Heart, Mind, Spirit, Hands, and Derby
I haven’t done a post like this in a while; literally haven’t spent much time in the past year thinking much about God or my journey. I was talking with one of my friends today who has become a charismatic christian within the past year, and listening to her talk about her faith reminds me of how I used to be, and not in a bad way. I remember I used to be so excited about God and what God was doing, and how my life had a lot of purpose and I was being called to this grand calling. All my sins had been washed away and I was waging daily battles against Satan, and each day was therefore important. Every decision I made, every mood swing I had had divine import and consequence. I was ready to experience God all the time. I truly looked for signs and wonders from God everywhere I went; if I encountered a certain scripture or verse multiple times, it was a sign from God. I was ready to receive prophetic words, to receive God’s words in scripture, I was ready to encounter people God wanted me to meet, I was ready to share my faith, I was so so so excited. I mattered to God, and what I did mattered to God. And nothing was impossible because I had a strong, powerful God paving the way for me to fulfill God’s will.
I can’t tell you the last time i felt that way, or even viewed God or my purpose in that way. I know that the way I experience God is still valid, that the way I experienced God before was valid, and that it’s the same divine Love that has always been with me. I know that. But I honestly barely know it. And I don’t feel anything anymore. In the past view, I’ve seen what I thought was God’s path for me become essentially a daily misery and I’ve seen it all fall apart. I’ve seen myself become completely disillusioned with most of my passions or interests or what I felt my calling was. Logically, my depression resurfacing because of stress has a lot to do with it; but mental health and spirituality are never disconnected. It’s not a cause and effect situation, and its not a vacuum.
I know I’m not happy with where I am in my head, my heart, or my spirit. But I don’t know how to build it back. I don’t know where to start. My first instincts are to “do my first works over” and to retreat back into emotive evangelicalism, because it satisfies my need to feel my faith. But I know it wouldn’t satisfy my deeper needs–to have a faith and purpose that makes sense, not just something that feels good. I know too much about how the brain works to feel satisfied with how emotive evangelicalism plays off of our body’s psychological responses and then attributes it as a religious experience when really it is a formulaic manipulation of our senses.
And yet, discovering God through academic theology and critical thinking is not gelling with me anymore either. It doesn’t care for my soul at all. My brain is full, but my heart is empty. There’s lots of academic theology that is philosophically and logically sound, but it is so so cruel for people experiencing suffering and pain. There is tons of liberation theology that is completely inaccessible to people who need to receive its truths. And few seem excited or energized about a God or divine force they have experienced. Few people I know seem moved to love God or love people more because of a paper they wrote, honestly.
Even my passion for justice, which has been an anchor for my identity, has become thin. There’s only so much criminalization of homelessness, murders of friends on death row, winter deaths on the streets, extrajudicial killing of black bodies, and awful legislation that can be passed before I start to wonder if justice is even a thing that exists. Normally when I lacked passion for God, I would find it in service to others and in advocating for what I knew God was about–love, peace, justice, mercy, compassion. But now I feel like there’s too much work for my hands to hold, and also the work I have available to me seems to amount to nothing in light of our collective struggle.
So, I’ve joined a roller derby team. It’s been a dream of mine since I was seventeen. And it feels just absurd enough to feel right. Right now, I don’t know if there is such a thing as justice, if love will always win, if there is any purpose to my life or to our human narrative. I am horrible at being a good graduate student, and shopping for groceries and making adult budgets is hard. I don’t feel like anything makes sense for me to do right now but to strap on some skates and pads and whale on some people. Yeah, sounds about right. This shit is crazy and is also one of the few things bringing me abundant joy right now.
And I think, while I’m in this transition of my life in terms of how I experience and understand the divine, knowing that abundant joy IS possible is giving me so much hope to keep pushing on. To feel joy fully in my body as I’m doing laps and blocking drills and strength training outside of derby practice is so so life-giving to me. To feel fully anchored in the present moment when I’m in derby practice is something I desperately need. It’s not a new idea that we work out our feelings and spirituality through our bodies, but it’s a whole other thing to truly experience how healing it is.
So, if you see me, and you ask me how I’m doing…I will tell you school has been awful. I will tell you I’ve had a really hard year. I might tell you how I haven’t been to church in months, or how I’m re-getting over every breakup I’ve ever had all at once. I’m learning how to feed myself well on a budget and am really stressed about it. I will tell you I feel lonely a lot. And I will probably also not be able to shut up about how I just joined roller derby for real this time and how much joy it’s giving me. And that’s the reality I know right now.