On Sunday I entered the church a little discouraged but trying to fake it until I made it, and I was explaining to a woman how I was trying hard to make money although I could not work a traditional job right now. This has made me feel bad about myself and internalize myself as lazy or useless or worthless. I didn’t say any of those things to this woman but God knew how I was feeling and God used her to minister something special to me. During our conversation I told her that I had written a book and was trying to sell it, and that I sell used books on half.com and used items on eBay. I told her that I also sold Avon and that none of these brought in a whole lot of income but they did bring in a little.
I said that it was discouraging how hard I work and how hard I try and don’t really make much money except for a couple of dollars here and there; but that I rely on that small amount once in a while to get by. I was smiling and talking and enjoying the conversation with this woman but inside I was telling myself how horrible and stupid I am to not even have a job. Thinking I wasn’t even worthy to be at church with these people who were smart and not useless like me. But the conversation ended up being amazing, because this woman said something so profound and just what I needed to hear.
She told me: “you’re an artist, us artists piece our lives together”. I realized that what she said was true, and that my life is art that God is making with small pieces of mosaic tiles. Each individual mosaic piece is rough and out of context and doesn’t mean anything on it’s own; but you piece them together in a design and they become a beautiful work of art. I am art, and my life is beautiful and all the tiny pieces are very important.
Another conversation I had with a lady from my church was about flooring, she was telling me that if it was too hard to tile a particular area that I could just smash up the tiles and make a mosaic with them, which was not only a great idea for the floor but a great idea for me too. Yes, I have been shattered, 2013-2014 made sure of that, those years didn’t just kick my ass they shattered me. I was broken and had no idea where to turn and it was so dark that I couldn’t see. I couldn’t even see Jesus, the light of the world because my life was so dark. The pieces that were shattered will never go back the way they were; in fact I don’t think they’re supposed to. Rather than looking neat and orderly and all in line, God has chosen to create a mosaic out of my life instead.
I need to trust that the artist knows what they are doing.
Coming to the Episcopal Church has changed my life completely, and I say that knowing that it’s God who changed my life but it’s also God who shoved me, kicking and screaming, into the Episcopal Church. I didn’t want to cause hurt to my previous faith community and so I stayed longer than I should have. I was walking in disobedience because I knew beyond a doubt what God wanted me to do but it was hard and I didn’t want to even though I was excited about the prospect. I remember realizing that if I stayed where I was, my faith would die completely and that if I wanted to walk with God, I had to walk the path that God had chosen for me.
Sometimes, I have a love-hate relationship with being (almost) Episcopalian, because it is hard. When I go to church and partake in the liturgy and the Eucharist, those privileges come along with some tough ways of worship. When I’ve been hurt or offended by someone, I have to go to church on Sunday and pray that I forgive those who sinned against me just like I’m asking for forgiveness. I promise out loud with everyone else to forgive those who have hurt me. I also kneel and confess my own sins, asking for forgiveness and accepting the absolution from the priest. If I’m going to request forgiveness, I need to give it also, because the weight of my own sins far outweighs the sins people have committed against me. If one of the people in my church has hurt me, I still have to wish them peace, and I’m the kind of person that ain’t going to do it if I’m not going to do it properly; meaning that if I’m going to wish someone peace, I’m damn well going to mean it.
This promising forgiveness is always a tough but needed part of the service for me. I love being (almost) Episcopalian because it gives my faith the depth and meaning that I was looking for and couldn’t find elsewhere. Although many believe that I came to the Episcopal Church merely because I’m a liberal; that’s not entirely true. There were many reasons I came to the Episcopal Church and that was just one of them. One of the other reasons, the big reason, was that I wanted the depth and meaning that I knew it would give to me. Ritual was important to me, but only if the ritual meant something, I wasn’t seeking empty rites which is why I left fundamentalism and eventually evangelicalism (which ended up being two sides of the same coin really).
Being (almost) Episcopalian means making promises to forgive even when I don’t want to. It means actively seeking unity; especially when I’ve been hurt or offended. The big themes so far for me in being (almost) Episcopalian are grace, peace and unity. Walking with God means doing the tough stuff and that means extending forgiveness to those who I’d rather just stay mad at.
While fiction is by nature a story that didn’t actually happen, it’s a story we can learn a lot from, just like the stories in the Bible. Some of those probably didn’t actually happen either but they were used to teach people what was right and wrong. This week I have been immersed in “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole, as part of a class on gothic and horror literature. I really enjoyed the book despite not really thinking that I would. One thing throughout the whole book struck me.
Most of the people in the book didn’t even wish for their enemies to go to hell. When they talked about the eternal destinies of their enemies they still wanted God to send their enemies soul to heaven. This is probably as Christian as it gets: when we wish for those who cause us harm to be able to be alive in Christ with us in heaven. It’s part of what Jesus was talking about when he said that stuff about loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us.
When I broke up with my ex-husband, someone who thought he wasn’t “saved” (as in, hadn’t prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into his heart” said that I should find comfort in the fact that one day he was going to get what was coming to him in hell. Even if I believed hell existed, it was not comforting for me to think about my ex going to hell, no matter how miserable marriage to him was. This was a gentle and kind friend whom I love greatly who said this, and it shocked me and reached down into the very core of who I am and I knew it was wrong. Never should we wish for anyone, all of us humans created in God’s very image, to burn forever in torment just because we don’t like them.
I’m not sure how the idea of any human being frying for eternity can be of any comfort to anybody. Even if there is a hell, we aren’t somehow superior because we are not going there. We’re all humans and God loves us all. I’ve been shocked to realize how many people that I have known and loved have been excited about the thought of somebody ending up in hell. If hell exists, it’s not a pretty place, although I believe our hell happens here on earth, different ones of us with our own private hell that seems like it was meant just for us.