In the beginning of my foray into Christianity, I felt like I was forever going to be stuck behind a wall. I loved all things about nature, living things and the earth. Most of all, I loved my role in the play called ‘Life and Living’ and I didn't need any help with that part. I wanted to be among it all, in the centre of it, doing a dance, singing a song, feeling the dirt on my sweaty face. I was certain this made me a Pagan (or at the very least a secular hippie chick) and that this just wasn’t going to fly in any church. I love the ways streams twist and turn down the mountainsides. I love the way damselflies speed across the surface of a pond. I love the light in September in the late afternoon as the sun goes down. I am a girl who belongs in this world as it is. I feel like I have already found heaven here on earth.
I’ve always been proud to describe myself as a 'worldly' person (meaning, of this world - not so much the well-traveled, well-read variety) but have stumbled on the fact that it seems being 'spiritual' and worldly are two opposite states according to the dictionary and the definition of secular. Is it possible to be a person who lives fully with their hands in the earth and revere all that has been created in the world while still believing in a God? Is it blasphemous to put earth (that which I appear to believe I can control) above heaven (that which I can't see)?
As random reading goes, I have been delivered three excellent bits of wording to potentially help put the final nail in my worldly coffin.
Sara Miles, who came from a non-religious background, found herself a friend in Jesus later in life and proceeded to start a massive Food Bank out of her church in San Francisco, wrote two great books called: ‘Take this Bread’ and ‘Jesus Freak’. Both are excellent reads for anyone headed anywhere and coming from anywhere. In ‘Jesus Freak’ she points out how worldly divisions (such as family and money…) get in the way of God’s instructions and separate indivisible parts of God’s creation.
I also recently flipped open to a page in Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘An Altar in the World’ that talked about how reverence by definition is the recognition that there is something greater than the self, something beyond human creation or control and something that transcends full human understanding. That all makes good sense right? But then she goes on to say that not only God meets these criteria but so do birth, death, sex, nature, truth, justice and wisdom. I noted that all of these elements appear in the day to day living on a farm with a family (especially justice as far as who gets the bigger piece of cake goes). So, is operating a farm and raising children an act of reverence, because sometimes it feels like it might be a self-righteous attempt to do God’s work? Not coincidentally, Barbara Brown Taylor also lives on a farm and writes very well about how her days tie into her beliefs.
In addition to worldliness, the definition of secular (that which does not relate to religion) also includes the notion of heeding to a temporal existence. As far as taking care of wee children and other living things goes, I am sideswiped daily by the needs of the beings around me. They run my existence (my time at least) and I’ve always held the belief that all of these worldly things that I do in a day are my anchor. But are they the very thing that separates me from access to God because I am too bogged down in my temporal duties?
I also recently read ‘The Shack’ by William Young that illustrates a heartbreaking example of how humans make attempts to control their entire existence and it eventually becomes their undoing. In it, God interacts with the main character over breakfast and explains that women generally turn away from God to men for security and men turn to themselves or the ground instead of God. (My feminist self got a rise out of this as I generally find that I turn to myself and the ground before I turn to a man but either way I got the point cause I was most definitely not turning towards God). Anyway, once again, I was being bombarded with the idea that humans are so willing to escape into fixed time and space to avoid the reality of the wonders that be.
My witty, cheeky stepbrother who frequently now asks me since my recent baptism how my ‘imaginary air friend’ is doing, would get an incredible kick out of that last statement. How could I possibly describe the spiritual world as reality and our human tasks as a fantasy world? Oh how far I seem to have lost my marbles now, hey? But I have to argue that worldly things do seem to be what they are without my help. I seem to be there to do a bit of the work but if I’m honest, I’ve had to learn to take some guidance as I so frequently feel like I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent and a farmer. I also believe that the things that are beyond our understanding are equally real in our lives, if not tangible, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not.
Barbara Brown Taylor brings it all home by simply saying that even reverence is not something we can make or manage ourselves. So, with this I am brought to believe that my awe of nature itself is actually something that could come from God. Perhaps I had nothing to do with even that. So I suppose this lets me off the hook then. God can still work through me in this worldly existence of mine.
I may be still unwilling to jump off of my perceived life raft that floats just outside full surrender to a higher power, but I definitely think that God lives in every single part of this piece of land that we reside in. Mine seems to be a worldly God. One that finds me in the middle of my tasks anyway and even if I’m meddling with the damselflies.
I recall the promises I made out loud the day of my baptism. Almost all of them included, ‘I will, with God’s help’. So its settled then. I’ll do my part in this family and be active on this farm, God. But I’m going to need your help.