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A Jesus Freak Priestessing To A Witch

A Jesus Freak Priestessing To A Witch February 9, 2016

 

Me in my Jesus Freak days, ca. 1996. I'm wearing a sweater from the very first generation of the Jesus Freak clothing line. I am also brushing my teeth on a train because I am.
Me in my Jesus Freak days, ca. 1996. I’m wearing a hoodie from the very first print run (of the Jesus Freak clothing line). I am also brushing my teeth on a train because I am.

“We have much more in common than what separates us,” my Jesus Freak friend tells me. I call him a Jesus Freak, but that’s not an insult. It’s the name of a movement that began in Germany in the early 1990s. I was a part of it myself, from the first Freakstock festival in 1995 until I moved to the US. I think back on my teenage years, my evangelistic fervor, and how I organized a group of teens and young adults to form a local Jesus Freak group. Several of us, including myself, were too young to get a driver’s license and we couldn’t sustain the group because of our commuting distances. Nevertheless our little group never fully disbanded. It shrunk but was eventually reborn as the Jesus Freak church in Frankfurt, which exists to this day.

But I digress. Today I am reunited with a leader of the Jesus Freak movement. He contacted me a few weeks ago, said he’d been reading my blog, and would like to come visit. I didn’t know what to expect. The Jesus Freak movement is not a denomination, so theological and political views can vary widely. Since he was reading articles on Patheos Pagan, I figured he must be on the progressive side of the movement. Either that, or he was paying me a visit to try and “win me back” to a theologically conservative Christian faith, but I thought that very unlikely.

We have more in common than what separates us, he tells me as we are waiting for our food at my favorite Indian restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have trouble taking that in. These are the very words I’ve been longing to hear, of course. I wish my family would say them to me, understanding that my faith fuels my work for justice, just as theirs does. I’ve wished for other Christian friends with similar values to say these words to me. And now a leader of the Jesus Freak movement says them and turns to look me straight in the eyes. I am ecstatic, of course. Or am I?

 

Cool restaurant decor. Not at my favorite Indian restaurant, because I was too busy with the conversation to take pictures. But the Indian restaurant looks kind of like this.
Cool restaurant decor. Not at my favorite Indian restaurant, because I was too busy with the conversation to take pictures. But the Indian restaurant looks kind of like this.

I’m emotional, that’s for sure. In fact, I can feel tears pooling in my eyes and I’m about ready to have a little meltdown right here in front of other dinner guests. I quickly break eye contact and gaze around. Have I told my friend about the amazing convertible ceiling? It’s closed now, because it’s cold out. But this is one of the fancy features of this restaurant, you know, when the fog rolls in, the roof stays closed, but once the fog clears, and the restaurant owner pushes a button and the ceiling pulls back to create an outdoor dining experience. Just like a convertible car. How cool is that?

My friend is still looking at me and his hand is resting on my thigh. That alone would have surprised me just a couple of days ago. He’s married and monogamous and I’m a polyamorous Witch. Even though there is nothing sexual or suggestive about his touch, I expected him to be cautious to avoid most if not all physical contact. Instead, he gives me long and loving hugs, and goes to Contact Improv jams and dance lessons that end in cuddle piles.

Earlier today, on our drive up to Mount Tamalpais, he explained how much he loves to dance, and that God gave us bodies for a reason, and that we should celebrate them. One of the blessings he offers at his church is a five minute hug. No prayers spoken, no bible verses read, just a five minute hug. Movement and being present in the body are essential to his spiritual practice. “Embodied religion,” I say, and he nods. He’s never heard the phrase, but he likes it. It’s one of the many things we discovered we have in common.  

I, however, find it hard to stay present right now. I’m delighted by my friend’s words, and terrified. I’m so used to hearing Christians talk about all that separates us, so used to rebutting false assumptions about Pagans, and pointing out that while we certainly have serious differences, we don’t disagree on everything. Now I feel unsettled. I thought I’d be the one arguing the side of commonalities. I thought there’d be sides, with him on one and me on the other. I thought I’d be the priestess, correcting his misconceptions of Paganism, holding space for his inevitable expressions of fear and hostility. I’ve come to identify with this role, and now my Jesus Freak friend has taken on that role for me.

 

At the top of Mount Tamalpais where we started our conversation about our spiritual paths.
At the top of Mount Tamalpais where we started our conversation about our spiritual paths.

I feel unsettled, because I’m not prepared for this. I understand that he is now the one priestessing for me. He is holding space for fear I am bringing to our conversation. He is holding space for the tension I am creating by my anticipation of antagonism. And, I have to admit, he is facilitating a healing process for me. It hurts my pride to admit this. It means that I have fallen prey to the very us-versus-them mentality I came here to defeat.

All of these thoughts run through my mind while he waits. Holding space. Breathing. Grounding. Waiting for me to become more present. I reach out and place my hand on his. I don’t remember what I say in response. Maybe “thank you”, or “I know, or “I agree”, or something inconsequential that is supposed to mean all of these things. He’s amazing at reading body language, though, so I don’t worry about finding the right words.

Our food arrives, and I babble about the gluten-free Naan, how cool it is that I can eat Naan here without feeling miserable afterwards, and how many of the vegetables are organic, and I sort of apologize for the Krishna music, which he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s kind of a hipster place, I say, or at least very typically Marin county, and I feel a little guilty for liking it so much, because, you know, gentrification and all. So we talk about social justice and come full circle again, talking about what unites us in our struggle for a different world. He calls it “the Kingdom of God”, I don’t have a name for it, but we both believe that this other world Is possible. Birthing and midwifing it into existence is a core part of our spirituality.

There are areas in which we disagree, of course. But for now I eat my Indian food, taking in the fact that I didn’t do any of the priestessing I came here to do. It was a Jesus Freak, and, as I now understand, a dear friend, who spent this day priestessing to me. It’s a good reminder that life doesn’t always happen according to my plans.

*******

I am writing about this day with my Jesus Freak friend after he has already returned to Germany. At first I was going to write these memories in the past tense, but as soon as I typed the first line, I was right there again in the restaurant.

These days my conversations, my theological studies, my daily practice, my spiritual life – they all point me to the need for integration. I am learning that I cannot move forward on my path as a Witch without healing and integrating my past. My Jesus Freak friend and I had only planned one day together, but it became clear that we both wanted more. More moments like these, more conversations. So we spent a couple more days together before he had to fly back. Now I have much more to think about and write, and I am looking forward to returning to this after PantheaCon and ConVocation.

 


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