we breathed, as natural and everyday as breathing the scent of cattle and swine that populated our farm, or the smell of the dusty country roads weaving through our south Georgia community, called Handtown, because so many of the Hand clan once lived there. Christianity was the one true way, we were going to heaven, everyone else to hell, except babies and children. I started as a preacher age 15, was a pastor age 16, was ordained age 24, was a religion professor for a church supported college age 29, after receiving a Master's and Philosophy Doctorate. I missed being the youngest, by weeks, granted a Ph.D. by the seminary, one of the largest in the world. I was set for life, was married to my best friend, was living in a home we owned - our first after years of renting - yes, set for life, so I thought. I left the college, by my choice but at the kind and veiled encouragements of the dean, for the religious fundamentalists were pressing to get me fired. I was 'liberal' to them. I gave a year notice and, then, left without job or income, after 6 years teaching - I would miss that role for many years, I loved working with students, seeing those eyes light up with the thirst for knowledge. I was tired of the fighting over the Bible, the blaming, the betrayals, the meanness, all in the name of Jesus, all that had been par for the sect I had been part of since birth. Then, I returned to serve as a pastor in another sect, while I attended Medical School. Then, the dream.

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At least most of the time, I do not hold blame toward the church for releasing me as a clergyperson or my eventual leaving of the church. Yet, neither will I likely ever trust it again, in any of its forms. I have seen too much. I have learned you can love something or someone, yet know not to trust, unless your heart leads you to trust. I have learned not to trust any institution, and I do not believe it is wise to do so, and I do not see it as dignified to do so. Yet, my leaving and being left by the church is as much about a man being pulled more and more into Truth and away from dogma, and into opening the heart to all, than about what some organization did to him - I would not give anyone that much power over me, that too is not dignified. In some way, they were being truthful when saying 'you don't fit' - and those were the exact words, as I sat surrounded by clergy and laypersons who had pronounced this sentence of unfit for serving our churches as pastor, then, asked to pray for me. We bowed head, and the prayer seemed void of any hint of inspiration, more like a vapid religiousness, painting a tombstone with plaster to pretty it up. This felt more like flowers being placed on my grave, so everyone could just walk away, guiltlessly. Or like those who kill persons but say, "Jesus told me to do it." And they did walk away, and they did not look back. Not one person among all those involved, not a single one, ever contacted me to inquire as to my well-being. I spent many years trying, now-and-then, to find a place in the church as a layperson, and finally exhausted the effort, and stopped attending. Yet, when you are left alone, there, right there, you can realize a world of people have been left alone. Realizing that, being left alone can be redemptive for you, rather than destructive to you. In some sense, we are alone already, and that is okay, that is being human; and that does not mean we are shut away from others, but able to share aloneness with them, instead of deny it.

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While being honest about these things, I am not bitter, I was. I am thankful, but it took a long time to get to gratitude. I still love Jesus, and I am thankful the church gave me a foundation to grow in and from. Have I forgiven? I do not go around hugging a grudge, the forgiving is 'God's' business. My business is to be true to what I am now. I am thankful, now on Sunday mornings, when I cycle through town and into the countryside, and I am not there in one of those church buildings anymore. I ride by enjoying the sounds, the breeze, the tone of weather, hot or cold, hugging my skin.

I miss preaching, persons said I was among the best at it; I always felt most at-home in this world when delivering a positive message to persons, and the more present, the better. I mostly miss officiating the Eucharist. But I do not cycle by angry, I cycle by thankful to be enjoying the gift of another beautiful day, the gift of this wonderful world wherein we each are lovely in our own way, even if others do not see it or want to see it, even if others say you do not belong. Today is a gift, being wounded by others can open our heart more to Love, and I pray never to hug close resentment about the past, but to honor my life is sacred, my journey as holy as any other. And to remember not to focus on those who seem to have hurt me deeply, but those who have blessed me thoroughly by their presence and grace. Also, I am thankful for those who find joy in a church, that is good. Will I ever return? Who knows, but not now, and no plans to, but it would be a blessing to find a little sanctuary to snuggle into, in the back, and simply be present to a sense of the sacred. Maybe, maybe, one day, but not today.

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A LONG GOODBYE

dream
she - my then wife - i - young preacher, in my mid-30s
white frame
little white church
steps up the front sides, going high steep, left and right
she and i
walking down, walking away
everyone else, walking up, walking to and into
this dream, this walking 20 years ago
did not know then
already leaving, leaving away
did not know then
how many years, decades
i would be walking the same steps alone
(she left me, and it long before)
did not know then
i was already leaving, had been
did not know then
a 'goodbye' can take a lifetime, or more, to say
did not know then
how life is like a bird that flies
from a branch always moving somewhere else
did not know then
how life like wet paint colors
merge always into something else
did not know then
how life like candle wax flows from
flame to flame
i did not know then
how much you would hurt me
the wounds I would bear, maybe for life
i did not know then, in my innocence, so much
i now know
about how fidelity can take your life from you
leave you dead long before you die
before i finally could hold on no longer
i love you, always will
sometimes miss you
but should have walked down those steps, away
before you finally said, 'you don't fit'
when first vowed to you
i did not know then
one of the conditions was fitting in
thought not fitting in, was the way, honest way
admired Jesus, since a little boy, for not fitting in
and that inspired me to seek Truth
regardless of the pain it brought into my life
afterward, that day
(i remember it like now)
standing by the peace river, wondering
what now?
my friend, she standing with me, to comfort
she had no answer, nor i
i could not see then
can now
the parting, so painful, such a gift
lost to you, to find myself, my way, Love of life
so, i guess it's good to say,
thank you
i am lost to you
the gifts i could have given you, no more
need i say i forgive you
'God' can
sincerely,
your grateful heretic child

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To awaken to our natural dependence on the Truth within, and Its authority with us, most of us will have to suffer a painful disillusionment regarding all external persons claiming authority to arbitrate Truth for us. Such dependence will be left behind, to give oneself wholly to Grace within. Soon, hopefully, we will see all such persons and institutions as no more or less human than we are and, so, turn within together to the Light that already enlightens, aglow in the inner Sanctuary, the Heart.

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alone

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*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at 77ahavah77@gmail.com .

*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.

*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.

 

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©Brian Wilcox 2018