Travis and I just got off of a 21 day cleanse called the Clean Program. It claims to address the root causes of poor health. This is my second time doing this particular cleanse, and I love it. But, that’s another blog post. I’m talking about something completely different.
This is the start of my spiritual cleanse.
It's time to address some of the root causes of my own uncertainty. I’ve been struggling for a long time and grappling with my own spiritual journey. I don’t even know what that phrase means — spiritual journey? I’ve felt a big hole in my soul, a missing piece, a lack of connection to my place in this world. It’s been heavy. There’s a lot of anger, hurt, confusion and disappointment surrounding my path to believing and understanding the higher power that I know as God.
You might be thinking, “Woah, this is a little heavy for a parenting blog.” I know. Sorry. For many of you reading this, you might have some reactions or judgements about this post. You might find yourself wanting to wait for my next topic - Parker’s Silly Potty Training Moments (which could be just around the corner). But, please stick with me. No matter what religion you believe in, or how you identify spiritually, I need all of the perspectives I can get on my cleanse. I think we could all use a little dialogue and deeper understanding of the bigger picture. Don’t you? Especially with all of the crap going on in the world.
I can’t stop watching the news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris and other spots around the globe. I'm more than a little terrified about global warming and the impact on Parker's future. I don’t understand what would lead someone to take a gun and open fire at a school or a Planned Parenthood clinic. I’m at a complete loss when I read about people getting killed because of the color of their skin, who they love, or what they believe in. It’s exhausting. The world is kind of a shit show right now, and I’m trying to prepare myself for the day (very soon) that Parker will ask me, “But why Papa?” It will inevitably happen. I can see it in his eyes. He’s a deep thinker. And, I have absolutely no clue how to help him navigate his life as a spiritual being, when I can’t even articulate what I believe myself half the time. I have to figure this out. As his Papa, I’m convinced it’s the most important thing I can for Parker.
Thus, the decision to begin this spiritual cleanse.
To get started, I have to get rid of some baggage. Or, in cleanse speak. I have to rid myself of some toxins. Here are just a few:
- I don’t understand why friends get cancer. I've got lots of "there's no good reason for that" baggage.
- My dad never got to meet my son. He died too soon, and my mom has been forced to overcome enormous grief. So, I’ve got some "anger at God" baggage.
- I’m still pissed at a youth minister I really looked up to. I was 10-ish and trying to understand things. I asked why the Bible didn’t talk about the dinosaurs. If God created the earth “in the beginning,” why didn’t the Bible shed some light on why the dinosaurs went extinct. He scolded me and told me not to challenge or question the good book. Let’s call this "careless teaching" baggage.
- Over the past two years, I’ve been dragging Travis and Parker to countless churches in the Bay Area. They’re on my spiritual journey, whether they like it or not. When we finally thought we found “the one,” the pastor asked me to coffee. He told me that he could tell I was on a spiritual quest and really sensed I was wanting a relationship with God. He said that I was welcome in the church, but would need to renounce my relationship with Travis and become celibate. Ummmm. A healthy dose of "religion" baggage. Didn’t see that one coming.
- Oh and, I’m gay. Yep. Baggage.
I have to become a more grounded Papa. I want my son to look back on his life and say, “I know what I believe in because my Papa (and Dad) helped me grow spiritually.” Or, something along those lines. I want to him to live a life full of purpose and awareness. I want him to be a spiritual being and to feel a deep connection to a higher power. I want him to find his own path and do good in this world.
Before I go on, I think it’s important to note. I do believe God exists. I see it/him/her (that which I don’t understand) in Parker’s eyes every day. I hear it in his laugh. You can’t look at my son (or any child) and not believe in a higher power, even in this very scientific world. I also believe that I will never and can never fully understand who or what God is. To pretend that I will be able to comprehend how this higher power fits into our human existence is slightly arrogant and short sided, I think. All I can do is seek. And, help Parker do the same.
My spiritual cleanse is about challenging, studying, thinking, not judging, having faith and loving others who have different beliefs than I do. It’s about forgiving myself and not beating myself up. It’s about being vulnerable, honest and raw. I believe deeply that God wants to have that kind of relationship with me.
I’m going to use this year to learn from a variety of sources, explore different traditions, examine different religions and try to find God in unexpected places (I already had a pretty good conversation with God listening to the new Adele CD, but more on that later). I’ll study things I agree with, those that I fundamentally disagree with and those I don’t understand. I want to learn. I want to grow. I want to know that I am helping my family deepen our own connection to our place in this world.
Here are some of the things I’ll explore and share over the next year.
- Parker’s birth mother is Punjabi. She's a practicing Sikh. So, I’ve been studying and trying to understand this part of his heritage. I’m going to learn more about their beautiful commitment to hospitality and kindness. Even if I don’t follow their beliefs, there’s a lot I can learn about their relationship with God.
- I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. My 5:00 a.m. runs have become my time to contemplate life. One of the most transformative interviews I’ve ever heard is a conversation with Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and a deep thinker on religion in today’s world. I’m not Jewish. But, I can’t wait to research and search within this faith. Mr. Sacks asks thought provoking questions like, “Can we see the presence of God in the face of a stranger?” I think about all of the bad in the world and wonder, can I see God?
- I also love Rob Bell. He’s a different kind of pastor. Actually, he’s what we’ve been looking for in our search for a church. He’s kind of ruined it for us. I love his books, his podcasts and his interviews. I walk away with a deeper understanding of my intense lack of understanding, and that makes me want to learn more. If that makes sense? He helps me think about God differently.
- I recently heard about Ignatian Spirituality. It’s spirituality for everyday life. It insists that God is present and active in our lives. I heard about it while listening to James Martin, a Jesuit priest. I’m not Catholic. But, I do love the Zags!
- My mom introduced me to the book, "The Shack". I’m just starting it. For those parents out there, the first part of the book is tremendously hard to get through, and I haven’t been able to yet. But, she assures me that it will be worth it on the other side. In the book, God takes the form of an African American woman, Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit physically shows up as an Asian woman. Yep, the liberal in me LOVES this.
I think there is so much we can learn, and it doesn't have to be in one church, with one religion. Don't get me wrong, I think a community of believers is an important aspect of our spirituality. But, I want more out of my spiritual cleanse. I have to believe there is more.
I have a several goals for myself with this series of blog posts.
- I want Parker to read these posts one day and see me wrestling my own spirituality. I want him to know that it’s ok to question. I want him to teach me one day.
- I want to see joy, love, happiness, kindness, forgiveness and laughter in life. I don’t want to wake up every morning and see evil and hatred. I probably shouldn’t turn on the news, huh?
- I want to celebrate differences – not simply tolerate, ignore or politely pretend they don’t exist. I want it all out there. I want to get to a place in my life where I can see God in everything – no matter what.
- I want to get to a place where I don’t roll my eyes and have massive heartburn when I encounter those that invoke God to push an agenda, bully or diminish another human being, or believe that they’ve got God all figured out. My blood pressure’s already boiling. This one’s a hard one.
- I want to learn from others. I want dialogue — rich, juicy, hang onto your hat, can’t believe we’re talking about this dialogue.
- I want to become a better person. I want to contribute to life in a much more meaningful way and leave this earth a little better than I found it. I want to do my small part.
- I want to get out of my head and live a spiritually connected life.
I hope you'll read along, share your thoughts and challenge my way of thinking. Like I said, I need all of the perspectives I can get. While there is no medical proof surrounding cleanses, they do say that you’ll feel a ga-gillion times better after you do one. Let’s hope that’s true. I guess I gotta have a little faith.