I wrote on October 1 from the ancient Greek city of Thessaloniki, “My friends, I am not coming back.” That statement was prompted as I strolled through the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki. I had the sudden realization that the spiritual values of ancient Hellenistic culture mirrored mine.
I have lived with this uncomfortable split between body and spirit that our Protestant religiosity seems to promote (even if unconsciously). In Thessaloniki I read about and marveled at the sculptures and descriptions that embodied this value where body and spirit are married in the pursuit of “beauty and virtue (kalos kagothos).”
I knew that day that with the blessing of ancient gods, I would never be able to return to a religiosity that ignored the wisdom of the body. I continued to cycle through the eastern half of Greece and into the heart of Turkey where the implications of my personal revelation played themselves out. By the time I arrived in Konya,Turkey three weeks later I had not only found my voice, but I also knew that there was no compromise in me. I would display my most authentic self like a logo on a t-shirt. I would refuse to go anywhere where my new suit wouldn’t be welcome.
I knew this was risky business like crossing a narrow and fragile bridge. Rather than manipulate and twist my life into a form that would fit what the world wanted, I decided that I would let the world come to me. I would act less like chameleon and more like a tree grounded in my own identity and place.
It has been a nervous time this crossing the identity bridge, but unexpected gifts are beginning to show up. You may be as relieved as I am that I am now working. A good friend received my blog and my posts about having gratitude for the experience of deprivation and it coincided with his need for a go-fer for his home construction business. I am helping him as he looks for someone more permanent and he is helping me as I negotiate this time of transition. I spent my first week in a meditation of sanding.
More importantly, I rewrote my PIF (church resume and narratives) to reflect my emerging spiritual identity. I described my recent pilgrimage of “going from the head of the institutional church to the heart of mysticism” and how my essential calling is to help communities understand and negotiate this same shift. Quite honestly, I expected almost complete silence from the denomination. I have been wonderfully surprised by the nearly three dozen churches from across the country who have expressed at least some initial interest.
I think I write this for myself as much as for you. At times, as my savings ran out, I found myself in a food stamps’ office, and I began calling trucking firms for jobs, I questioned my decisions (not for very long, mind you). But, I have continued to rely on the gifts of the pilgrimage. I am clearer about who I am and what I bring to the world than I have been at any other time in my life.
The good news is that the world is also saying, “We need you just as you are—a slightly crazy, mystical-leaning, passionate-preaching, pedaling pilgrim.”