My Spiritual Evolution
I found God when I left the church. My life, however, without a relationship with God is like hearing someone intermittently running their nails against a chalkboard. Things will be peaceful for a time, but eventually, there will be a disruption that drives me up a wall. It physically pains me just thinking about it. My ears are especially sensitive to different frequencies and sounds, so the experience is exceptionally painful and it’s one I try to avoid at all costs, but why has this past week felt like someone took their crusty fingernails and dragged them across a chalkboard in my mind? The best way I can summarize it is that you never miss your water till the well runs dry.
The Beginning of The End
My relationship with God began very early in my life. According to my mom, I practically came out of the womb loving God, and at the age of six, I invited Christ into my life. It’s safe to assume that most Sundays were spent in church with family. Sometimes it was at an A.M.E. with my grandma or a non denominational church with my mom. I didn’t believe in evolution or why- contrary to church teachings- I didn’t fully believe homosexuality was wrong. I simply believed the majority of what I was taught without question. The past few years, however, have been a time of spiritual introspection and re-evaluation that practically destroyed my belief system.
Circa 2015, things began to go south with my old church in Miami. The experiences my mom and I had, contradicted what we had been taught while confirming our suspicions about needing to leave. We had no idea that this was the beginning of what I have come to know as The Awakening. Shortly before leaving the church, however, God kept telling me I was going back to school for a Master’s degree, much to my displeasure. After dreaming of our trip out west, however, I knew I had to go soon. After ignoring many leader’s attempts to discourage my trip to the West Coast, my mom and I flew Spirit airlines into LAX. Super befitting right? Having very little money and feeling quite unprepared, Spirit made a way for us to fly on Spirit airlines into Los Angeles. In the first few weeks of my arrival, I spent much of my time asking God, “Why You would send me to the other side of the country with five outfits so I could be a homeless grad student?” I was baffled why He would do that to me so I spent a lot of time questioning my beliefs not knowing it would be years before I truly grasped what was happening and why.
I was so overwhelmed with school work that I barely had time to focus on my spiritual growth until after I graduated in 2017. During that time, I was so turned off by the hypocrisy of the church and didn’t bother to search or step foot in one again until some months after my graduation in 2017, when Heidi Baker came to North California, where after experiencing a second bout of homelessness, I had recently acquired residence. If I had never seen the love of God personified in anyone outside of myself, I saw it in her the day we met a few years prior. I traveled to that conference by city bus because I knew there was something there for me. I didn’t need her to speak to me directly or give me another one of her heart-melting hugs, it was the atmosphere of worship that enveloped me and left me feeling like Spirit wrapped their arms around me. It would be another year before I stepped foot in another church.
In 2018, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going back to church, but once again, God surprised me. I woke up one Sunday in Stone Mountain, GA after having been invited by my dad to go to church, and after I failed to fall back asleep I knew I was being goaded to go. Not wanting to disobey God, I went, had an OK time, and knew it was time to reach out to a friend from college who was a leader in a young adult ministry in the area. The first few months of my time there were necessary. It was then that I was able to share with so many others about how God took care of me while I was homeless in Los Angeles (20 days) and San Francisco (6 months) and how I remained joyful through it all; my relationship with God. Our relationship was my tether to sanity and joy in the midst of them constantly shaking up my world. Months into my membership at the Norcross church, God began highlighting things to me in research that weren’t lining up with things being taught in the ministry. They felt out of alignment with my spirit and He slowly put pressure on me to leave the church. By this time, I was being trained for leadership and had just been admitted to the choir. I was so confused by the change of direction and concerned for my new friend’s perception of my need to leave that it took me some time to detach myself. Slowly, yet surely, God made it harder and harder for me to fit in and feel comfortable and one day in late February or early March, I finally told them it would be my last day. Hugs were given, goodbyes were said, and I’m grateful to say that some of those relationships are still intact. In retrospect, I find it odd yet beautiful how my connection to people I wasn’t so close to has grown after I left their immediate sphere of influence, whereas I lost touch with those I was once closest to.
In the years that followed this exodus out of the church and Georgia altogether, I continued to stumble across pages and articles that continued to shake the foundations of my belief system. I was constantly moving from place to place while questioning things and I was so shaken by the answers, that I slowly found myself backing away from my original idea of God, what God meant to me, and their place in my life. If you are confused by my use of “their”, it is to describe the many moving, yet interconnected parts of God.
I moved to North Carolina believing I had finally found some stability: a place I call home (a word I don’t use lightly), a healthy relationship, and work I believe in. What I realized only recently, however, is that being stable isn’t the same as being grounded. After having no meditative routine or communion with The Divine, I found myself at the breaking point. I had never considered the possibility that I could back so far away from God that I would feel myself slowly losing my mind. My over-analytical mind and sensitive spirit coupled with stress, and the ongoings within the atmosphere, engulfed me in mental chaos because I had no emotional or spiritual center and was thus sent into a divinely timed spiral.
Who would believe that a spiral could save me? It sent me in search of external help that pointed me back to myself. My mom and best friend provided a compass moment as they instructed me to use meditation to slow my mind and guide me out of my Stranger Things moment. My mom and I have a running joke that she is El and I am the Demogorgon in the sensory deprivation tank scene at the lab. She has to gingerly come in to get me when I get lost in my head. By telling me to meditate, they were pointing me in the direction of mental clarity, which led to spiritual clarity. I had to sit with myself and face the fact that I had been avoiding implementing a practice of mindfulness and clearly saw the need to reinforce my connection to God. Like I said before, you don’t miss your water til your well runs dry. When people ask me how I made it through homelessness seemingly unscathed, I tell them it was my relationship with God and my knowing that the situation was temporary that kept me joyful and at ease. It was this recent lack of this relationship that left me bereft because I hadn’t properly cared for it. I thank God for them and their advice because it brought me back to myself, back to God, my source of love, protection, peace, prosperity, life, etc. My spiritual evolution is far from over and I am far too dedicated to thriving in the depths of my spirituality to go back to shallow waters. I don’t know all that is ahead of me or how I will traverse it all, but with Christ consciousness I know I can do all things but fail. Prayer and meditation became the lifeboat that carried me when the waters got too much for me to handle on my own and it will always be here when I need it, but I’ll soon be ready to tread the waters again and see just how far into the unknown I can go in this lifetime. Are you coming with me?
I am moved. I will sit with this account and perhaps read it again when the Spirit move and I can listen anew. Blessings on our shared journey, Sarai. I see you.