Deconstructing a faith without harm

Deconstructing a faith without harm

I should always listen to Rage Against the Machine before writing. I find that listening to even one of their songs equals three giant cups of coffee and helps me to unclench my jaw. Sometimes the words need jostled from their moorings. Do you ever stand in the middle of your house and sing, maybe scream, at the top of your lungs?

Sometimes the screams inside me need to come out and breathe, to circulate, naming what’s been held too tight. While many of the years of my life have held sadness and joy, the heaviness of the past several years has done a number on the wellness of my soul. I freely offer this.

Too often we hold tightly to our feelings, never allowing them to see the light of day. Sometimes we pass away, never having offered them to anyone for a reprieve, a lightening of our load. We’ve been taught not to express our emotions for fear of offense, and while I internally fight myself on oversharing, I try to never be afraid of saying what needs said. But the toll of things has left me tattered, slightly disillusioned.

I find differing emotions funnel much of my creativity when it comes to writing on what’s in my head, ongoing current events that matter to me like dismantling racism, restructuring failed systems, the pandemic. I don’t judge those emotions because they’re mine.

Much deconstructing of what and how we’ve been taught certain things roils within me. I’ve used some of it to probe gently at the rigid layers we’ve clothed ourselves in. My aim is to bring up what gnaws at me without beating people over the head with it.

As someone who grew up Mennonite, I’d venture to say we’ve been beaten over the head (gently!) with several important beliefs: love one another, treat one another as yourself, be a helper. None of these are inherently wild notions; in fact, they are exactly what Jesus told us to do. Which is why for the last year of our pandemic lives, I’ve watched as many have rejected these simple precepts. (Masks! Distancing! The horror!)

To many, it seemed the notion of putting on a mask was akin to putting on handcuffs. I sat in silence many times, wondering how we could continue to tell each other to act humbly, with mercy, and treat each other with kindness when we rebelled against the very simple things that would do just that. My very struggle was looking at the faith I was taught to hang on to and realizing it was inadvertently being used in ways that harmed others.

My creativity has taken a beating as I’ve waited out this long year. My daughter still awaits day by day for her fiancé and his arrival, our excruciating immigration system and the pandemic making that wait even longer. I long to see my other daughter and her husband after 16 months of not seeing them. And I haven’t seen my son, his partner and my grandbaby since September. Someday soon these things will come.

I leave you with a poem I wrote recently. Because when all else fails, I can still write poetry:

if fear had a home

if fear had a home it wouldn’t be mine. i embrace nameless murmurings and the soft echoes that penetrate crumbling wallpapers, the tingle of misplaced energies that hover in midair, like dust motes gently falling through stagnant space.

if fear had a name it wouldn’t be mine. a disdain for held back desires not in anything i’ve ever spoken into this mystical place we call earth. what I’ve wanted and claimed and sought with grabbing hands mine alone, without fear entering the slim space between reserve and abandon.

if fear had a shadowy heart to slip inside of it wouldn’t be mine. my wild, yet cautious chambers holding no ounce of horror except what i choose to partake of, to drink from. don’t mistake my caution for fear, lips forming what is mine into misshapen forms. a grotesque shape fashioned by words i won’t claim.

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