I grew up in the Christian tradition, Baptist and Pentacostal versions, and I fell head over heels in love with Jesus. I loved singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas and I loved the stories and rituals of his life. I happily went to church 3 or more times a week, in addition to Christian school until 5th grade. Easter was hard for me because I felt his pain so deeply when I reflected on the crucifixion, and because I believed it was my fault, because I was told he would have died for just one of us. I couldn’t believe anyone could love me so much and I tried with all my heart to be a good girl for him. I prayed and talked to him regularly. I made sure I was “saved” by asking him into my heart over and over and getting baptized multiple times. I gave myself over to the powerful energies of Pentacostal practice and experienced altered states known as “being slain in the Spirit.” I spoke in tongues and shook with an emotional and spiritual power I didn’t understand, but enveloped me in the deepest love and connection I’d known. Even as a child and teen I was a mystic, driven by my longing for connection with the Divine.
Now I understand that I loved the archetype and mythology of Jesus intensely because he mirrors my own nature. Jesus loves God and commits his life to awakening others to their own Divinity. Jesus is so generous that he suffers great violence and gives his life for us. Jesus also prioritizes service and inclusion over money and social standing. He raises consciousness. And he embraces those on the margins of society. As a little girl and young woman, desperate to be saved from the traumas in my home, desperate for a sense of emotional safety and unconditional love, Jesus was a bright shining light in the darkness.
I know down to my bones that Jesus would have loved the communities I love – the tribes with piercings and tattoos who commune with the Divine through body rites; the single mothers on welfare or working minimum wage jobs, doing everything they can to raise their children to be healthy, happy and whole; orphans who have been ravaged by life and grief; the poor, the disabled and the addicted; lovers who express their longing for Divine union through their “alternative” sexualities; and so many more. Jesus was a Radical Mystic and Sacred Activist, rebelling against the status quo and striving for social justice in his world.
This is the trouble that I have with how spirituality has become just another commodity in our culture. With our plethora of spiritual and self-development teachers, I don’t see very many people like Jesus today. The people who teach, even the ones I respect, only teach to those who have significant privilege. Most of them are not serving, they are selling to people who are mostly white, mostly straight, and are all wealthy by global standards. Jesus would not ignore or neglect those who suffer from poverty, illness, violence, and addiction. Jesus would not abide the oppression of queer and trans people. Jesus would not sit on the mountain meditating while thousands die in the atrocities of war. Jesus would not focus on building his brand while millions or billions of his human family go without the basics of food, shelter and safety. Jesus wouldn’t be interested in teaching people how to make six figures with their gifts. Jesus would be inspiring them to take their gifts to the streets, to the margins, where they are needed most.
While I grew beyond the church and the dogma of Christianity by the time I was 20, I find that I still carry a deep abiding love and respect for Jesus Christ. Although I honor and find something to resonate with in all belief systems, Jesus remains my favorite spiritual teacher. He is my role model. The work that I have found – with an organization that serves the people in my community who live on the margins with relationship and spiritual community in addition to physical resources – helps me see that this is where I belong. I didn’t succeed with an executive coaching firm that charges several hundred dollars an hour for their services because those are not the people I am called to serve. I will not become a creative entrepreneur because I’m not interested in selling anything. Money never has been and never will be a motivating force in my life.
Like Jesus, I am driven by love and a desire to alleviate suffering by providing sustenance and belonging for all that are not getting their most basic physical and emotional needs met. I can no longer try to emulate the bright and shiny stars who spin where the spiritual and entreprenurial worlds meet, because I am not driven by the same fire. My new role models are those spiritual leaders who take their love to the streets to alleviate the suffering of others. Sacred activists. Radical mystics. Those who are willing to put everything on the line, even their lives, for a more just and loving world.