Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays


Update on My Spiritual Journey: Slogging My Way to God/Buddha/The Universe

posted by Amanda P. Westmont

By Amanda P. Westmont

Two weeks ago, I had one of the worst days I can ever remember having. I’d spent the afternoon up to my eyeballs in pure, unabashed ugliness. I honestly thought it couldn’t get any worse, but then a police officer pounded on my front door, read me my rights and accused me of committing a felony.

I went from feeling LOW to feeling LOWLOW.

Of course it was all just a big misunderstanding. A tit-for-tat taken one titty too far. Fortunately, after a few words and a few tears, the police officer agreed with me, shook my hand and left.

But here’s where it gets freaky: when I sat back down in front of my computer twenty minutes later (rattled, but as innocent as the day I was born), there was a Facebook note from Donna Van Horn, one of the pastors at The Bridge, inviting me out for the drinks we’d been talking about having since I first met her on that perfectly imperfect Sunday in March.

There was no way she could’ve known what was going on with me, but she somehow managed to reach out to me at the EXACT moment I needed her to. I immediately penned an enthusiastic, if profanity-laden, acceptance and sent it off to her with a complaint that she was making it really hard for me not to believe in God anymore. That bastard.

It’s been like that a lot lately.

Because no matter how ugly it gets – and it’s been U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi UGLY -  I haven’t lost my ability to see beauty everywhere I look. There’s just so much of it to be had – in the church pews, in my children’s faces, in the weight of Joel’s hand on my knee when I need reassurance, in amazing conversations with amazing women on my patio, in laughter, in silence and even in drunken Wii Dance Party debauchery.

Instead of blaming any of this – the good or the bad – on God, I keep calling it “THE UNIVERSE,” and asking it questions. Like, why did THE UNIVERSE dump all this crap in my lap all at once? Not only that, but why did THE UNIVERSE crowd my crap right up against Joel’s? We were in-between his and hers court dates a couple weeks ago, stuck in traffic waiting for the I-5 Bridge to go down when Joel turned to me at the exact moment I was thinking the same thought and said, “I wish I could be more present for you.”

Or, like, here AT ALL. We were both so preoccupied for a while there that neither of us could sleep, I could barely eat (for the record, stress diet is like divorce diet, only faster), and we were running through more booze than Charlie Sheen.

If there IS a god, he’s almost certainly been testing me. My sanity, my sense of self, my relationship with Joel, my belief in the kindness of humanity. I’d like to think I’m getting decent grades except for the part where I believe in anything.

I’ve had every reason to hunker down. To shut out the world and keep myself safe. But if these Sundays have taught me anything, it’s that reaching out is the only answer. I had to ask for help. I didn’t ask God or Jesus or Buddha, but I put the word out on my blog and simply asked for support.

And I received.

Literally hundreds of prayers, blog comments, e-mails, Facebook wall posts, calls from old friends and even flower deliveries rolled in. I was literally overwhelmed with love.


Because of the heathenous things we write on this blog, Joel and I are probably the two most prayed-for souls in all of Portland, Oregon, but this was the first time I ever really FELT those prayers, welcomed them even. And the constant fear I’d been living with dissipated enough that I was able to get back to my life. My messy, loud, imperfect, chaotic, stressful life, but a life so buttressed by love that no amount of ugly is going to seep through my cracks.

So where does all this leave me when it comes to God? What about THE UNIVERSE? Should I thank him/her/it/them or punch ‘em between the eyes?

Who the hell knows! Part of me thinks the not-knowing is the beginning, the middle and the end of this “spiritual journey” I’m on. I may never know anything and I’m coming to accept that as the most likely outcome. The bonus to not knowing is that the journey never really ends, right? I get to keep wandering and wondering forever. I don’t know about you, but that’s a ratio of questions to answers that I can get behind.

I do know I’m going to start reading the Bible and see how I feel about it. I’m doing this not as a road to accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior, but because a) I write a religion blog and my Biblical ignorance is becoming embarrassing, b) I’ll be reading along via The Bridge’s bi-weekly Bible study group called Red Letter Pub, which means there will be Bibles AND booze, and c) I’ll take advantage of ANY OPPORTUNITY to hear Donna Van Horn speak. She’s a quiet one, that pastor, but if I learned anything by accepting her invitation and having her over to get  sauced on my patio with the other Church Ladies of The Bridge, it’s that virtually everything that comes out of her mouth is golden. I don’t have to believe in Jesus to want to surround myself with people doing their damnedest to live like him.

When I asked Joel if he’d come with me to this Bible-discussion-slash-whiskey-and-cigars-appreciation-club, he was all, “I’ve read the Bible. The black parts AND the red ones. No thanks.”

Then, shaking his head glumly, he added, “Oh my God, you’re going to become a Christian, aren’t you!?”

I doubt it. I simply don’t think that’s my path. But I definitely have it in me to read one of the world’s most ancient texts. Joel shouldn’t worry. After all, I’m the girl who spent nearly five years at a liberal university and emerged a REPUBLICAN. I’m not an easy person to sway. My world views are pretty well defended.

That said, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t open to learning from the experience. God help me.



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Al Doyle

posted July 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm


re: Red Letter Pub

In my world booze and Bible always go together. Maybe it’s a First Century kind of thing? I’ve attended a couple of time on my visits from Seattle. Great fun!



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Kathleen

posted July 15, 2011 at 11:17 am


Heard it said that Jesus did not come to start Christianity. That made sense to me.



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Somtimes God Is Like That

posted July 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm


http://sometimesgodislikethat.wordpress.com/

Two miscreants take on the derivative world of evangelical literature by inviting the whole internet to write a devotional together. Join the fun at Sometimes God is Like That!



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G

posted July 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm


Tao Te Ching or Doaism. As I remember it, “the journey is more the purpose than the destination or the road traveled” or “the journey is the destination”. Of course this memory has a slight haze associated with it thanks to college.



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Natasha

posted July 5, 2011 at 2:02 am


Hey girl, you’re in my prayers. Just so ya know, much of my laughter is caused by your creativity and wit – so thanks. Remember, this too shall pass (I know, lame quote cliche) but really, it will – so just buckle up, hang on and slog through whatever shit storm you’re in. We’re cheering for you!



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Bri DuPree

posted July 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm


i love reading about your journey, here and on your personal blog! keep it coming!



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ursula

posted July 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm


Just wanted to say that I will be praying for you. I’m sorry that you have been going through such a hard time.

I hope you find your peace with God/the universe (I don’t think it matters too much what you call it). And that you get a lot out of your study of the Bible.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.” 1 John 4:16 b.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted July 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm


I completely agree, Scott. Accepting love is always more difficult than giving it. I feel the same way about charity.

I’ll have to check out Borg’s book since you’re not the first one to tell me about him. Part of me wants to see if I can sit in on some of his classes.



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Lissa

posted July 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm


Have you ever read the blog Real Live Preacher. You might enjoy his writing. I really like the early stuff.



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Lorrie

posted July 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm


I question and pray to “the universe” all of the time. I truly believe it doesn’t matter how people decide to define god (if they define god at all) as long as they remember they are not it! Earth still spins regardless if I’m on the planet or not so obviously I’m not keeping this world going. There has to be something out there bigger than me.

Whatever that thing/person/being is I ask for help to continue to grow and be a better person and to take away all the stress and bullshit from me so maybe I can see a littler clearer and do a little better today than I did yesterday.

I’m so glad the you received that email when you did. I believe that is god or the universe, etc… doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Ever since I read your post on The Birdge I’ve wanted to check out that church. Keep me posted when you start going. While I too do not ever believe I will consider Jesus my personal God I’m very open to other peoples faith these days. Okay enough rambling from me. Thanks again for posting your truth I love what you have to say!!



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Scott

posted July 2, 2011 at 1:13 pm


One of the great dynamics of any serious spiritual path is reciprocity. That doesn’t just mean being loving, kind, etc., – but allowing (opening and welcoming) to people being loving, kind, etc., back atcha… it is an amazing dynamic.

Lots of people (yes, even many Christians) are kind, good, loving – but have trouble accepting people being kind, good, loving back. I think (after years of watching this, in myself and others) that it’s a worthiness thing. When our (Christian) sub-culture tells us that we’re “born wrong” (i.e. in sin), accepting that we are “worthy” of love is hard. Some messages just so deeply ingrain themselves that it’s hard to shake them off.

Hard, but not impossible. So let yourself be loved. Expect it as your right. And know that “The Universe” (the best term for God EVER) will do everything it can to facilitate that process. All you have to do is show up, be present and notice it.

Another quick thing; before you “read the bible” you should know that whatever you read is filtered by your, well “filters” and so what you see, won’t necessarily be what’s there – as much as what you project. What you find there is pretty much determined by what you are looking for. (basic Quantum Mechanics)

This changes (dare I say “evolves”?) over time. If I may humbly recommend a suggestion for something to read first, that will give you an excellent (i.e. helpful and expanded) context for reading the Bible, Marcus Borg’s wonderful book “The Heart of Christianity” is a great place to start. You’ve heard his wife preach at Trinity Episcopal.

For a completely out of the box, off the wall suggestion you might also read Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Heinlein’s portrayal of women is very dated (think “Mad Men” 1960′s), but his parable of how language and culture and our “maps” effect spiritual experience and insight is unforgettable.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted July 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm


Love this comment! (I loved your other one too, which I read and (thought) I posted!) Thanks so much.



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Amanda P. Westmont

posted July 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm


Awww, thanks Mollye! Guess who starts beauty school next week? Guess who’s gonna need models to practice makeup application on?



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LizP

posted July 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm


(I don’t have to believe in Jesus to want to surround myself with people doing their damnedest to live like him.)

Me too. I think this is the difference in believing in organized religion and all of its trappings and being spiritual and believing in a higher power of some sort.



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Jules

posted July 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm


I love how open you are to your experiences in the different churches. People have accused you of being disingenuous–I hope this post clears up that misconception.



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Mollye

posted July 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm


My perfectly (almost, its my first try with this eye liner) applied MAC make-up is now running down my cheeks and dripping off my chin. Love you!



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dixdex11

posted July 1, 2011 at 1:32 am


I have never commented here. One time I commented on your personal blog because I was offended by other commenters’ remarks re: ‘free childcare’ from your ex-husband. Give me a break, is he supposed to get paid to be their father? I don’t get it. But that comment never went through.

That’s beside the point. I’ve been reading you for some time, since Genoa was an infant, and I want to applaud you for talking so openly about SO MANY issues – divorce is HARD, poverty is FUCKING HARD, and knowing that your children are going through those things make them both so much harder, almost unbearably so.

I am not a believer. I also talk about “the universe.” I personally find that being hyper-aware of all the beauty in my life is an avenue to “the divine,” but I still don’t believe in GOD in the way that Christianity demands. I actually envy people who have that faith, sometimes, because it does seem to be a humongous comfort to them when shit goes down – and shit goes down for EVERYBODY, sooner or later.

Still, I can’t MAKE myself believe things that will never make sense to me. I can’t reconcile myself to the authoritarian part of it all. But when I look at my children, I know that they deserve every good thing that this life has to offer them. (how can I believe in original sin, looking at them?!?) If they deserve joy and freedom from fear, so does every other child. I was once a child, and I deserved that, too. I still do, and so does EVERYONE.

Believing in a savior isn’t going to make that happen, in my opinion. To me, it feels like a cop-out. Connecting with each other, looking for the beauty in the people we meet, the people we love and the moment we are experiencing, finding a way to contribute to this world, recognizing that we’re all in this together…that attitude has the potential to create real meaning in our lives, and maybe that’s what Jesus was talking about. But I can’t believe I or anyone else will burn for eternity because they didn’t accept Him as the one and only savior of our souls.

Joy and pain are points on a continuum, I think. Confusion is on there, too. Having people to REALLY talk to about those things beyond a superficial level is RIGHT ON. I am so happy for you, even though I know you are going through a lot of shit. It’s tempering the steel, right? You were made for this exploration. Thanks for sharing it. I am really, really impressed.



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Jessa Lewis

posted July 1, 2011 at 1:18 am


I love Donna. I love you. I love this post.

I don’t know which end is up most days, but I know it’s somehow going to be okay.



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rebecca

posted July 1, 2011 at 1:06 am


My favorite post of yours to date. Well-written, well thought out, and really just beautiful in it’s clarity of voice. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.



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