Oh my God.
I am immersed in studying the Bible for a group I’m in, and I’m actively trying to get my head around a healthy experience of Christian Scripture. Most of us don’t have that. Scripture is a deep well of truth and beauty, and yet people in charge have shat all over it for many, many years, and we don’t know what to make of it, so we have to form our own understanding in the quiet dark of early morning.
(Okay, so maybe that’s not you, it’s me. Whatever.)
I am an artist, and a writer, and I love people, and I love story. And one of the things I’ve uncovered in recent years is a righteous anger about the way God and Jesus have been handled and talked about by people in power. These people who I feel have been out of alignment, and just flat out wrong for a very long time, have dictated the stories of the Bible, and have suggested they know better, and have suggested I’m inferior in my understanding because I’m a woman, and they’ve tried to lock me out of the pearly gates. And now I’m like, Yo. I’m a mother and a writer and a teacher. I’ve been an academic. I’ve studied yoga. I’m operating a small business in its infancy. I’ve been through some shit, I’ve come out on the other side, and bitches, I’ve come to play.
Because every prophet needs a good pair of boots.
So much about Scripture is that it is a living, breathing entity. The way one engages with it is the way one might engage with a Tarot card. You look, and something beyond guides you, something that exists below the surface, beyond the literal. Only Tarot cards are kind of a problem, and I don’t do them anymore, because they just caused a big ol’ mess in my head. Scripture, on the other hand, is holy, a slow massage. It is not holy because it is the “literal word of God.” It is holy because it has the energy and seasoning of many many years, of many many hands of faithful people. None of those people was perfect. People who tell you what stories in the Bible mean do not necessarily know. Your job, your life’s work, is to uncover what God is calling you to do. It is to understand we are all different, and we all have a path. And if you are to lead a happy and fulfilling life, it has very little to do with big houses and fancy cars. (Those things are so nice, though!) It has much more to do with a life that is true to yourself, and true to your creator. And what’s true to being you does not have anything to do, necessarily, with someone else’s expectations and beliefs.
That’s the friggin’ truth.
We’re all toiling, trying to understand our lives and what we should do, looking for a leader to guide us.
Listen to Jesus. I mean, did he do everything his parents said? Did he sit in a cubicle for 20 years? Did he wear underwear? (We really just can’t know. He might have gone commando.) Did he get married and have a gaggle of kids? That guy didn’t even have a dog.
What Jesus says, over and over, and what other parts of the Bible and Old Testament say, too, is that the people deemed “leaders” are not your leaders. They may not be worth listening to. You can give them a try, of course. You don’t have to condemn anybody. But just because someone has wealth and status doesn’t mean he or she knows any better than you do in a particular situation. It doesn’t mean you have to hand your life over to him or her, say Here, live this for me. Your life is for you. You are meant to be you. That’s why you were created. Not to be a shadow of someone else. Not to live in fear and shame and guilt and a deep sense of wrongdoing for being alive. Jesus’s whole point—and, um, I never read a part where he says you should live in shame?—is that you deserve to be here, and you deserve to be alive, and the greatest goal is not all of these earthly cares but exists in the simple act of breaking bread, in love, in kindness and generosity. And the people who do this best are often on the fringe of society.
Living this way doesn’t get you into a mansion in Beverly Hills, usually. Living this way actually got him killed.
His is still a radical message. Still.
Trying to discern God’s path for you, trying to form a relationship with this Massive Everything-Being, takes time and work, but it is the most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have. It sets you free. It really does. I mean, there’s a lot that is a pain in the ass about it too. An active faith means you discover, again and again, all the shit you don’t and can’t know. (You’re humble, instead of egotistical.) You end up being judged by people. (Even people who say they follow Jesus, and even though Jesus says not to judge!) You end up feeling alone sometimes, or on the fringe, or like an outcast. You end up making decisions that to other people—people who have different operating systems—just doesn’t make sense. Because a lot of people’s operating systems is Being Successful in the World, or Being Appreciated by People Who Matter, and your operating system is Love, Truth, Love. (And also Wisdom. Don’t want to forget that.)
And this is all very tiring! And illuminating. And tiring! Which is why it’s good to watch a nonviolent TV show once in a while.
But the path of Love has good company.
You’ll have Jesus, who is so so sweet and so misunderstood. He died for Love, by the way. Like Romeo and Juliet. People killed him because he taught love and challenged authority. He also didn’t have any money. He was also homeless.
You’ll have Mother Mary, who smells like roses and soothes you like a calm river.
You’ll have Saint Rita, my personal favorite saint, who is the cutest, like a teddy bear for your soul.
And you’ll have people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the women who we don’t know because all the books covered them up and it’s time to unearth them now.
In the concrete world, you’ll have good friends who give you hugs, who meet you in your confusion and give you a boost.
You’ll appreciate music, and you’ll dance, and you’ll eat a donut or a cookie with utmost glee.
And you’ll meet cool people in coffee shops all the time. Coffee shops are like sanctuaries.
All of this sounds like a ramble, but my intention is to tell you that what Scripture backs up, again and again, despite the people who tell you they know it so well and who judge and condemn and suggest damnation and hellfire, is that our True Leaders are not always the leaders the world assigns. It takes a deeper thinker, someone who can read between the lines, to discover this, over and over and over and over again. The True Leader does not have to be old and gray, someone called an “elder.” The True Leader does not have to have accumulated wealth or prestige. The True Leader does not have to be a married person, or someone with kids. The True Leader does not have to wear nice clothes. The True Leader does not have to have a penis. (But there is nothing wrong with penises!)
The True Leader is kind, and not just because they read a Bible passage that told them to be. They just are. The True Leader is nonjudgmental. The True Leader is someone whose presence fosters a feeling of love, and whose expression of truth may unsettle you. When you’re interacting with a True Leader, you feel accepted. You feel seen and acknowledged. The True Leader has self-respect, and operates from a system beyond traditional societal rules when those rules are just plain dumb, or when those rules are discordant with the higher message of Love. Interacting with a True Leader might appear, at first, to be confusing. Your head will have to catch up with what your heart knows.
So look for a True Leader today. I’ll bet you find one. She or he may not be in the place you expect, or look the way you thought they’d look, but you’ll walk away with a lesson.