Our group therapist tells us that there’s really no such thing as a plethora of emotions; only four base emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. I think that my story of moving to Colorado might be summed up by how I experience all four of those emotions in regards to this crazy thing called Christianity. I used to feel great joy, and excitement, and hope at the promises of the epiphany and the reality of the resurrection. But that happiness is often dwarfed by fear: fear that none of it is real, after all, and fear that I’m wasting my Sunday mornings on church instead of bottomless mimosas or a later alarm, or fear that maybe I wasted a fancy liberal arts education on an ancient thing that is silly and unhelpful. These doubts then evoke a great sadness, because I want to rejoice in the richness of the Christian tradition and belief: I just fear I might not be able to. Coupled with that sadness is a deep anger, at the exclusion and oppression and evil that the Church has created, perpetuated, and remained complicit in since its conception.
My faith hasn’t always been so conflicted. An evolution occured since my whole journey with Christianity began sweetly and joyfully, full of healing and hope, at a summer camp in high school. Since then, and especially during my senior year of college, I realized how much each emotion had grown in conflict with another, and felt myself becoming someone who was curious about Christianity intellectually, but too bitter and antagonizing to embrace ideals like grace and forgiveness and compassion towards my enemies or the oppressive structures of this world. I chose the Episcopal Service Corps because I wanted to give this whole Jesus thing one last shot: to see if I could find people who still joined Jesus in overturning the money lenders tables in the temple, while also stooping in humility, kissing the white supremacist, homophobic, and patriarchal pharisees’ feet.
Annie Dillard writes, “I would like to learn, or remember, to live…. We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience–even of silence–by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting…yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity (Living Like Weasels, Dillard).” As much as I sometimes want to fight it, I reluctantly admit that Christianity might be that most live spot in my life, the most tender and vulnerable pulse that evokes in me the deepest and most carnal emotions of joy, fear, sadness and anger. Like Dillard says, I want to learn to live life alive: yielding to the instincts that enliven me to serve and enact change. My callings should make me feel alive: a calling should not lampse into a boring or tedious part of my weekly schedule. My hope is that this year will be a journey towards finding out whether or not Christianity is my single necessity: and if so, yielding to that impulse as though it’s the only thing that will keep me alive.