Hi everyone. And by everyone, I mean Kate and Hannah. You're the only ones subscribed to my blog, and somehow I think that's my fault. I'm so grateful you're there, though -- my open rates and click rates are always 100%, and that feels amazing. In this blog, I want to share the introduction to my new book, but before I do that I should probably make sure you both know:
Hey! I'm writing a book!
It's going to look at how studying Buddhism (and a few of its specific teachings) helped open my heart to Jesus and see him and Christianity in a different light. Maybe not a 100% theologically sound, you-should-be-teaching-Sunday-School sort of light, but I do think there's something to be said for creatively finding your way back into the arms of the Church. So here we go. The introduction to my book that I'm writing.
In our family there were two things to do: eat and go to church. But it’s not like it sounds. It didn’t feel forced onto me at the time. I earnestly loved and desired to understand God. As an eight-year-old, I asked my father how I could hear the voice of God. He told me God’s voice isn’t really audible, but if you sense something it will likely sound like a whisper. And to hear a whisper, you have to practice being very quiet.
Our homeschool curriculum had a grammar book that was about 300 pages long and a Bible class book that was about 270 pages long. We took the Lord very seriously. My middle school and high school memories are primarily dominated with driving in the car to church, eating at Taco Bueno on the way to church, working at the church daycare, singing in the church youth group and babysitting in the church’s nursery. And somewhere in there, I also earned an education and worked part-time as a nanny.
Per typical homeschool stereotypes, I had no interest in regular activities with girls my age. It took a lot of energy and coaxing to get me to not hang out in the adult Sunday School class and pick the teacher’s brain about the latest scripture or teaching. Young people were silly, I thought. Adults just made more sense.
I told everyone at home not to worry when I left for college -- I wouldn’t let Baylor convert me to being a Baptist. As a freshman I assumed the same role: church on Tuesday nights, Wednesday nights, Friday mornings and Sunday mornings (both services). Leadership meetings were on early Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In between those commitments, I worked a 15-hour work-study job, held a 15-hour class load, mentored three girls for one hour each week, all while being tossed into 24/7 living around people my age for the first time in my life. Culture shock was my every waking moment. Church service was the only place that felt normal until one day something just wasn't OK.
The point of this book isn’t to talk about the breakdown of my Christian faith. It’s much too nuanced and painful of a story to write in excruciating detail. What matters is that like many people I knew growing up in church, I felt a true desire to know God and follow Jesus--until a lot of things came crashing down and it felt impossible to find him amid the rubble. At my college church and then a few years later the church I was raised in, I saw the worst of the worst: fraud, domestic violence, abuse, you name it. Some of my closest friends were mangled to pieces, accused of “doubting questions,” of being demon possessed, of being manipulated into converting. I lost entire circles of friends because I stepped down from leadership to focus on my studies. Everything I had known that was so certain and true felt as if it disappeared overnight. At age 20, I stopped regularly attending church, and by the age of 22, the world I had known and the person I thought I had been were completely obliterated and I made sure everyone knew:
I'm sorry I didn't stand up to authorities who made absolutely no sense. I'm sorry I allowed a book about life get in the way of living it. I'm sorry for believing that faith should beat you into the ground when you're bad and let you get off when you've done all right. I'm sorry for pointing my finger at my neighbor instead of loving him unconditionally. I'm sorry for submitting myself to weekly spiritual inspections that only served to make me hang my head in shame. I'm sorry for taking those beatings and then smashing them into the hearts of those who trusted me. I'm sorry for being submissive and merely swallowing "the truth" instead of digesting, questioning and wrestling with the deepest and simplest of thoughts.
Most of all I'm sorry I lost touch with love. I'm fighting my way out of a closet of horrors and away from this mirror that daily screams at me of the ways I hurt so many people around me. But today I choose to forgive myself and give this love thing another try.
- November 7, 2007
In 2012, I began exploring Christian church life again with a local Orthodox and then later a Catholic church. For cultural reasons I felt like I needed to become Catholic and “pick a side.” No sooner had I been confirmed in the church did I become a real Catholic and stop going to mass. What was a meaningful and intensely intentional decision on my part, my conversion soon began unearthing a lot of demons from my past. Little did I know, there was a lot left to explore both personally and spiritually.
The purpose of this book is to share what I found when I couldn’t find any other way out of the bottom of a pit. When I would reach for Jesus and I couldn’t find him, when I felt that he was dead as a bug I had squished with my shoe. In desperation just to live a decent life, I began looking into meditation and found a Buddhist meditation teacher. The practical benefits of breath awareness meditation (especially when you’re a naturally anxious person) are innumerable. The teachings I encountered would ultimately lay the path for finding peace in following Christ and, ultimately, writing this book.
I found there were familiar echoes in everything about Buddhism, which is strange (if not frightening!) to a person with a background in straight-laced, fundamental Christianity. Instead of running from in fear, I opened to these new ideas, and surprisingly I found that studying Buddhist teaching softened my heart toward Jesus. It makes no sense, and I’m not entirely certain I know how any of it happened.
But what I do know is this: I live in a city with hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose faith has been obliterated at the very same hands as my own spiritual destruction. I feel you cowering even as I write this -- because trusting, reaching out to be heard, it feels too risky. And I can’t go to sleep one more night knowing that you think you’re the only one who was left to die on the street.
My mind is an odd one, I know. Please accept this as my humble offering about how I was able to make some small sense of Christianity, following Jesus and how I’m trying to find my place in the Church universal.