I think I owe you an apology

I heard from a reader this week who took issue (in a very kind and generous way) with the tone of my writing – she said, basically, that I write as if I have something and you, the reader, have nothing. That I’m going to offer my something to you, and that I’m going to help you. She asked me some really clear questions, from a place of immense generosity, and she also specifically took issue with the idea that I was going to help.

So, I need to apologize.

I know you have your own tools that help you connect in your spiritual life. And I obviously don’t have all the answers. I’m sorry, if in my clumsiness, I have claimed to.

It’s hard to talk about God. It’s a big topic. People have been discussing this for millennia. I’m not surprised that I get it wrong sometimes.

But what I am glad about is that we’re talking about it at all. Because I don’t know about you, but where I live – on the edge of middle class in the arty communities of the liberal West Coast – talking about God is more taboo that talking about porn.

Here, even people who go to church are usually embarrassed to admit it. They’re quick to say they’re not one of “those” church people. Or they list their issues with the sexism, the abuse, the theology.

As the Buddhists say, we enter the temple to leave the world, and we find the world. Churches are no different. Social justice groups are no different. The PTA – same. Almost any group we enter will have issues in it that mirror those of the culture outside it.

Dorothy Allison says the reason we tell our stories is to make room for other people to tell their stories. And I need to hear about spirituality. I need to hear – how do you get through your days on this earth? Because there is so much pain around us, how do you not crack under that?

How do you actually thrive? How do you stay emotionally intact and still engage with people who are suffering? How do you engage with your own suffering?

I need help, real help, with these questions. Help that goes to the heart of the matter. Yes, as the women’s magazines tell me, a bubble bath will do much to soothe me, but my problem is spiritual in nature and needs a spiritual solution.

So, I’m sorry for the times when I have made you feel like I think I’m the one with the answers and you’re the one with the questions. That’s not what I believe.

But I’m not sorry for trying to help. I know I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them. I have tools that work for me sometimes, on some days. And that’s what I’m offering. And my hope would be that you would offer your tools, too. In the comments here, or in an email to me. And I hear from you a lot – many of you do write to tell me what’s working for you. What you’re struggling with. And that’s part of the help, too.

So, I’m not sorry for trying to help. I need help too. I am trying to make a place for these things to be talked about in my own life, as much as anything. When you email me to tell me what’s working for you or what you’re struggling with, it helps me. It helps me know I’m not alone in the struggle. That I’m not the only one thinking life is hard sometimes.

And, of course, the easiest thing to say about God would be to say nothing. To just continue writing about this stuff in my journal instead of taking the conversation between me and god public.

It’s not easy to claim God.

That’s one thing the Christians really get right – it’s hard to talk about God in public and they wrote that right into their texts – it’s hard to claim God. The world doesn’t like it.

It’s hard to claim a Christian God (they attest), and also to hard to claim God as the Universe, or Divine Energy, or Source. It’s hard to acknowledge this huge part of our lives. Our spiritual selves.

So, if it sounds like I’m floundering, it’s because I am.

God is a big topic.

But I believe the path is wide. And even if it’s not – even if there is one singular truth – we are much closer to finding it if we’re seeking. I think we will get where we need to go. That we can trust the process.

I can learn from many spiritual traditions. That’s why, even though I go to church sometimes, and listen to A LOT of Christian materials, I don’t claim Christian as an identity. I can learn from anything. Nearly all spiritual writings have something to offer.

But in my writing to you, I’m not offering my wisdom and scholarship. Because I haven’t learned about spirituality in that way. You’ll have to look elsewhere for that.

No, I am offering you strategies.

Because for me life is unbearable without God. Without a higher power, and something that loves me.

Maybe it’s that way for you, too.

Today, I need to tell you two things:

  1. I’m sorry for the times I’ve been clumsy so far. I’m sure it will happen again, but hopefully I’ll be clumsy in a different way. I’m a work in process.

  2. Thank you. Thank you for being here. In the conversation.

So, tell me, what have you done that’s worked for you?

What helps you to connect to your own spiritual life and to your own Higher Power? Comment here, and share – what are you doing that works for you?