I Rely On the Wisdom of the Divine to Guide Me | Vision Board Series Part 1

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This is the mantra for the image titled The Old Astronomer by Charlie Bowater (click the link for the image)

For so long I have given my belief away.

I have absorbed messages from parents, leaders, my religious community, and prophets that have injured my heart, stunted my spiritual growth, and borrowed my power and labeled it with words and ideals that do not match my innate purpose and worth.

I have relied on their permission, acceptance, and validation as both a rubric for my spiritual development and proof that I am loved. Though I have sought for the better part of my life to be a good girl, to keep my shoulders covered and my skirts an appropriate length, to keep not only the commandments of God but of culture too, the truth is I am rarely gifted with either permission or forgiveness. Thus my spirit has largely made its own way, relying on a single guiding star with ever-changing names: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, God, Heavenly Mother, the Divine, Love, the Universe; talking about my testimony at eight years old I said to my best friend, "I don't know what to call it, but I know there's something out there. Is it God? An all-wise and loving octopus? I'm not sure, but I feel it in my heart." How wild. How creative and full of sincerity and wonder.

At some point, everything I learned about the religion I was raised in fell apart. As my knowledge base grew and developed, my faith came under severe scrutiny. At the peak of my doubting and questioning, external events provided a unique opportunity for decision - did I believe enough in LDS teachings to justify staying or was leaving the right answer for me? If you know me, you'll know I've been an active and faithful member my entire life - the last two years have been no different. Church history, culture, and teachings are pretty wild, but they are also beautiful, deep, and meaningful. The LDS church gives me a framework and language in which to explore, communicate, and develop my faith and understanding of the nature of God. But if I'm wholly truthful, it is not my everything. It simply can't be - the church, its leaders, and its people are limited. I refuse to wait any longer for top-down instruction and permission to develop in the depths and directions my spirit takes me. To do so would be an act of willful ignorance against the greatest spiritual asset I have - my intuitive and intimate connection with the Divine.

When I am in sync with this inner voice, I am not called to the chapel, not called to scripture, not called to conference talks or articles in the Ensign, not an Instagram account, not a hands-on-head blessing of any sort. I am not called to exotic places in the great wide world, not even to the mountains and forests a twenty minute drive from my house. The call I hear comes from right in my chest. Sometimes I think if I pound on it hard enough with an open hand I will feel her in there, reaching out and poking me with a tree branch. She says, "Walk outside. Listen to the trees. Dig in the earth. Talk to the birds. Care for the snakes. Look people in the eyes when you speak to them. Finally, only after all this is done, write down what you have learned. Share generously."

That sounds unlike any church I have ever worshipped in. But I can't explain what or why the voice tells me to what it does. To eat the bread and receive a blessing from the pastor at my friend's Lutheran church. To light a candle - who knows what for - at a gigantic, gothic Catholic cathedral in Manhattan. To bow reverently and say the most sincere prayers of my entire life in a single namaste at the end of every yoga practice. To dance, to sing, to scream, to laugh loudly with abandon, and be fully and unapologetically human. To give voice to the rage, the confusion, to both heartbreak and hope. To speak words of genuine encouragement and love over a friend who vulnerably shares her decision to leave the church. When a day is filled with worship like this, my heart rests in the melody of a peaceful lullaby: well done. Well done.

My worship and spiritual practice is a graceful, evolving embodiment of the holy woman Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese. I share it here with love and gratitude: 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Being good is overrated.

Be wild.

Be free.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.