I'm gonna get a little serious on ya'll now.
I could never say I'm making a transformation of me without exploring, meditating on and growing spiritually. Fairly recent circumstances in my life left me "spiritually broken." My spirituality having always been a big part of me and who I am... this is an aspect of me that cannot go ignored. There is no pursuit of happiness to me without being able to mend that which is broken. So that's what I'm doing.
A brief glimpse into my religious upbringing goes like this...
I was born and baptized a Catholic. Never understood a darn thing. Knew my prayers. Attended catechism until the age of eight when I moved away to Florida. What I took with me is that church is where we learned about God and where all the familiar faces from the killer parties my family threw would gather on Sundays. All the while my grandmother had converted to Pentecostal and since I spent a lot of time with her... I went to her church as well. A small, hole in the wall type place with loud passionate preaching, people fainting all over the place, jumping and knocking chairs over in the isles, people looking as if they were convulsing under white blankets as the congregation spoke in an unfamiliar language and the message every night sounded more like a warning: "JESUS BIENE!!!" Which in Spanish means "Jesus is coming!" They'd announce this over and over again along with threats of burning in the "lake of fire for all of eternity" if you miss the "sound of the trumpets" when Jesus comes so dammit you BETTER get right with the Lord RIGHT NOW!!! (They didn't say "dammit"... I just threw that in there.)
Those skirt wearing, no hair cutting, non-makeup wearing, tambourine pounding Pentecostals scared the LIVING HELL outta me. I remember spending many nights lying awake listening very hard for the faintest sound of a trumpet sounding. I was the child who feared burning in hell over a time out for what I did wrong that day and prayed forgiveness for even thinking un-Godly thoughts. Every loud sound I heard through my window at night was surely the sound of the earth cracking open underneath my house and hell on earth was to begin.
Trumpets! I can't hear the trumpets... Where's the fire? Fire is going to fall from the sky they said...
I was traumatized.
In Florida my parents found themselves attending a less scary, much bigger Christian church. I was a Missionet and proud to wear the uniform. I loved the music. The messages. The energy. I loved the church family we had and that I was coming out of my shyness. A couple years in... scandal hit. The pastor had an affair. We didn't last there much longer.
Needless to say... I have issues with church. Religion. I've convinced myself that religion is just a notion used to control the masses. A form of brainwashing people into behaving a certain type of way and collecting 10% of their earnings every Sunday. Where the hypocrites go to feel better about their wrong doing and where the self righteous meet up to feed into their delusions of being holier than holy.
It's safe to say I have some deep rooted issues when it comes to church. Some that are much deeper than the ones I described. But... something keeps drawing me in.
Despite my claim that I'm more "spiritual than religious" (maybe I really am)... I am and always will be a God-fearing person. I know He exists. Despite the fact that just a few months ago I tried to believe that Jesus Christ was just a myth because it was easier for me to live with my guilt of having lost Faith... I know He is real and He lives in me. I still believe there are people worthy of my trust and my friendship. Not everyone is good, but not everyone is bad either. And even though I've had bad experiences with church it only means I haven't found the place for me.
So now that I found a place for me. I got excited. Maybe a little too excited. And upon becoming a member I decided I was going to step out of my little introverted shell and participate. I wanted to become a serving member of my church. Having fallen in love with the little babies in the nursery (and because upon picking up my screeching kid from the nursery one of the workers desperately said "We need help!")... I decided to sign up for that. I wanna volunteer to hug babies.
::Cue the screeching breaks::
I was assigned the job of being a helper in the 4th grade class.
"Are you sure you can do it?! These kids talk back you know!?" the super cheerful lady who signed me up for the task asked as I hesitated to accept the job.
"Suuuuuure. If that's where I'm needed. That's where I'll go."
Piece of cake... I got a couple of these at home and they friggin love me...
I figured this is where I'm meant to be. It wasn't my plan... it's His. And with an obedient spirit, I will do what He has asked me to do.
Four weeks into this task... I came home on the verge of a mental break down.
"Am I an evil person??? How can everyone be so happy and cheerful ALL the time??? Does this make me a negative person??? The kids don't listen. I can't deal with other peoples kids. Am I wrong for wanting to run away and hide? Am I wrong for being the way I am??? I don't have this persons energy. I don't have that persons patience. I don't have her pep. I don't have his public speaking skills. Something must not be right with... Me." Are among my thoughts.
Feeling like the devils spawn and trying to connect with your spirituality does NOT go hand in hand.
FYI... I was diagnosed with anxiety a few years ago. Anxiety is only part of this battle. Mostly I was just quick to blame myself for what I lacked. If I couldn't do this, it was MY problem. There was something wrong with ME. If I wasn't so shy. If I wasn't so quiet. If I wasn't so calm. If I were louder. More energetic. More sympathetic. More outgoing. Peppy. If I was everything that I'm NOT then I would be able to do this but I can't which means I must be a failure.
So before I could do the whole dramatic scene of diving into my bed and crying out that, "NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME!"... I called my mom.
After summarizing my dramatic version of events from the night and what triggered my anxiety, some cursing, sarcasm, jokes and a brief suggestion of the possible benefits marijuana can play in this situation (if it were legal of course)... We got down to business.
"There's nothing wrong with being you, Jess... It just doesn't fit YOU. You shouldn't feel like you have to change who you are to play a role."
I needed to be drawn back in to myself. And that's what she did.
She reminded me that even though I may not have the abilities I wish I had that I see in others... there's abilities that I have that others wish they had in me. I just need to find where it is that I need to be to let it shine.
In my panic it never occurred to me that it could really be that simple. I felt so horrible about not being able to fit where I was placed. About being a complete failure and feeling guilty about not being as happy and cheerful as the people around me about what I was doing. I was quick to kick myself in the ass (that's right, I said it... ASS) for what I'm not than to process the idea that maybe it's simply not my calling. Especially when it's so bad that I'm beginning to dread going to the same church that opened me up enough to want to be a part of it. Before I turn and run from this place which is what I would normally do when I feel I don't belong, I'm going to accept that THIS particular assignment is just not my calling within the church. It doesn't mean that I don't belong there.
How does the saying go... God don't make no... God don't... Ugh... How does it go... Phillipians...
Ma... Is it really said like that??? 'God don't make no'.. it sounds so ghetto when you word it like that... You mean... 'GOD DON'T MAKE NO MISTAKES'???
Nooo. No that's not it.
Really?! LOL well thanks...
Well I can't think of exactly how it went but yeah... GOD DON'T MAKE NO MISTAKES...
And she's right. I hate feeling that others may see some of my personality traits as something that needs to be overcome and prayed away. What's worse... I hate that I made the mistake of feeling that my personality traits are something to be overcome and prayed away when I feel I don't fit in to a position. I am who I am. I embrace all that makes me, me and the devil can take his lies back to hell with him when he tries to tell me that these traits are defects in my personality. (That's a little of that Pentecostal in me speaking ya'll!) I'm always going to be a little shy. But that hasn't stopped me from meeting some great people. I'm always going to be a little insecure. But it's not enough to stop me from trying to climb out of my shell. I may not speak as loudly but I'm still heard. I'm a person who values the quiet and my privacy but that doesn't make me "anti social"... at least not completely. I may always be just a little bit tortured but it doesn't mean I'm incapable of being joyful and positive. I'm creative and imaginative. I have strengths and weaknesses just like the next person. I'm sarcastic and funny but serious and there's nothing wrong with that. I am loved by many. Adored by lots and my kids would say I'm FAR from evil. I may drop the F bomb here and there because as a soft-spoken person, sometimes it's just what's needed to drill the message in. And even though I learned I might not be fit to demonstrate to children what I'm still learning for myself... I'm still really, really good with babies. Most of all... My anxiety is NOT a personality trait and I WILL overcome it throughout my journey.
Either way... Like my momma said... God made me the way I'm supposed to be. Only through spiritual growth and in rebuilding my relationship with God will I know where I'm supposed to be. In learning to listen when He speaks to me will he reveal how I can use the strengths he's blessed me with in order to serve Him to the best of MY ability... not somebody else's. And that's ok.