(This was sitting in my drafts pile for over a year. “Part One” is somewhere back there on the blog. I have no idea why; it’s still as true today as when it was written, except that there are a few more rays of light, now and then.)
Once upon a time my spiritual jaws were in top form: After long and prayerful consideration, I pushed aside all the “no” and “I can’t,” and entered formal discernment in the Diocese of Baltimore to become an Episcopal priest.
Things went well enough for about half a year, and then my faith was extracted by giant pliers of Life, leaving behind bleeding caverns where I had also once had a home and family (which I admit were fragile to begin with.)
I fell down the rabbit hole: I had been battling too many stressors for too long, and this loss triggered my illness. You can accomplish great things while hypomanic, and I put together my ragged little pieces as best I could and crawled back to grad school, and after some more upheavals, at last I got well, and crawled back out of the hole. All I had left with which to chew God was a lacy bridgework of outward and physical signs criss-crossing the horrific gaps it left in my soul stuff.
I have a good life now–but now that I am comparatively well, I have been grappling with a sad and bitter question: Was my faith only a symptom of my illness, all that joy and sense of purpose just mixed up with the dreaded “religious ideation?” I have recovered from bipolar disorder I and dissociative identity disorder–have I recovered from God as well? Was that extraction not a tooth, but a tumor? Many good and kind people would say so; would congratulate me for coming to my senses. But then why do I feel so sad?
Because I do, and not even Jell-o® Instant Pudding can make it go away. I miss that life. I miss the magic of driving half an hour on a cold spring morning to light the new fire of Easter.
When my faith got pulled, tooth by tooth of it, and I was left sore and still numb in a homeless shelter in New Jersey, I ran into a wise priest who heard my story over tea and gave me permission to be angry with God. I clung to that, both the anger and the permission, and when my head told me to get my ass back to church, I did it, despite the hollowness of that cheated feeling filling my torso. So I joined choir because I knew that shaky as my soul stuff was, my Performer was intact, and it would bring me back to church,
It’s been over ten years, and I have come to love that choir for its own sake. I’ve become a much better singer, but my sense of wonder, of grace, has remained cold and stiff, lying on the margin of my plate unchewed.
Dead or hibernating? And what happens if it comes back?