Thursday, April 15, 2010

The "Jesus Fish"

As some of you might know, I have had a long and sorted past with religion. When I was a child I read the book "The Diary of Anne Frank" after which I decided it was my destiny to become a Jew. However, this first religious "revelation" was short lived. Soon after I began my investigation into Judaism I decided to sever my affiliation with this group because of the fact that they claim responsibility for the death of Jesus. Apparently, I neglected to investigate the less hated group "Jews for Jesus" before I made my decision. Anyhow, I decided something slightly less controversial might be safer--especially since I was only 9 years old at the time. I had a friend who was a Mormon and she seemed happy and close with her family. I have always struggled to make connections so I felt if joining this church was the answer, by all means, I'm in. I was immediately baptized and initiated into the Mormon faith by my new extended family "the ward". Soon after my conversion I attended "girls camp", were, I accidentally peed in my pants after fearing I was lost in the woods. I was certain I had stumbled into the ecotone, that place where wilderness and civilization overlap, that place where a hungry grizzly bear might just be waiting to make a meal out of a new Mormon convert. After girls camp I returned to civilization where I regularly attended church with my mother, my new Mormon friend, and her family. Shortly after my return from girls camp I watched my new Mormon friend's father put her brothers head through the front door window. Naturally, my interest in church began to suffer. I decided to re-evaluate my life's direction and focus on my dream of becoming the first dancing veterinarian in outer space.
It was many years until I returned to my religious studies and when I did, it was with a small group of born again Christians who owned a boarding school run by religious zealots. I was fascinated by the women's loyalty to their husbands and found it...refreshing. I have an opinionated, strong willed mother who often fought with my equally opinionated, strong willed father making for a not very peaceful home life. I was drawn to these humble, obedient women and wanted to learn the secret to the harmonious live style they seemed to be living. However, I began to question the motives of my new "religious mentors" when they said I would go to hell if I didn't vacuum regularly, do my chores and be mindlessly obedient to the staff at the boarding school. I felt unrest. I felt a disconnect. And, I felt spiritually lost. I began to read books about Buddhism, Hinduism, and other middle eastern philosophies. I found them intriguing and couldn't wait to share what I had read with the other students. Big mistake...big, huge. This was the breaking point for the people who ran the boarding school. It was bad enough that I was reading it myself but to teach these controversial alternative philosophies to the other students was completely unacceptable. They asked me to leave the school and offered a high school diploma as incentive. I took it and ran.
So, there I was...newly graduated from high school, a budding young adult, searching for my life's true purpose but still reveling from the huge spiritual void I had felt for so many years. I tried filling that void with bad relationships, drugs and alcohol, and naughty exploits that helped me stay afloat financially. I was suffering from severe depression related to a major eating disorder and a recent miscarriage. It was about this time I met my now husband Ryan. He suggested that, (having served a mission for the LDS church and being somewhat of a religious Guru), he observed my problem to be a lack of spirituality and offered to take me to church, to which I said "What the hell?" We were both LDS, the lifestyle of the Mormon religion had at one time appealed to me greatly, and I was a terribly lost soul. I had not been able to quench my religious thirst with any of the holy water I had been consuming for the past several months. So, we began attending church together, fell madly in love (which I called "gaining a testimony") and were then sealed for time and all eternity in the LDS temple. We lived in blissful ignorance for 2 years until I discovered things were not as they appeared. I went to church, I read my B of M (Book of Mormon) and even had a couple kids. I longed to experience what I thought I saw the other women having. A beautifully rewarding and satisfying relationship with their husband, the Lord and their 6 children. However, I knew this was not to be. I knew that I would never be the devout natural Mormon born into the church that I longed to. Equally as devastating was the news that my religious rock Ryan was also suffering. I was crushed when he suggested that he was not nearly as strong in his beliefs as he had originally appeared. Together we struggled to make sense of this awful thing that had happened. We looked in all the wrong directions and asked many people who were not qualified enough to give directions to the bathroom at the zoo let alone advice on finding ourselves spiritually. We were both heart broken and facing a major turning point in our life as a married couple. We offered to blame ourselves. We tried blaming each other. We even tried blaming the kids. Nothing worked, we were inconsolable in our quest to find spirituality both as individuals and together as a couple. We partied out of control and tried to forget about how badly we hurt. We contemplated divorce. However, we decided to take one last trip together. We went to Las Vegas to binge on alcohol and strippers. Well, guess what happened while we were there? I got pregnant. Nine months later we had the most beautiful baby girl either of us had ever seen. She was an angel. She was absolutely precious. She was...our saving Grace. We named her Ava Grace.
Over the next 5 years we would continue to struggle with spirituality. Ryan and I gradually drifted apart in our religious beliefs but grew stronger, much stronger as a couple. We both had learned, from all of the suffering we did together, that the quest for spirituality is one we must make alone. So we have both explored what lies beneath our surface(s). Ryan has struggled to make sense of his life as a born again Mormon. He is still learning how to have a healthy relationship with the Savior that doesn't involve guilt and shame. I on the other hand, have embraced Darwinism. I have rejected all forms of organized religion and come to identify with agnosticism as the only intelligent choice. However, I am still left with the question...what is our life's true purpose? I decided that the next step was to consult a professional. I entered therapy. To my therapist I posed the question how can I embrace a group of people I consider to be less intellectually enlightened? He suggested that I might be spiritually blocked. I had to open myself up, I had to redefine who I considered spiritual, and that my definition of a spiritual person couldn't include stereotypes. I agreed. I left that session feeling hopeful. I walked out of his office, out of the building and into the parking lot where I was abruptly greeted by an awful woman, with awful bleach blond hair and giant fake breasts, in an equally awful pink Toyota Celica. I thought to myself "Ugh" no further explanation necessary. As I walked behind her car I happened to notice something on the trunk. It was the "Jesus fish". I thought to myself, really? REALLY?!? I open myself up to the universe and THIS is what it sends me? I decided it was a sign...a sign from the underworld. I told Ryan this story and he said "Well, if there is an underworld, there must be a God in Heaven because their is balance in all things." I found this thought process intriguing. Here I am paying a therapist, when, meanwhile it is my very own husband who opens my eyes to the endless possibilities that the "Jesus fish" might hold. I call it a disturbing sign from Satan, he calls it a hopeful sign from the Lord. I later told my therapist, I guess that is why we pick people who are our help us achieve maximum "enlightenment" or maybe just to torment us spiritually for time and all eternity.