I am a slow learner. It’s taken me years to undo all that my family and the church(hell-fire-and-damnation) and the culture taught me about being in the world and about God. It’s complicated because I was formed by what I was taught about myself and the world and God and, also, how I took what I was taught to be such an indictment of me. I could not undo all this learning by myself; in everything I have learned, God has taught me and healed me of what does not belong to me.
Here’s how this s-l-o-w transformation evolved in me in many steps:
When I left the church in my late 20’s because any Christian language just reminded me of the hell-fire-and-damnation church I grew up in.
When my husband and I joined a cult that was based in Jesus’ teachings but not his divinity. And I began slowly to see other ways of interpreting the Gospels.
When we were raising our children and I was confronted time and again with my expectations of them and the reality of who they were. My reaction when one of my sons at age two started biting other children: “No son of mine would do that!” was not helpful.
When we left that cult eight years later, because my need to belong to that group conflicted with a growing need to move on from it. This was the first time in my life I ever said “yes” to my own deeper needs.
When I surrendered my life to Christ and saw so clearly the list of gods that I put before God—there were pages of them, all filling my ego needs or the culture’s needs.
When I heard inside myself, “I have an agenda for my life.” I was inhabiting roles—wife, mother, volunteer, I had no idea who the “I” was that had an agenda for her life or what that agenda was. I began to ask, “What do I really want to do” in any situation and gradually began to leave the shoulds and oughts of our culture behind.
When I was drawn to read texts in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. And in everything I read, I thought, “Oh, that’s what Jesus meant!” And then I read a lot of the saints’ literature: Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing and more. Teresa’s metaphor for prayer of the garden carried my devotional life for years.
When I realized this: How could I say I loved God if I couldn’t love my mother? I had to become an adult in that relationship, but I’d been taught not to talk back to her. Now everything I said seemed like being sassy or bitchy to her. Then there was a moment or two at the railroad station near her home where she was seeing my husband and I off after spending a weekend with her; we were surrounded by a cloud of love. And all the way to Connecticut from Delaware I keep saying, I can’t believe that God took my bitchiness and turned it into love. And that moment changed our relationship. From then on she was grateful for every single thing I did for her and I was able to love her.
When my nine-year-old daughter asked us to attend church, and we went back to church. And I realized that despite my wanderings through other religions, Christianity was my religion, the lens through which I saw and experienced God. And I no longer turned my center, who I was and what I believed, over to others to critique or change.
When the Lord drew me to classes in self-expression—magazine writing, acting and photography. Each assignment I would resist, since I wasn’t creative, couldn’t do it. And then I did, gradually releasing my own brand of creativity and the old thinking that I wasn’t creative.
When I entered into a training program for spiritual directors. I had been encouraging others in their spiritual lives, so I was very excited about this training. I learned to set aside my whole agenda for this person and just be with them, present to their story and to the Holy Spirit.
When my husband was dying. I told this story in detail several weeks ago in the blog, titled “Unshakable Faith.” If you missed it, it’s at my website bythewaters.net. There is a whole archive of past blogs.
When I started taking Spanish classes from a tutor and was assigned paragraphs to be written in Spanish. Over a few years I only wanted to write about the spiritual life with Christ, so that became the genesis of my blog.
When I moved back to the East Coast where there are many more Christians than on the West Coast. It’s been such a nourishing atmosphere for me.
When I dreamed about trusting God and connecting the dots between what Jesus taught and living that life in the 21st century. The dream about trust showed it in an acrobatic routine in which everything was perfectly timed. God was saying that this is how he meets my needs, so I could trust him totally. In the other part of the dream I was telling a favorite minister of mine, “ your job is to inspire the congregation, mine is to connect the dots.
When I awoke in the middle of the night on a trip and wrote this down, “to make the kingdom real.” Connecting the dots and making the kingdom real became a book about the kingdom which I just published this fall.
When I got excited about the Exodus story– the subject of my next book which I am researching now. To me the Exodus story is the template God has left us for our own journey out of slavery into freedom.
When I woke up recently with this phrase on my mind: “to get in you have to give up your outsider status.” I take that to be about the kingdom. The Lord is once again blowing out all the stops/resistances in my mind with this. I am in once I no longer feel like an outsider. Amazing! Amen!
When I am filled with joy bubbling over in me like I did one recent morning.
And there will be more highlights in my journey with the Lord, for I am not yet done, and I am sure he has more for me to learn and incorporate—until my last dying breath.
Blessings for the week: May we be the people of God who put our beliefs into practice with everyone we meet. May we approach everyone with love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. May we bring these qualities everywhere we go. May we be known for our great love.
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!” is up on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Check it out under my full name, Patricia Said Adams or Patricia Adams, if you’re interested. If you’ve already read it, I would love for you to post a rating or comment on Amazon or Good Reads–the ratings bring in readers.
See the 4 videos posted on the By the Waters FB page about the kingdom. They are meant to complement the book.
Read the whole bog(and archives) at bythewaters.net or await Monday thru Friday’s offerings on FB. I’m also on YouTube at By the Waters with Pat Adams and on Twitter at BTWwithPatAdams.