Not really, but sort of.
I am enrolled in a 2 year paraprofessional certification for Spiritual Formation Leadership. What is that, you ask? I'm not sure really, but it requires furthering my relationship with the Divine within and going out of my comfort zone. So here I am.
It is a joint venture between the Ministry of Spiritual Formation of my church, First United Methodist in Baton Rouge and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois. I'm not sure how I ended up here (oh yes I do), but here I am.
I wrote that a few weeks back and reading again now, I just noticed that the words "Here I Am" were at the end of both of the above paragraphs. That happens to be one of my very favorite hymns. It make me want to sing and cry all at the same time. No coincidence that I wrote those words. It gives me goose bumps every time.
I am going to determine that this certification is a good thing. It is comprised of several conferences over 2 years. And the most important part is taking on different spiritual practices on a near daily basis: keeping a prayer journal, Centering prayer, audio listenings, book reports, developing a rule of life, Lectio divina, and small group meetings.
Oh my gosh. That's a lot and since grad school, I've never been very disciplined in reading activities. Can I be disciplined? I have been very intentional in my thought processes and changing those that don't work for me. Guess what? That is the spiritual practice of Self-Examination. (Check that practice off the list!! One down!!)
My spiritual homework is pushing me to do practices that make me feel uncomfortable and are painful. I am healing the past and... thought processes that did not bring me closer to God. These new practices, although awkward and challenging, open me up even further to the divine within. I wasn't ready to read the words or hear the words or speak the exercises before me until now. Some healing had to take place to make me ready to take in, here it comes...love. And love always is the answer. But love comes not in the form that I expect, so I have come to expect the unexpected. (But of course still some yearning in the ways that I think it should be)
I had put off starting many of the above described homework assignments. A deadline loomed and I dug in. It finally hit me why I delayed sitting down to tackle the materials. This work is emotional. My fundamentalist baggage is deep. Whatever I learned when I was younger did not bring me to know how much God loves me. I read within the first sentence of a chapter on Self Examination: ...God is the searcher of every human heart.
That brought tears to my eyes. Wow. Eight words did me in. I'm in that every human heart and I believe it. God is seeking me out every day, all day, with a ceaseless love. (I just have to pay attention and let go of my expectations!) This is a stark contrast to how I felt about God before. I felt God was out there (hand as far away from the body as it can get and tilted upward because you know that's where heaven is) and relentlessly judging me. I failed in the judgement that I thought was going on each and every time. What a difference to know a higher power is always there with LOVE, a ceaseless love not judgement.
My former black and white thinking on God (and life) takes time to dismantle. Now, I desperately need to hear the notion of original love not original sin. We were born of love, as love. It takes time to take this in. People and religions make up rules and dogma instead of doing the hard work of allowing love in.
So I am in seminary, sort of. I wouldn't have ever thought that was true. I just was invited to take this step and it made sense to follow it. I am pushing myself once again, uncomfortably into new territory. This is growth, though. I cannot grow and evolve standing still or sitting and cowering in the corner as I was accustomed to. I am dragging myself slowly bit by bit but I know without a doubt I'm on the right path.