For most of the world, it was just another Saturday in April.
But for me, it was the start of something new. It was the holiest of moments. It was life found beneath a dome under cloudy Seattle skies – when I couldn’t tell the difference between the water and tears that trailed down my face, when I closed my eyes and uttered ancient prayers spoken by thousands of tongues.
The records show that I became an Episcopalian that day, but to me, it was something else, something more, something so real and true.
While the whole of the story is mine to hold, I’ll tell you this much: it wasn’t until that day that I realized how much I’d been searching for a place to call home. And there’s nothing like finally finding the place that speaks your language, that wakes up the Spirit inside of you.
Growing up, I found my spiritual home in the little Baptist church on the corner of Liberty and Miller, in the place we called home every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Her walls and her people and her songs coursed through our veins.
In college, I found a home in the charismatic side of the church. I didn’t always know what to make of everything, but she seemed to be the place where real Christians lived, where true believers hung out. I learned to raise my hands when the rockstar music played. I covered the walls of my dorm room in Bible verses. I began to shout my prayers. I wondered if I would ever speak in tongues.
Most of the time, though, I felt like I was trying on a pair of jeans that didn’t seem to fit. I kept trying because that’s what good Christians did. I kept returning to the dressing room for another pair, another style, another size, because that’s what I was supposed to do.
But then it was too much.
Then, I was too much. I questioned too much. I rebelled too much. I didn’t submit to the authority of my spiritual elders enough. And when “too much” and “not enough” become a part of your spiritual vocabulary, you know that something’s not right.
So, for a long time afterwards, I sought middle ground. After college, I made home in non-denominational churches, in places that always looked edgy and artsy and emergent on the outside, but didn’t always know what to do with someone like me – a woman who was a speaker and a preacher, a woman who wasn’t necessarily called to the complimenting sidelines of ministry.When they kept questioning whether or not people like me were capable of delivering the Good News, I finally stopped trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – because it wasn’t about me personally holding a microphone or having a Tina Turner lapel taped to the side of my face, but it was about believing in the full dignity of every person, everywhere.
And clinging to the imago Dei means believing that each and every human has been created in the image of the one who made them. All are the beloved. All are in. All are welcome at the table.
I suppose it was a belief in the “all” that finally (ten, twenty years later) led me to an Episcopal church in Seattle on a random Thursday in July, nearly a year before a mixture of water and tears ran down my forehead.
I couldn’t always explain how I’d ended up there, other than to wonder if the Spirit knew what he or she was doing when I kept showing up to break bread with a ragtag group of misfits at a weekday Eucharist service. I couldn’t always explain how the smells and bells made the deepest part of me feel alive, or how camping out in the unknown of the gray and the mystery of faith comforted me like the thickest of winter quilts. And I couldn’t always explain why I said yes to baptism in this church when I’d been dunked in the waters of the little Baptist church thirty years before.
But it happened. And like I said before, it was the start of something new, the holiest of moments to me.
It was the start of new life.
I’ve got to tell you: reading Carly Gelsinger’s new memoir, Once You Go In, really got the wheels churning for this blog post. If you’re searching for your spiritual home or if the religious fundamentalism of your youth needs a little bit of rewiring or a touch of coloring outside the lines, as we are prone to say around these parts, DO check out her book. It’s a breath of fresh air.