I’m in Los Angeles, sitting in Swingers Diner. The air smells like onions and bacon, and before long I probably will, too. An Irish pub band is playing from the jukebox. I’m the only customer here. I opened the joint.
After breakfast I’ll head to an Episcopal church on Hollywood Boulevard called St. Thomas. It’s only a few minutes away and they have morning prayer services. The church is Anglo-Catholic, which may be a little foreign to me. But Sunday was a travel day and I couldn’t make it to church. Morning prayer will hopefully bring a similar feeling of comfort and peace to the one I experienced in Portland.
This has been a strange couple of weeks. I’ve done a lot of explaining, profile editing, and summarizing. I don’t know if I’ve done well or poorly, because I feel like my explanations have arisen in the middle of a process.
When I run into a comment online from a Pagan that says something like,
“…now that Teo’s converted…”
I pause and think —
Is that what I’ve done? Has this been a conversion experience? That sounds so final.
Perhaps it has been a kind of conversion experience.
Except I was a Christian before I was a Pagan. This is not the kind of “coming to God” that one has without context of Christianity. This experience is not the same as a 2nd generation Wiccan realizing that they are actually a follower of Jesus. This is more complicated, more nuanced, because I already have a great deal of familiarity with Christianity. That said, all of this feels less like a falling into an old pattern than it does an attempt to uncover a new understanding.
I get that people want to rush to define what’s happening with me, but I’m hesitant to do so. This urgency to label my experience as “conversion” is being directed at me from the Christians, too. There’s this mild (and sometimes not-so-mild) rejoicing going on, as though they’ve won one back for the team. I suppose that when I say things like, “I’m feeling drawn back to the Church” that can be interpreted on a very simple, surface level; i.e. I’m going to be a Christian again. It gets complicated when you start to tease out what kind of Christian I might be. There is not just one way, even in the church of the One Way. Each Christian sect has its own framework, its own subtleties of language and theology, its own rituals. And within each denomination are people with their own personal biases, and they bring those biases to every Facebook or HuffPost comment thread.
I shut comments down on my blog, as well as on the Wild Hunt post about my Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization in order to maintain a little autonomy as I process through all of this. Blogging has been a communal event for me for a while now. The dialogues on this blog and others have taught me about who Pagans and polytheists are, how they think, and what lights a fire under them. But in terms of my personal evolutionary process I’m finding that the feedback coming from the internet — be the commenter a Christian or Pagan — necessarily gets a little big wrong about my intentions, my perspective, and my use of words. It makes me wonder how much of the identity-forming that’s taken place since I first found Paganism online and started blogging about it has been authentic, and how much of it has been an engagement with the projections that others place on me.
This is the kind of stuff I think about while I’m waiting for my eggs.
As important as it is for me to write through my experiences with this reawakening to God in Christ, it feels equally important for me to refrain from subjecting my spiritual life to an internet-wide workshopping session. It will happen to a certain degree; it already is. And that’s to be expected. But I need to remember that what I’m doing here in this discernment process is not about anybody else but me…
Truth be told, I feel compelled to use these words — God, Christ, Jesus — and I feel somehow as though my life is being and has always been drawn into close connection to the Beings which stand behind those words, but I don’t know what that means exactly or how to explain it. It would be foolish of me to state with certainty that,
“Now I know what God is,”
“THIS is what Jesus wants for me,”
“Jesus is my best friend.”
It’s a little hazier than that, I have to trust that that’s ok.
But I do keep having these less-hazy moments when something small, or humble, or slightly broken about myself or another person will bring me into an immediate awareness of God’s presence in the world. In that moment I feel completely connected to everyone around me and fully alive in this body.
The best word to describe the feeling?