Why Jesus Freaks? Part Two
Why Jesus Freaks? Part Two
Welcome back! For those of you who were hoping I’d continue my Food Diary series, fear not. I’ll get back to that ASAP. And, as you’ll find out if you read through those posts and these posts—they intertwine in some really interesting ways. Frankly, they’re essentially the same story, just different characters.
Anyway, at the end of Why Jesus Freaks? Part One, I told you that I had fallen away from my Christian faith. My two year dance with the Pagans is not meant to be tongue-in-cheek as much as it is reality. I made incense, bought crystals and stones, studied potions and spells—really, I did—and I was fully committed to the idea that there are many paths to one eternal being, and I was just dabbling in several of them.
During this time I experimented with alcohol use, drug use (pot, and food, really, if you read my Food Diary posts), and struggled with my sexual identity. Now, I don’t know for sure which of these things I would have struggled with if I’d stayed married to my Christian faith. However, the experiences over these two years—including some unsavory bedfellows—later shaped what would become my personal warning to those who choose not to follow Jesus, or those who choose to turn away.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, obviously, since I’d chosen to place Jesus in line with the god’s of all other religions in the world, but the feelings of deep loneliness and anxiety were a direct result of my actions. I wasn’t feeling/experiencing these things because God was no longer with me. I was feeling and experiencing them because I had chosen to turn my back on God. I had chosen to walk a path he wasn’t lighting for me. I had chosen not to lean on Him for help. I was the one who had chosen to disregard His importance.
And my soul was paying the price.
Again, I wouldn’t fully realize this until several years later, but things were starting to come into focus for me.
In August of 2003, I enrolled as a Junior at Cornell University. As a senior in high school, I’d been granted a guaranteed transfer to Cornell from a school of my choice after two years. This shift, in and of itself, was incredible.
I was now surrounded by students who were all basically nerds, like me. While there was plenty of partying to be had—some of which I engaged in—academics were the priority. Which, sadly, was a new concept coming from SUNY Plattsburgh. I received a good education at Plattsburgh, mind you, but the general focus among the student body was less academic than at Cornell. By far.
Given my renewed drive toward academic excellence, which had previously taken a back seat to my partying at Plattsburgh, I backed off that “scene” quite a bit. I favored getting A’s and not wasting my parents’ money over drinking myself stupid. There was one time in my first semester that I really did drink myself stupid, and I’m just counting it as God’s grace that I didn’t end up in the hospital (sorry mom and dad).
At this time, because I now know that God is a master director and likes to line things up for me sometimes, the Episcopal community at Cornell welcomed a new priest, the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie. You can learn more about her career and what’s currently going on in her life by visiting her blog here.
Listen to me closely when I tell you, God used this woman to absolutely change the course of my life. What I’m about to write might not sound eloquent or even literate, because it was a God thing, not a man thing. Sometimes you’ll just “feel” something. You know, like love. You can’t describe the love you have for someone. Not your spouse, not your children, not your parents. Go ahead, describe love to me and make it coherent. Prove it, too, while you’re at it.
You can’t. But we know it exists.
The first time I laid eyes on Rev. Guthrie, a voice deep, DEEP in my soul said, “stick with her.” My heart swelled every time I was around her, and in her presence I felt completely at peace. Right. I clung to her every word and action not because I logically knew I should—but because there was this force inside me drawn to a force inside her. It’s like my soul recognized hers as an oasis amid a starving, arid desert. My soul lunged toward hers with the ferocity of someone so dehydrated their tongue sticks to the roof of their mouth.
Up until this year, when I’d pray or think upon this time in my life, I would say that it was Rev. Guthrie that saved my life. But, I know better now. I know it was much more powerful than that. God saved me through her. He used what he knew would get my attention: a soft-spoken, passionate, bright woman with a love of music and a deeper love of the prayer life. A woman who could at once be a mother, grandmother, priest, and friend. A woman who reminded me where my spiritual roots were, and how to get back to them. A woman who introduced me to St. Teresa of Avila—another woman who spent years meditating on the layers of the soul and prayer life.
Side note: St. Teresa of Avila wrote Interior Castle in the 1500’s. Upon Rev. Guthrie’s urging, I read this book, which is, according to the back cover, “one of the most celebrated books on mystical theology in existence.” I LOVE Christian mysticism, but THAT, my friends, is another post ENTIRELY. If you’re at all interested in a deep, mystical prayer life, do yourself a favor and pick up this book, and read as much as you can of this fascinating woman, who struggled in the 16th century with many of the same things you struggle with today.
Moving on. A year after meeting Rev. Guthrie, and becoming an active participant in the Episcopal church at Cornell University, I was confirmed into the Episcopal faith. It’s much like the confirmation Catholics take at some point in high school, but a little less “excessive” than being “born again”. I use the term “excessive” there from the frame of mind I was in as an almost 21-year-old Episcopalian. In the Anglican tradition, infants are baptized, you see, so there is no need for further baptisms.
In short, “Confirmation” is an adult’s way of confirming the vows spoken over them during baptism. Basically, saying, “yes, I agree to all of that.”
Little by little, things started vastly improving for me during this time in my life. My grades were excellent (I eventually graduated with honors), I wasn’t partying any more and drank only on social occasions, and my post-graduation future looked bright. I was gathering spiritual knowledge and grace by the bucket-full, considered attending Divinity school immediately following college, and was enjoying gifts in my life that seemed to be brought forth by my full return to the Christian faith. I was diligent in my church attendance during this period, and steadfast about prayer. You see, I was still caught in a vacuum of thinking that good works and a good prayer life would get me in right standing with God.
It was quite a lofty spiritual time. I felt like I was walking on clouds and singing with angels most of the time, but I knew nothing of the gritty nuts and bolts of faith. I didn’t know then that God was building up my faith in Him for days to come. Some of those days came fast, and some wouldn’t come for a few years from the time I was sitting in church, praying with tears of joy running down my face.
God was preparing a way for me, all right. A way that would require me to be able to call on these lofty, glorious times when my life seemed anything but.
Do you recall me repenting for worshipping other god’s when I reaffirmed my faith? How I denounced my practices of everything else? No? Because I didn’t. And, in failing to do so, each day I was putting walls between me and God. Walls I couldn’t see, but were impenetrable.
So, concluding this part, I want to say that I wanted to write Jesus Freaks to also explore what happens when a person returns to faith. Or, has it lopped off at the knees.
The latter of which, unbeknownst to me, wasn’t that far down the path.
Part Three to come, friends. Thanks for walking with me.
If you haven’t read Jesus Freaks: Sins of the Father, and want to, you can check it out at the following retailers:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1ruyOKf
Google Play: http://on.fb.me/1qg1y6G
Photo Credit: eyebiz