The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation

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Deep within me, even as a teenager, I knew deep down that blood was of huge significance to the Christian faith. I became a Christian quite by accident I suppose at the age of ten when I chose to get baptized because all of my friends were doing it in response to a prayer we had all prayed supposedly asking Jesus into our hearts. Theoretically I knew that the blood of Jesus was the big deal, the thing that actually bought our salvation, but practically I had no idea what on earth that meant.

About three years later, I saw a TV program where a young teenage girl got a razor blade and cut her wrists. I thought this was the best idea that I had come across in a long time and so beginning at age thirteen, I began cutting myself. For me it was about the blood, the drawing of blood when I cut gave me some kind of emotional release. Although this is probably disturbing to many readers, I instinctively licked the blood, and treated it as if it were sacred.

Over the years of my fundamentalist and evangelical life, I partook of communion often, careful to let people know that I wasn’t Catholic, as in, I did not believe that the grape juice in the little shot glasses turned into the blood of Christ. After all, my mother had told us, we weren’t cannibals, and it would be essentially cannibalism to take communion if you believed you were consuming literal flesh and blood. Back then that sounded reasonable and I went along with that thought, although often feeling guilty for the fact that I let my own blood flow and then licked it up. I was a disgusting freak and nobody else needed to ever know.

My all time favorite hymn growing up was “There is a Fountain” although I never really understood why but the words: “there is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” Somehow I understood that the blood of Christ was significant, but I wasn’t aware of how.

When I was twenty-nine, God shoved me into the Episcopal Church. I took of communion that first day I visited although I was nervous about it, and realized that I had partaken of the very blood of Christ and his flesh. I had told a friend that I would visit the church but I wasn’t sure I could go along with the bread and the wine being the literal body and blood of Christ thing. But my mind was changed that first time, when I was offered that consecrated bread, the literal body of Christ, from a man who I had offended, and the wine, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

I still don’t know that I understand the full significance of the blood of Christ, but it sure helps to keep my faith nourished when I go to mass every week. I no longer slice my own wrists, making my own body bleed, in an effort to punish myself or make me feel better. I no longer lick blood flowing from my body and treating it as sacred but not understanding why.

The Bible says that the life of the flesh is in the blood. I eat and drink the life of Christ every Sunday. God gave it to us as a gift so

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Awkward Stage

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This morning I got the privilege of bringing the bread to the altar, and the whole time I was worried that I looked awkward and out of place and that people could tell that I wasn’t a “real” Episcopalian because I haven’t been confirmed yet. I’ve learned a lot by just observing, but I still don’t always cross myself at the right times, or know the hymns, or know when to bow. I grew up fundamentalist and evangelical, and I was comfortable in my religion because I’d known it from the time I was a baby, I was cradle fundamentalist. But I’m not a cradle Episcopalian, and I’m still in the awkward stage, and I’m very self-conscious about it.

I think I’ve finally gotten over the fact that the first time I ever met my priest I told him to “fuck off, this is none of your damn business, and what the fuck do you want anyway” (not my proudest moment) although sometimes I still remember at the altar when he gives me the bread. So, even coming to the Episcopal church was an awkward moment for me as I emailed the priest to ask about the church and then told him who I was and apologized, when I should have called the church and apologized long before.

Nothing has come easily to me with this whole becoming Episcopalian thing, and it’s awkward at times but I’m not sure that that is necessarily a bad thing. The awkwardness makes me more mindful of what I am doing, and therefore I worship with more care and thought than I might if this was all old news to me. I don’t just copy what everyone else does, either, I watch for a few weeks when I see something new, to see if I can figure out why it’s done, and if not I will ask. Once I know the reason behind something, then I will do it. For example, I didn’t start dipping my fingers in the water and crossing myself until after I had spent weeks watching, and then I asked about it and I found out that it was about remembering my baptism and so, knowing it had significance, I learned to do it, not as an empty ritual, but as a ritual full of deep meaning.

Ritual can be a good thing, and it’s one of the things that drew me to the Episcopal Church. I still don’t understand or have observed all the rituals yet and so I don’t do everything right as I noticed when I sat with a friend this morning instead of alone and she did a whole heap of things I didn’t do. The rituals are beautiful and the journey is beautiful but sometimes it’s also awkward, although I think that in the long run, the awkwardness will turn into something greater. It’s awkward now and I feel like everyone is watching, waiting for me to mess up, but that’s not actually a bad thing. Our faith isn’t meant to be comfortable.

Being in this awkward stage keeps me remembering how awesome God is and has me think about things in a deeper way and therefore building my faith. So I’m trying to embrace the awkwardness and be thankful for it but often I’m still self-conscious.

Sexuality

It was a long process, in fact it took twenty-nine years, for me to realize that I was bisexual, and that being bisexual was not only ok, but God had specifically created me this way. God created me bisexual for God’s own glory. God intended for me to know I was bisexual and it pleases God for me to live life the way that God created me. It was God’s very design that I was to be bi and I’ve learned that it’s important to be who I was hand made to be.

I used to hate myself knowing that sometimes I struggled with romantic feelings for women as well as men. Fundamentalism taught me that who I was created to be was actually a disgusting abomination in the eyes of the God who created me. I tried so hard to change my sexual orientation because after all, I didn’t want to disgust God merely from the fact that I existed.

Sometimes people want to know what the point of “coming out” at age 30 was. For me the main point was that my relationship with God completely changed for the better after I realized God made me to be bi and that being bi wasn’t just ok, but it was God’s plan for me. I used to struggle with wondering why, if being bi was wrong, that it felt like being bi was part of who I was.

I attempted suicide about eleven years ago because deep down I knew what my attractions were and I knew it was supposedly a sin. Not just the normal kind of sin but a terrible, horrible, reprobate sin. In other words, it felt like I was made to be bi but my faith said that would never happen.

I decided to come out not to shove my sexuality on anyone who isn’t interested, but because it has deeply impacted my relationship with God for the better now that I am free to be who I was created to be. After twenty-nine years of condemnation and guilt, it’s liberating to come out as bi because my sexuality is a deep part of who I am, and so is my spirituality; and the thing is that sexuality and spirituality are not divorced from each other, they are connected.

Being bi is part of my identity in Christ, I am not sinning by being who I was made to be. For twenty-nine years I hated myself and resisted the truth that I was truly bi and instead set my heart on fixing myself. I was broken, but it was the deep judgment of my own sexuality rather than actually being bi that made me broken. Now that I know the truth about myself, I can walk in freedom. I choose to come out because in doing so, it sets me free. After all, Jesus said that the truth will set us free.