A Lack of a Spiritual Home.
(Okay, first off, I have to name that I cringe every time I heard a church say the words “spiritual homelessness.” A few times even I’ve heard churches or faith leaders say, “Yeah, poverty is bad, but what America’s real problem is spiritual homelessness.” It’s important to name up front that there are some metaphors and turns of phrase that are helpful and some that are very toxic. My goal in writing this post is to describe an experience I have while also not build upon what I consider to be an unhelpful comparison.)
Y’all, I’m struggling. Not that this is anything new, or even a bad thing. There is much to be said that the crux of theology and practice is discovered within the struggle. A few months ago, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Church, and am sad to report that joining a new faith tradition does not equal finding spiritual peace or even closure on the ways other faith traditions have hurt you. I wish it were so.
Once upon a time, I wrote an article that went viral about my struggle with the United Methodist Church as a queer person. At the time, I was leaving the ordination process but was still very committed to remaining a United Methodist, because I felt that “If I left this church totally, I would just be a Methodist sitting in another denomination.” I did not anticipate leaving the UMC, and when I officially did six months ago, I did feel a sense of peace at the time. I no longer identified as a Methodist and felt comfortable in the UUA. However, lately I have grown a sense of discomfort in the UU church where I belong, and not for any fault on their part. Rather, I feel a sense of disconnection because it feels as if my heart is somewhere else. It feels as if my people are somewhere else. It feels as if the language I speak is being spoken somewhere else. My language and traditions is honored at the UU Church, and I understand their language. But the things I still claim as my own are often treated as something to be studied and appreciated. Sometimes it is implied that nobody in the room could possibly still claim that tradition. As such, sometimes I feel alien to the church I now belong to. I feel appreciated, but I don’t feel I belong.
So, where did my sense of belonging go? Is that sense of belonging still in the UMC? Not necessarily. I’m not sure where it is or where it went, or why it’s giving me the run around. While I’m not sure what I believe about Jesus anymore and while I seem to be doing fine spiritually without super regular sacraments, I still crave the rhythms and shared practices of liturgical Christian traditions. It’s almost Advent and I can feel my heart yearning for the shared languages and texts and reflections of anticipation and the Here-But-Not-Yet. I don’t necessarily crave going TO church, mass, or the eucharist on Sundays–that’s never been a thing I’ve been good at–but I desperately need communion with other skeptical Christians without a home, too.
It sounds like a joke, but I really do remember that line from Brokeback Mountain–“I wish I knew how to quit you.” I wish I weren’t so tied to and called to a tradition that doesn’t love me back the way I need to be loved back. I wish the mysteries of Christianity weren’t so embedded in the way my body and brain was knit together. I also wish that I were more attuned to the way Christianity is ‘supposed to be practiced’ on Sunday mornings. I wish I could just join a tradition that already affirms me and just fit there.
But, perhaps that has never been the way I work. Perhaps it has never been my calling to fit into something seamlessly. I remembered recently about some words I wrote this time last year when I was contemplating my ordination- that I have always been called to the margins, both of society but also to the margins of the church. Perhaps I was always meant to be an ecclesial and theological rebel.
I have no idea. I always feel the need to summarize any essay I write with some awesome deep conclusion where I figure out the tension. I don’t know what any of that is or looks like right now. For now, I’m just sitting in the struggle with God.