Today’s post is in response to suzjones’s challenge to write about what inspires us.
She remarks that the word inspiration comes from the ancient Greek notion that we breathe in the spirit of creativity from the gods in order to create. (I dragged out my old Ancient Greek textbook and, indeed, the adjective theopneustos (inspired) does mean God-breathed, i.e. inspired by God.) I mention this because I have an interesting past in relation to God and faith. I had a distinct conversion experience at a very young age and was a devour Christian for most of my life. In my thirties, I trained, and was accepted for ordination in my church.
My faith, my relationship with God, was the bedrock of my life … until my belief system changed radically. I no longer say “I lost my faith” because the phrase implies the loss of something which we are still seeking or yearning for: “I lost my keys”, “I lost my husband”. My loss of faith was profound. I am now an atheist, and a materialist, in the sense that I do not accept the existence of a supernatural world. (I’m certainly not a materialist in the sense of valuing possessions and objects above all else!) I still mourn the yawning God-shaped hole in my life, years later, but as I am convinced there is no God, I must simply bear the pain and learn to live otherwise. I have a feeling the historical Jesus would understand my situation, though he may not share it.
“Hold it!” I hear you cry. “You said you were going to write about inspiration! What’s all this about your belief system? Where does that fit in?” Well, please be patient – I am baring my deepest agony, the soft pink underbelly of my soul, to you. Allow me the indulgence of doing it at my own pace!
While I was going through the process of “losing God”, I was particularly interested in observing ministers-in-training and active ministers whose thoughts also seemed to be following the same path as my own. Some retreated into doctrinal fundamentalism: “following the party line”, so to speak, almost mindlessly. Well, literally mindlessly: from the outside, it looked as though their thought processes were so painful that they stopped thinking. Others twisted their personal theology into pretzel-shaped versions of orthodoxy which, to me, to have strayed beyond the bounds of what could still be called Christianity. Still others seemed to bury themselves in the busy-ness of being a minister or priest, and cease thinking theologically. Given the demands placed upon them, this would be an easy thing to do, and not necessarily deliberate.
For me, none of these responses to my crisis of faith were an option. When I had read and read and read, consulted spiritual directors and prayed myself raw, explored the boundaries of theology and still found therein no space for me to abide, I simply had to face my reality and say: no more. I’m out.
I could not live an inauthentic life.
This is a long-winded way of saying that my inspiration springs from that same place of utter truth within me. I write to speak my truth. I find I must tell my truth, in some way: spoken or written or sung or run, gardened or sewed or drawn: however it bubbles to the surface. When I don’t tell my truth, I become unwell.
And the truth is transforming. In writing this, I have realized the deep truth of my words. The non-existent God is no longer the bedrock of my life; my commitment to authenticity, my absolute imperative to live in harmony with the large truths of my life, is now my bedrock. Perhaps it always has been: there was opposition to my seeking ordination, but I persisted, because I believed it to be my true calling.
I’m no saint, believe me! I fall short of my authenticity frequently, and I’m certainly not above the odd white lie, or even lie of convenience. I’m also aware that sometimes I hide the truth from myself. (I guess that’s my new cardinal sin!) However, suzjones asked where our inspiration comes from. This is it, for me.
The wellspring of my inspiration is the bedrock of my authenticity.
What’s your inspiration?