I’ve tried religion. For a good portion of my life I followed the prescription of fast, pray, read your scriptures. I wanted to know what it felt like to feel the spirit and then, caught, wondered how to stop repenting. I stayed on that road until it became a path littered with my own failure to stay unquestioning enough to believe.
In the library of my small public school, I found an illustrated book of bible stories that I checked out many times, the pages a map of glorious hope that there was something I could be called to do, to be. I have always been a seeker, a finder of lovely words and possible magic. I sensed the divine in shadowy places, ever thinking I have finally found it.
I have known the study of book after book, spines broken against my questions, forever evolving past the point of needing them, only to open the next, the newest. The soul friends I have gathered saying no need for them to find the chapter and verse of their knowing, I will do that for them, bringing them the highlights, the best, the eye opening passages of insight sold and bartered for connection and togetherness.
There is a temple door, so small, so quiet, so brief, and the way to get there is to stop trying to get in; to stop trying to bring people with me. I fear being alone even in my love for alone-ness. I fear the empty chair more than I slow myself enough to sit. I endlessly speak—and that could be what locks the door to that small sacred place. The entryway key to my own salvation held fast in a hand that does not need saving.
Once religious, is there always a part that stays sorrowful? That pines for a shimmering afterlife while living in the here and now—that pleads, even silently, for redemption, absolution?
Once bereft of a connection to god, can there be connection? The cycle of worthiness played out without the release of the prayer of resolution, the supplicant left the same, unbaptized and dry, and yet—
There is one more way that calls to me, and it is one I have not dared try, because it must be alone, unshared and unspoken. I hear it in the toll of a faraway bell with the last light of day. I dream of its beginning, hallowed and whole, and the invitation means an ending for me of the old ways, the final laying down of what I have held, believing.
For someone who has never not worked around the fullness of religion, it’s seeking, finding, struggling and leaving, the one last sacrifice in this many roomed mansion is it’s undoing.