One more thing got me out of the pot.
I haven’t traveled everywhere, but I’ve lived the privilege of being able to travel more than the average 24 year old. And one thing that has forced me to encounter are a ton of different languages. And whenever I’ve travel with a Christian organization, tons of different words for God, Jesus, Spirit, Heaven, Hell, etc.
A while ago that got me to think, “Can we speak about these Christian things without using the exact words? Would God expect a person to use these exact words if those words were traumatic? When I talk about freedom and resilience, beauty and strength, can I be saying the exact same thing as if I said God and Jesus, Peace and Spirit. Does it even make a difference?”
Us Christians get all bent up about the. exact. words. What if the way we translated Greek to English is similar to the way we translate white, affluent, American, Christian lingo to non-religious lingo, or simply not-traditionally-Christian lingo?
The core of humanity within us all is so similar. We are so interwoven with one another. Our desires for knownness, belonging, love, acceptance, purpose, connection —these things live inside all of us. The way we are all pulled in by beauty. The way we all stare up at stars and sit under trees and dip our toes into water. These things wrap us to one another. What if that was God? What if, no matter what words we used to describe it, that could never go away?
Here’s an example:
Lately, I find my self getting a little frustrated, a little confused when friends say, “I just went on a little walk with Jesus.” or “Jesus told me…” or (insert any common Christian lingo.)
I just want to grab my friends by the shoulders and scream “WHAT DO YOU MEANNNNNN. Like what is your experience? Where do you get these revelations from? What do you feel? Who/what specifically do you feel like these revelations are from? How do you distinguish Jesus revelations from non-Jesus revelations? Tell me more.”
I talked this out with one of my atheist friends. His response was along the lines of, “Y’all are living in a fairy tale. Y’all are crazy.”
I, for the first time in my life, have thought a lot about this Jesus language because, for the first time in my life, I don’t use it much anymore. It’s too triggering. And what I mean by triggering is that it too quickly takes me to a place that reminds me of my previous burns. It reminds me all the burns on all the parts of human history. I can’t get past the way the language of Jesus has been used to hurt me and hurt the world. I need other words.
But my experience and my belief system and the way I see the world is definitely “in the fairytale.” I love it in there. Its the way I see the world that makes the most sense to me. It’s how I describe beauty and forgiveness and love and movement and purpose. It’s the way my body exhales when I see a tree reflect upon the water. The way a honest conversation makes me stand a little taller.
What my friend would name as Jesus, I more often use more literal language to describe. I describe that aspect of the physical world and connect the physical to the spiritual using metaphor. If I go on a walk and come back feeling renewed, ~the story I tell myself~ is most often about the plants I walk amongst.
It’s spring in Portland as I write this and everything is either bursting with blooms or bursting with bright green new growth. The world is alive! And it is growing so rapidly! It is taking up light and using that energy to grow even closer to it! I reflect on the parts of myself that are doing that —the parts of me that are finally alive and growing and running towards that light. I reflect on the parts of humanity that are doing that, that have always done that. And the world makes sense. It’s all interwoven and together and alive.
My friend talks about meeting Jesus in the forest and I talk about the growth in the forest and write some poem in my mind about it. I believe we are saying the exact same thing. I think we are talking of the same Spirit, of the same Divine —just with different words.