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Divinejoy

Identity Crisis

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I'm a week old newbie to this site and am so grateful for the wonderfully supportive atmosphere that I see here.

 

I have been struggling with being able to call myself a true Christian because I thought my path didn't look like the the mainstream versions of Christianity.

 

I was raised Roman Catholic complete with 12 years of Catholic education. I came to know God through Christ in an experience that was dutiful and the importance of being morally right and good were stressed. The Bible would confuse me because it was sometimes taught as literal fact and other times presented simply as metaphor. I cant say i was traumatized by it. i have fond memories of attending folk guitar masses, taking part in community projects, and celebrating holidays with my family, etc. I have always felt a certainty and love of God and the teachings of Jesus, and have never denounced or discounted my beliefs. I just became disenchanted with being told there is a right or wrong way to worship or understand God. It felt incongruent with my understanding of what Christ taught....unconditional love, understanding, compassion, tolerance.

 

I stopped attending mass during college but never gave up God or trying to live with Christ like qualities. I left the brick and mortar, but I never felt I left my faith. As I continued on in life i came in contact with more diversity and enjoyed experiencing and learning about other cultures and faiths.

 

I went through a divorce in my early thirties and struggled with being on my own for the first time in my life. I still had a good support system of loving and caring friends and family, but I still felt lost in many ways and my self confidence was very fragile. During this time i received a lot of unsolicited advice from everyone about God and how to have or not have a relationship with him. All of this shut me down even more. I made some futile attempts to find an organized church, but it felt like I was just going back to a dutiful practice just in a different house.

 

I was hanging on to my last shred of my relationship with God, when I found my way to a Universal Sufi group, a non-denominational spiritual perspective that recognizes one true God and respects the authentic truth found in all faiths and paths to God. It is not a religion, but a mystical path. For me it was a way to go within and begin to feel again. I found a place that did not require me to convert or reject my past and also allowed me to further experience and learn about other truths. I felt so free with God and faith for the first time. I was not required to sit in a pew every week. I did not have to read tons of scholarly literature or accept any new dogmas or Gods or Goddesses or statues. Instead, i started meditating with a small local group of Sufis and my experience and relationship with God grew in leaps and bounds.

 

The meditation practices incorporate aspects, chants and prayers from all faiths. At first I felt I was being sacreligeous on some level by doing this. But I couldn't deny that I was feeling authentic experiences and continued on my way. All of Christs teachings were still in me and I was seeing and feeling them grow bigger in me because I was recognizing and experiencing Christian truths in other faiths and traditions. And vice versa.

 

Because I recognize and even value some of the traditions and prayers of other faiths, I thought I was not entitled or allowed to outwardly call myself a legitimate Christian. Guess some of my old black or white Catholic dogma residue is still in me. However if someone asked if I were Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim or Wiccan, etc I could easily say no. But I don't feel I could say no when asked if I were Christian. Instead I say something like "well I'm a recovering Catholic, but I am grateful for the teachings and consider christianity to be my foundation."

 

I guess you can say i have been a solo, silent christian much of my adult life. I haven't been part of a Christian fellowship or congregation in more than 25 years and I've been considering what it would be like to be part of something like that again. The fears and hesitation I have are not that I am questioning my faith in God or Jesus, but more about the human judgment and not being accepted as a full or true Christian because of my Sufi path, which I do not want to denounce or give up.

 

As I write this I am realizing I am in a similar place as I was when I found the Sufi perspective. I didn't want to turn my back on or denounce my Christianity. And now I feel the similar struggle about not wanting to turn my back on my Sufi experience.

 

Most of the Christians I know I would consider open minded and progressive. But until a week ago, I didnt realize there was an organized progressive Christianity movement. I just thought I was lucky to stumble upon and know a few "cool" Christians.

 

So I am now on path to integrate my experiences and perhaps find my place within a Christian fellowship again.

 

I am so grateful for this safe, supportive and welcoming forum. It feels authentic to me. sharing here feels like an important part of how I can learn to continue to deepen my relationship with God and how to integrate my life experiences to have a more whole inner and outer spiritual life.

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Divinejoy,

 

I am very pleased that this forum can give you the support you deserve. The label 'Christian' does have its connotations, both good and bad, but it is only a label and not a rigid definition (much to the dispair of many fundamentalists).

 

I think how people view God is most likey shaped by their experiences, knowledge, culture and upbringing. So for me it is no suprise that there are many varied ways that people look toward God/s. To me the important thing is what people do with their beliefs. Certainly if they cause no harm, then I have no issue. But even better, if their beliefs affect good in the world, then cudos to them.

 

I myself have found so much information and dialogue here that has helped me better understand myself and my fundamental, literalist, Christian upbringing which went by the wayside when I entered the workforce (policing, at the time) and re-evaluated what I had held as unquestionable beliefs.

 

I hope this forum serves you well.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Divinejoy, you are being guided if you join a group or not. God guided you away from the Catholic to learn and grow. You don't have to go back to the church, but if you do remember you are a spiritual leader. Just remember some might not like or recognize that those were legitimate spiritual experiences so just give your Divine joy to those that can handle it. Some must be given small amounts. Your presence even in silence is raising their consciousness so continue and enjoy the Divine presence. Even divorce can be a spiritual lesson and evolution. I will listen and learn if you share your insights with us.

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Thank you Paul and Soma for reading and responding. I appreciate your supportive words. Paul you thoughts and sharing about labels are in alignment with my thinking and feelings. And Soma, what you described succinctly sums up my feelings as well and expresses how I have been living and sharing God and my Christian experience.

 

Part of what is inspiring me to explore how to be part of an outward Christian fellowship again is a wonderful relationship I have been in for the past four months. We talked about our spiritual paths early in our relationship and from my perspective i felt we have plenty of common ground to share faith and God. We decided that we would know this was an aspect of our relationship that we would continue to discuss and explore. We recently started having more dialogue about our spiritual perspectives because feelings are definitely deepening between and spiritual compatability and understanding is important to both of us.

 

I've been comfortably flying solo with my inner spiritual world for the past decade or so and have just been living my beliefs and faith without needing a labeling or defining myself unless someone asked. But their curiosity usually only went a layer or two below my surface and I had my explanations ready like the one I mentioned in my post. I knew it was bigger than that to me, but usually struggled with how to succinctly and accurately define it. So I just experienced it and lived it, as Soma wrote in his post.

 

But now that I'm in this relationship I feel it is important to be able to accurately and fully explain who and what I am so we can see if we can continue a shared path together. He is in no way asking me to not be who or what I am, he just wants to understand me better. He considers himself a PC and Christian worship and bible study is something he wants to be able to share with a partner in an authentic way.

 

In the past year or so I had occasionally contemplated being part of some sort of Church experience again. My Sufi group is wonderfully supportive for me when it comes to my inner growth, but I noticed myself admiring people who were part of a faith based community that worshiped together....be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc. But my judgments of conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity kept me from exploring in earnest.

 

So that's were I find myself today. Trying to balance sharing deeply with someone I care for very much while being true to my understanding and relationship with God and Christianity to explore if and how we might be able to journey further as a couple.

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I am happy for you it seems everything is unfolding for you as intended. When I was dating my wife in Korea she was such a fundamental Christian she would not enter the Buddhist temple court yard. We would hike up in the mountains and the temples up there are so beautiful and abig part of the Korean culture. We have been married around 35 years, have grown together. I am a Christian, but I meditate and do yoga twice a day. She understands that these spiritual practices make me a better Christian.

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Soma, thank you for sharing about your marriage and about your personal practices with meditation and yoga. I think my "alternative" practices is definitely an area my boyfriend is trying to understand better. His sense of devotion and relationshio to God through Christ seems to be a more direct and focused way. Whereas my way seems to be a little more loose around the edges, so to speak. Having this forum to dialogue about all of this is helping me see and understand that.

 

Perhaps a good way for me to express to him how I feel about my relationship with Christ is using my relationship with my mother as an analogy. I love my mom dearly and she is to me my one true mother. She raised me, guided me, cared for me and I love her dearly. She loves me unconditionally and trusts me and I have compete love and gratitude in my heart for everything she has done and continues to do for me. She did the absolute best to prepare me for the world and and encouraged me to live and have life experiences. Sometimes I would stumble, and she was always there to pick me up. Even when I stubbornly went against her better insights at times and made my own mistakes, she was always there to pick me up and help me learn from my errors without judgment.

 

As I travelled through life I have developed many friendships with other wonderful mothers. A few of them have a strong presence in my life and have been and still are important guides and confidants in my life. While I recognize, experience and benefit from the true loving maternal qualities and guidance that they share with me, I would never choose to replace my own mother with any of them. My mother is aware if these other relationships in my life and even personally knows some of the other "mothers" in my life. She is not jealous or threatened by these relationships at all. instead she is grateful and has peace of mind knowing that i have so many wonderful, loving caring friends who can also help me and suport me on my journey.

 

My relationship with Christ is this way. He is my first true teacher and path to God, and i can not replace that. I can experience truth and learn from other paths and traditions, but my relationship with Jesus and his teachings can not be replaced or downgraded.

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I have never told my wife my feeling on religion because I don't think she would understand. I love her and have witnessed her growth as a person and a Christian and she has done the same. Words sometimes get in the way of love. I wrote a book and have not even asked her or my sons to read it. Her partents disowned her when she married me. My partents disowned me in High School because of the social change in the 60's. We have that in common, but I would never be able to understand her parents or her situation as she could not understand mine. These experiences only made our love stronger, strong enough to continue the relationships with out parents even though they were once broken.

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Soma, thank you for your open sharing. It is really helpful for me to hear and reminds me to trust that when there is real love between two people, a path for them to be together will be open and God will guide them if it is for the higher good of both people.

 

My boyfriend and I have been forced into a physical separation right now because of life circumstances. His life sudenly turned upside down this past month and he had to move to another state last week to care for his mother who is having health problems. We are not sure for how long. He is dealing with a lot of unknown variables that are spiralliing out of control and it is very stressful for him. Our relationship is only four months old and we both would like it to continue, but because of all that he has to focus on right now, we have decided to dial back the romantic level right now. We are still in contact and and communicating, but for the unforeseen future our communication will probably be sporadic as he gets through the transitional chaos of moving and figures out and settles into his new role as care manager and care giver.

 

I do not want our relationship to be a source of any more stress in his life. Right now I feel the most loving, compassionate thing I can do for him right now is to understand that he still does care deeply about me, but accept that our relationship can not be a priority for him now. Instead i told him i will continue to love and support for him in whatever I can. I know it will be challenging for both of us, but the truth I know about myself, him and our relationship feels stronger to me than my fears and insecurities.

 

Right now it scares me that I don't know when I will see him again. But, Soma, your sharing is reminding me that if we are indeed intended to be partnered for the long haul, then God will guide us and a path will present itself.

 

Once again, i sm so grateful to have this online community to safely share. Regardless of what happens, my relationship with him has brought me nothing but happiness. Even as we begin what might seem on the surface like a difficult chapter, our relationship is still helping me learn and grow and deepen my relationship with myself, God and my Christianity.

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Divinejoy it is nice to see you go with the music and not skip a beat. The people in our lives, we love them for who they are and not what they are going to be. We love and and don't have to change a thing. I like that you let others change and don't feel forced to change them. A science principle is when a vacuum is formed it is filled. God's pure consciousness seems to fill every hole like water constantly changing taking the form of the vessel.

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