An interlude is a piece of music performed during the intermission at a theater. I have a few experiences that don’t fit perfectly into the whole “Name of God” thing but they are very intimate parts of my spirituality. I’ve only invited a handful of people into these stories. Please tread lightly as you walk with me into these places of my soul.
Another Fold of the Origami
It was a normal day at Great Harvest. We were kneading a batch of bread, shaping it into loaves, and then letting it rise on the proofing rack. J.P. was telling me and Beau about a teaching he had recently listened to. A priest went into the desert on a Vision Quest. He waited three days in the rain and cold for a Spirit Guide but none came. At the end of his “pointless” vision quest he stood up to leave, looked back on his Sacred Space, and saw that two trees had fallen in the shape of a cross. He took it to mean that Jesus had been with him the whole time. (J.P. told the story better than I just did, by the way.)
I circled back and asked J.P. what the hell a “Spirit Guide” was. He explained to me that it was an animal that might show up during a time in nature (a Vision Quest, a Retreat, etc.) that was supposed to reveal a deep truth to you. He said it could be a deer, a bird, an insect, or anything that God wanted to send to you.
I tried keeping on my poker face. I did my best to casually ask him what a snake would mean.
J.P. shrugged and said, “I’m not sure. Cunning?”
I could see that God was unfolding another piece of the origami he had crafted out of my time in The Big Thicket.
I went home and googled until my pupils were square. Snakes can represent spiritual power, healing (that’s biblical), protection, transformation, and rebirth (the shedding of skin). People with a snake totem are seen as gifted healers, charming, creative, and wise.
As a Christian, my philosophy with stuff like this was simple: keep the good, shrug off the rest. I was about to start a ministry focused on helping people find healing and wholeness. People find me charming and tell me I’m creative. I wasn’t sure about the transformation and rebirth stuff, so I shrugged it off.
At least I thought I had shrugged it off. It just needed to gestate for a few more years before I would understand it.
Floating on the Surface
I sat on my parent’s pier, looking out over the lake they lived on. I was alone and was enjoying the time to sit and be. My eye was drawn to a twig floating on the surface of the lake, being rocked by its small waves.
“God,” I prayed, “I feel like that little stick. I am being pushed around by forces too large for me to resist. I can’t handle it. I’m overwhelmed by fear.”
I only heard one whisper in response to my prayer: I’m the water.
Realization dawned on me. If I lost my direction, God’s currents still directed me. If the wind blew its hardest, the water would still hold me. If I sank, I would sink into God’s love. Even if I crashed onto the shore and out of the water, God’s rain would wash me right back into him.
Throughout the centuries, mystics, ministers, moms, and monks have spoken of God’s overwhelming presence. They’ve written of an amazing, unending love. I was experiencing their words. Every class I took in Ohio led me further into Love’s expanse.
I left those classes wondering what the fuck we were doing as Christians. Why weren’t we trumpeting a bible verse with the power to remake the entire planet- God is Love.
Love was why non-violence changed America’s race relations more than violence ever could.
Love was why I trusted God.
Love was why I believed that hate could never win.
Love was what changed us from the inside out.
I had experienced God’s love and it had changed everything. I could never go back to a cold, intellectual faith. I could never go back to rejecting people from my community. I could never go back to judging those different than me. I could see that they all were loved. I could see the delight of God’s gaze landing on all of them.
And if churches weren’t going to speak and act that truth to the world then I was going to tell that story to the best of my ability.
Read the next chapter: A god named Folly.