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Since leaving Christianity, and now gradually moving away from organized religion altogether, all religious holidays are interesting events for me. Because I am a musician, I often play for church services on these days, and they provide me ample opportunity for reflection.

At first, I remember the time when I did believe and practice and worship in this way. At one time, such memories were painful because I missed those days of familiarity, belonging and security and predictability. I loved being part of a worldwide community and having a clear place and purpose within that community. I loved being a member of a family who, for generations, had invested so much time and money and history in this community…it made me feel important, valuable, needed, wanted. Leaving this community was very painful and difficult to do.

Then I remember why I left…all the confining, rigid, controlling, stifling practices and behaviors…all the questions I had that couldn’t be answered satisfactorily, and the angry responses others gave me when I asked them. I remember wishing I could live in this innocent place of just accepting…not questioning everything…of just being content with life as it’s presented to me rather than having an insatiable drive to learn more. I remember wishing that I could be someone else so that I wouldn’t subject myself to this pain of separation from all that I knew and believed.

Next I remember the years of anger and frustration and rejection as I moved away from Christian belief. I remember that I could hardly talk with a Christian because the Christian-speak and narrow-mindedness was so blatant that it was all I could do to keep from vomiting. The mere idea of stepping into a church was revolting because it meant I would have to be subjected to a plethora of fake people pretending to be something they aren’t…and judging everyone else for being what they themselves were. Sermons were the worst…a string of trite platitudes, pat answers and party lines…of questions for which the speaker already had answers, even though the answers had no logical reasoning behind them…of the arrogance of a person thinking that he was so special and important that what he had to say mattered more than anyone else in the room.

Then I realize how much I have changed in recent years…of finding a place within myself that accepts me…nurtures me…supports me…loves me. That in developing these practices within, I am now able to do the same for others outside of myself. I am now able to step into a church and participate as a musician and not feel anger or hatred or frustration or bitterness or abandonment or betrayal, or any of the myriad of other emotions I once felt. Rather, I can simply acknowledge that this is part of my history with a sense of sweet nostalgia while also acknowledging that I have moved past this place…and that it’s ok that others still need it even if I don’t. In this moment, I realize that I now feel a gratitude for both my past and my present, and this space allows me be open to new insights from familiar stories.

This year, as I listened to all the messages in the songs, readings and sermon around the Easter story, I realized that I can experience the story of Jesus in a very different way…that it actually speaks to me once again…something I never thought possible. As I listened, I heard a story that I recognized in my own journey…my journey of betrayal from ones that I thought were my friends and community…my journey of being condemned for living from my heart and connection with Divinity…my journey of being alone in my dark place of anguish while everyone else went on with their lives blissfully unaware of the turmoil within…my journey of realizing that some things were ready to release from my life, such as patterns of thought, behaviors, desires, stories, attachments, and emotions even if I wasn’t ready to let them go…my journey of struggling, resisting, and ultimately surrendering and allowing those things to die and fall away so that new life could be created within…my journey of resurrecting to a new way of being, of living, of loving, of accepting because I allowed my ego as ruler to be sacrificed.

Instantly, I realized that the story of Jesus’ life may not need to be literal…that perhaps the true meaning of the story of Jesus’ life is one that is metaphysical…describing the inner life of one who is seeking spiritual enlightenment. I realized that the literal interpretation, practice, and culture of religion is there for those who need that support and structure as they learn to spiritually walk for themselves…similar to a baby learning to walk without help. However, once a religious practitioner learns to walk for him/herself, that person will no longer need the structure and support of a religion or a religious community. In fact, that environment will only lead to stagnation and resentment if that person stays…much like a teenager who never leaves home to discover the world and his/her place in it. Rather, the leaving of the religious community is a graduation…a commencement…something to be celebrated. As part of the commencement ritual, there is an initiation. This initiation into a new life of walking on his/her own is the process described in the Easter story…a journey that all graduates must experience…a journey leading to the death of ego as the ruling nature and resurrecting into a life of surrender lived from the heart space, connected to Divinity…resurrecting into a life lived in the Christ Consciousness.

Suddenly, my journey of pain transformed. No longer did I need to carry this painful story of rejection and abandonment and betrayal with me, for it wasn’t the only way to interpret the series of events I experienced. I could tell the story as a victim, or I could tell the story as an empowered soul determined to grow closer to Divinity always being supported and loved through the process. This shift elevated my consciousness even higher, freeing up all sorts of space within me for an abundance of love and joy to manifest in my life. Again, I experienced a deep gratitude for all of it…for it was all necessary, even if it wasn’t pleasant.

And, it isn’t always pleasant. February and March have not been particularly pleasant months energetically. They’ve been months of intense clearing and cleansing…pruning and releasing of all those things, attitude, beliefs, people, relationships, jobs, homes, etc that no longer serve your greatest happiness. There may have even been moments when you thought you couldn’t face another day…that the intensity would consume you to the point of death.

Today though, as these intense clearing energies subside today allowing hope to  begin to bloom in your heart, I invite you to discover those stories of victim-ness that you are carrying and honoring so dearly. I invite you to be willing to see another story around the series of events you experienced…to allow a victim stance to be transformed into a story of empowerment…of love…of acceptance…of purpose…of support…of enlightenment. I invite you to see the opportunity to transform your life into one of profound beauty and light…in all things…so that you can say of yourself, you are risen indeed.

And so it is.