Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!
I have been blogging for a couple of years now on an element which was quite core to my identity – my spiritual side. For those that do not know me well, I was raised in my teens in evangelical Christian circles. As an adult, I had an “on again, off again” (more off) relationship with the church. When I moved to Ottawa in 1998, not knowing anyone, I thought connecting with a church was a good way to meet new people and build community. At that stage, it had been a long time since I was fully engaged in church community, but I had some positive associations. So, wifey and I found a church that seemed to be a good fit based on our upbringing.
It took me about ten years to realize that “evangelical Christianity”, (even in the relatively nonthreatening way it was presented in the church we attended) was not a good fit for me. I spent over a year blogging about my “church story”. Embedded in the blog were many issues I had with the evangelical communities I witnessed. If you have ever been part of evangelical circles and are reasonably objective, you will know first-hand the problems with them. If you have never engaged in evangelical circles, what you see in the news has elements of truth, though the degree of the extremism varies greatly . There are many who are engaged in these circles who do not see fault in their isolated microcosms, and cannot see any good in the world at large. I feel sadly for them as they have lost a grip of reality in this world. I wrote with my own limited lens view, so I did not mean to cause offence, but if I did with my rantings, my apologies.
I am overly patient. It took me over 10 years to leave the community – it really should have taken me two. The community was trying to transform me to something that I wasn’t at core. Simply put, there are aspects of religiosity that I never have gravitated towards. I am really not a religious person (believe it or not), but the core of religion speaks of love and helping others. That core is often lost for the sake of being “obedient” to the system, which constitutes certain behaviours. As the community embraces obedience, they become more homogeneous. Anything that is different can therefore be a threat. Obedience can then become a standard for judgement, which justifies “correction”. The correction of others is permissible as the claim is that it is motivate “out of love”. Correction is justified like a parent disciplines a child, or it can be driven out of fear of protecting one’s eternal salvation. Most of the time, the one being corrected does not invite it. It is imposed upon them.
This does go too far. The correction is motivated by what the community defines as “acceptable” behaviour. Non-acceptable behaviour is really hated by the community, even if those words are not used. In my opinion, this is not loving. It is intolerant. My proof is that standard for behaviour varies from church community to church community, so there is no real consensus. It is the community that sets the rules, not the faith they ascribe to.
Those of you who know my humour, fun, and behaviour would probably recognize that it does not fit well in the classic conservative circles that most evangelicals gravitate towards. A lot of my personality was suppressed to please the greater good of the community. I can also sometimes retreat on my own when in certain social circles, not because I do not want to connect, but often because I do not feel invited to participate, or simply put, have nothing to contribute. Some people in these Christian circles assumed I was depressive and needed “spiritual healing”. They assumed wrong. It simply is an aspect of my introversion coming out, which sometimes surprises people as I am normally extroverted (this behaviour does not really surprise people who know me!).
Making assumptions about people was an ongoing issue. They based they knew “about” people in their community based on their own limited experience and assumptions as opposed to taking the time in getting to know the uniqueness of each individual. Therefore if you don’t fit the mold, they could not understand you. You do not fit neatly in a box.
They often used labels to help understand people in their circles better. It was an attempt to reduce everything about personality and life to either a one or zero. These are often too broad to describe a person as a whole. After all, you can reduce most things to ones and zeroes, but you have infinite possibilities of how the ones and zeroes interact. Often, these labels are used as an excuse for not getting to know someone better.
I get the importance of getting along with others, but unfortunately I was a square peg trying to be fit in a round hole. I was not pliable like play-doe. I was more of a Stretch Armstrong that got pulled out in millions of directions, but snapped back to my original form, so only had temporary fit.
There were a few friends that were invited into my “soul” space. That is a place which your closest of friends get to visit. It is a place where you can share your vulnerabilities and permit people to hold you accountable for your actions. For whatever reason, these “Christian” friends never understood my soul, and when I stopped attending the church over four years ago, their presence in my life also stopped (rather abruptly, I may add). It almost seemed like an abrupt mutual parting of the ways. The irony is that the church community always preached to their congregants to be different than the world. It preaches to go after the one lamb that strays from the flock. The reality is that despite the preaching, people are people. We all have similar nature. The church is relationally as shallow as the workplace – a space where relationships are not eternal, but transitory.
The church, since being in Ottawa, was a bit part of my community. Its removal from my life is a lot like someone who loses a limb. I had to get rid of the limb as it was causing me a certain death. Living life without that limb becomes very challenging. That limb, as I discovered, is not so much the church, but rather community. Friendship and community is a huge part or being a Bruce. So off to rehab I go and I need to continue to work harder in that space.
It has been several years, and I am still in spiritual physiotherapy from my experience, as I continue to adjust to life from my metaphoric amputation. Being a Bruce is quite complicated. I am an over-thinker by nature, and have way too many interests with zero time to pursue them. It is very easy for me to focus on the “what haven’t I done” versus the “go out and do it”. That is one life pattern I have sadly developed. I need to learn to be satisfied with smaller accomplishments.
Dissatisfaction is something that I can easily joke about. I spent 100 days this past year sharing some daily observations on Facebook. It was an interesting exercise. It was much easier to do than I thought! After all, when I started the gag, I thought it would only last a week. Not everyone got my humour and took me too seriously. I am not really that cynical.
The irony of the posts is that I actually started to see things to be satisfied with. I have a great job with excellent colleagues. I have some real long time friends that are still a presence in my life (even if it is virtual). I had the chance to hook up with some old and new friends this year, which was simply awesome. I rediscovered a passion for music by discovering new acts to listen to (Joe Bonamassa was my favorite new listen).
Ya, I did not go to the gym as much as I would like. I have not been able to play my guitar often. Parties are fewer and farther between. I have a ridiculous diet that makes social events overly challenging. Yes I would like to remember how to speak French like I did as a kid. I don’t like confusion and disorder in my life, which seems to be the norm sometimes. And the OCTranspo experience is always as enjoyable as trying to ride a bike in a foot of snow in a middle of a snowstorm while inhaling rich aromas of McDonalds mixed with exotic curries.
These negatives are all true, but should not be all consuming.
I have learned this year that being a Bruce, though, does not mean I can necessarily change things I don’t like. Being a Bruce should mean changing things I want to do, which ultimately makes the things I don’t like seem negligible. That is the goal I am setting out for this year, with the hope that real habitual change will happen.
The year is only one day old, and I already have a lot to look forward to (can anyone say Iron Maiden???).
Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and hoping that if you have resolutions, you can keep them! ; )