Me Too, don’t shoot the messenger

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We’ve been here before as women. Remember #YesAllWomen?

I wasn’t in a place to own my story then and shared details only privately. This weekend, I was much more bold. If I needed a sign that I was healing, there it was.

Yet, in speaking out, we’ve been accused of perpetuating the victimhood complex. I won’t speak for others, but let me be clear for myself: I’m not a victim. Not even a little bit. And, yes, I have been hurt and violated. Yes, there is even damage I’m still working through.

I can speak that without being a victim. I can acknowledge and own that those thing are part of my story without being at their mercy.

I am not a victim and sharing my story does not make me so, no matter how others read it.

Truthfully, I am a little shocked by how many of the women (and some men) I know have spoken up. A little shocked at just how many people who have been violated. And I know many are hurt and disgusted by what they’re reading this weekend. Many people owning this part of their story are also still working through it. Many of them have been violated much more recently or much more profoundly than I have been.

But you know, I’m not just shocked. I’m not just hurt to see my friends hurt and not just disgusted to see the carnage of rape culture.

I’m empowered.

NOT because I feel kinship with others. Not because it makes me happy or relieved to see that others admit they’ve been violated. Not because it helps me feel more normal. Not even because it’s been well received and believed. It hasn’t. We continue to be disbelieved, minimized, and criticized for speaking up.

But you know what? We are doing it anyway. And it matters.

There are a billion causes for our energy, a billion places for us to get angry and speak up, a billion windmills to tilt at (believe me, I find them).

This is no less important. It impacts how we approach the world. It teaches us who we can trust and how far we can trust them. It tells us who has a right to our bodies, our souls. It hurts men and women who were violated and it hurts men and women who were the perpetrators. When it’s silenced, it breeds shame and shame allows illness to grow into cancer.

I’m empowered by seeing so many people speak because I believe that speaking it helps us heal it.

Healthy people build healthy communities where we respect one another and care for each other’s needs. Healthy people build societies free of -isms. Healthy people build cultures where governments aren’t needed.

And maybe that connection has taken a turn that feels like it doesn’t follow, but (for me) this topic ends where all topics of morality end: at my two foundational values – the intrinsic worth of each person and the inherent right that each person has to control themselves.

At its core, this is an issue of personal value and self-ownership. This is an issue of who is allowed to cross your boundaries and where you have a right to limit that ingress. Only you get to decide that for you.

I hope my daughters and my friends’ daughters and sons will never have a reason to say me too. Speaking up helps make that hope more realistic.

So to everyone who has spoken, who has said “Me too”: thank you. Thank you for empowering me to own my story too. Thank you for making space for all of us to be more than victims. Thank you for helping us heal.

And a note directed squarely at my anarchist people: this is not a distraction. This is a branch not far removed from the root of freedom. We have to heal before we can be the kind of people who can maintain voluntary communities. We will never get that sort of society until we deserve it.

This is not a celebration of victimhood. See above.

This is not an exaggeration or something that “means nothing” because harassment and assault are a spectrum. No point on that spectrum is ok.

This is not an attack on you as a person or as a man. Nobody’s leaving you out. If you have a story, share it. Seriously.

And just because you don’t believe it’s an issue doesn’t mean that it’s not.

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I’d rather err towards love

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Last weekend was the Utah Pride festival and parade. In fact, all of June is national Pride month here in the U.S. There is no secret that my LDS faith community has a rocky relationship with the LGBTQIA community. Frankly, there are some ungodly policies within Mormonism focused specifically on LGBTQIA members which are harmful to them and their families. These institutionalized biases allow some members to feel justified in their really ugly beliefs about some of their brothers and sisters.

The rhetoric always amps up in June, but there’s still a fair amount of it that persists throughout Mormonism on a regular basis. To be honest, it is a problem and one which causes genuine harm, measurable and unmeasurable, to families within the church (as well as others who are connected to Mormonism in some way).

I wish it would stop. I do not understand why we as a church body feel that we have the right or knowledge to make the kinds of judgements that we do, ones which create a lot of pain. I may be painting with a broad brush here, but as I see it, the entire LDS opposition to gay marriage rests on the idea that we have an understanding of the makeup of “eternal families” in the afterlife. It’s based on polygamy culture wherein perpetual procreation happens with one or more Heavenly Mothers married to a Heavenly Father who procreate the same way that we do in mortality.

Which is utter nonsense.

We have no actual revelation about the family structure of heaven (don’t reference the Proc on the Family; that’s not revelation and even if it was there’s plenty to support a different interpretation of heaven).

Heck, we barely know anything about Heavenly Mother or Her role. Without that, we certainly can’t maintain our intellectual integrity AND a belief that we have perfect understanding about the family structure of Heaven.

Our current cultural beliefs are assumptions based on mortality and founded in polygamy, pure and simple. Polygamy culture infuses our church and I don’t have space or will do dive deep into it right here, right now, but I would suggest the Year of Polygamy podcast series and researching the temple origins and their relationship to polygamy if you’re unaware of how pervasive it is.

So, I guess if you want to embrace the idea that to get to heaven you have to practice polygamy, then go ahead and also embrace homophobia. (Full disclosure, I’m still going to call you out on it; see two paragraphs below. However, you can’t reject the LGBTQIA community as sinful, within the Mormon paradigm, without also embracing polygamy.)

BUT! If you (men) do not want to risk your wife being taken from you and given to another man (gag me; we aren’t property) while you are cast out for unfaithfulness to a god who would do that, or if you don’t want to risk being required to be married to multiple other women to achieve Godhood, then you might want to also rethink your certainty that there is no room for non-hetero families in Heaven. If you (woman) do not want to be forced into being a second or third or fourth wife or your husband being sealed to four or five or more other women and all of you being eternally pregnant, then you might want to also rethink your certainty that there is no room for non-hetero families in Heaven.

Without revelation on the family structure of heaven, Mormonism has plenty of room (and a historical track record) to believe the current LDS bias against the LGBTQ community is culture, not doctrinal (aka the revealed Truth or will of God). And, frankly, there’s enough difficulty determining what’s doctrine and what’s culture that Mormonism leaves you free to believe that what I see as cultural error, you, my traditional LDS friends, can see as doctrine from God (but, remember, polygamy).

Whether you do or not, whether you believe Jesus declared marriage between a man and woman only (in which case, let’s address the “sin” of being single with equal vigor), we all can acknowledge that that yes, Jesus did in fact cast judgements. After all, doesn’t the Book of Mormon teach that the only gatekeeper is Jesus (see 2 Nephi 9)? How can a person decide who comes and goes through a gate without some kind of judgement.

But… he’s Jesus. Perfect. Flawless. Capable of loving beyond imagination and understanding without any confusion and making judgements without errors. Are you? If not, then maybe you should direct your energy towards developing and perfecting THOSE Christlike attributes before you get really good at the Christlike attribute of passing judgement.

If you’re not capable of seeing the whole of a person, capable of perfect knowledge of what is and isn’t sin, capable of perfect love, then maybe you shouldn’t be setting yourself up as God in anyone’s life. The Book of Mormon also has a term for that: antichrist.

I have no doubt that many of the people who disagree with me on this are trying their very best to follow God. Just so we’re clear, I am too. I am hopeful that by sharing my thoughts there will be room for you to take this to our Heavenly Parents with an open heart and not with one bound up by a cultural bias founded on a (semi)discarded belief system both of which that causes immense damage.

As for me and my house, we will choose love. We will choose to develop relationships and let Jesus worry about sin. We will choose to teach our children to wait for further light and knowledge from our Heavenly Parents. We will choose to acknowledge that even our prophets are subject to cultural biases and we will not expect perfection out of even them. We will never, ever subjugate our moral compass to someone else’s control, even if they are an authority. If at the end of my life I meet God and They tell me I was wrong in this, I will own it, but do it with a clear conscience that my error was loving my fellow humans too much. I would rather be guilty of that than of condemning them too much. I would rather help bear burdens too much than add burdens too easily.

I’m not afraid to say I don’t know. I might be wrong. But I’d rather be wrong being with kindness than being wrong with judgement.

Leaving Eden

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In my spiritual life, I talk a lot about Eve and lessons learned from Eden. This is a story that resonates with me powerfully and gives lots of room for my interest in symbolism and my imagination and curiosity to thrive.

The lessons I’ve learned from Eve and Eden have been so important to me.

One of those I touched on in another blog post, when I shared that I admired Eve for choosing to leave Eden, for recognizing that it was time for her to leave so she could progress (you can find that here). One of the reasons this resonates with me so much is that in many ways I feel as though I also left Eden. I fell into my own progression over staying somewhere that felt safe to me, but was limiting.

Image courtesy lds.org

Just under four years ago, a group called Ordain Women was organized. I was introduced to it in an LDS message board group not long after. At the time, I fervently rejected the ideas as decidedly anti-Mormon. As much as any other member of the group, I defended the church against these apostate ideas. In our discussions and disagreements, some of the women shared quotes from the early days of the church which supported their position. I was certain they were taken out of context, and so, making use of the church’s Joseph Smith Papers Project, I went to the source. My motives were not pure; I wanted to prove these women wrong and I was sure that the original source would support that.

I’d been through this before. In my late teens, I was introduced to material and documents not friendly to the church. When I looked for an explanation, I found church sources that helped me decided that these issues were overstated, taken out of context, or twisted. Things I couldn’t explain away, I put on a shelf as I’d been counseled to. I put that shelf in a room, locked the door, and threw away the key. It didn’t help my faith and so I chose to set it aside.

So I expected to find the same: overstated, taken out of context, or twisted. However, I was shocked to find out that the quotes were none of these. Instead, they were reasonably supportive of Ordain Women’s position. I was almost instantly humbled. I carried a lot of pride in my faithfulness to and protection of the church and I was wrong. Not only that, now I had serious questions.

At that point, my attitude changed. I didn’t embrace OW, but I no longer believed it was sinful either. I prayed instead to find truth. I was no longer seeking to be right. I feel like this was a case of be careful what you wish for. God took me at my word and gave me more than I realized I was asking for. Much like I imagine Eve and Adam weren’t at all prepared for what came once they left Eden, I wasn’t ready for life outside of Eden.

Within short order, I was knee deep, then waist, then neck deep in study, both history and doctrine-related. And then the church started releasing the essays. Things I’d been introduced to at 19 were suddenly validated instead of explained away.

When I tried to talk about them, I was told I was angry, anti-Mormon, and dangerous. It was very lonely and isolating.

I was kicked out of groups for asking questions or sharing history, trying to make sense of it. I had a “friend” bully me, warn people against me, and threaten to report me to my church leaders for apostasy. Other friends I had made in traditional LDS groups, friends I had grown to love, decided I couldn’t be in their lives anymore.

I was told I was harming others’ testimonies. I’ve been told that recently. Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that in the last four years. A lot. No one who’s said that has ever expressed concern about my testimony, though.

My bishop and stake president had few if any answers for me, although they were kind and gracious. My relief society was, and still is, very unfriendly to “doubters.”

My attempts at discussing my faith with my family have been difficult and awkward, both because of our imperfections and because of language and cultural barriers that have developed. I’m sure it’s been uncomfortable for them.

I also have friends who, like me, were asking questions and growing. Unlike me, they didn’t have empathetic bishops and they were excommunicated for their changed beliefs. That was painful and frightening and further isolating. No matter how many conference talks invite people to come to church despite their doubts, when your friend is excommunicated because they believe differently, it makes it much harder to show up and to be honest.

Truthfully, I was angry. I’ve never been anti-Mormon, but I have been angry. The church I loved took a sledgehammer to a shelf I’d built to preserve my relationship with it and then it walked away and left me to pick up the pieces on my own.

Over the last four years, my faith has changed, shifted, been refocused and refined. I don’t consider it a crisis; I’ve had them, when I was 16 and 19, but this was not a crisis. Rather it was a transition and deep growth. In every step, I’ve approached God, seeking guidance from Heavenly Parents who I believe love me more than I comprehend. I’ve tried hard to do what I believe is right.

In many ways, that seeking has lead me unexpected places. I am absolutely a Mormon heretic. There are things that are traditional Mormon belief that I reject and other traditional beliefs that I interpret differently, both unfathomable to me only a few years ago. 

I’ve attended the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) almost as much as I’ve attended my own LDS ward. Our restoration cousins welcomed me, loved me, and asked nothing from me except my friendship in return. I have developed a deep love for them as we share common desires with very different flavors. I am thankful for the temporary shelter they gave me. 

In many ways I am heterodox and heteroprax. 

In other ways, my faith is stronger (or at least unchanged). I still believe the Book of Mormon has incredible and important messages for us today. I rely on it as much as I ever have. I’ve studied the Doctrine & Covenants and Bible more than I did before, with beautiful results. 

I still have a testimony of the restoration, both the things that have been restored and revealed and things currently being restored. I’m sure there is more to come. I believe in prophets, ancient and modern, and that they include Joseph Smith.

I believe my relationship with my Heavenly Parents is better than it’s ever been. Getting to know my Heavenly Mother has been life changing. 

I’ve also become a better person. I’m kinder, more apt and able to forgive. I’ve discovered greater empathy for others. Especially as I’ve healed, I judge others’ path less, although I still feel the sting of being told my path is invalid. I’m still imperfect, but I’m a better Christian than I once was. 

During my own journey, I’ve walked with others who have left Eden. I’ve seen friends struggle to find their footing after a faith crisis, to stay active and engaged in the church, and, in some cases, resign or be excommunicated. Some of them are new friends, others I’ve known since high school and before. I wonder what the church will become, if it can embrace people like me or if it will continue to isolate us and itself.

I have hope that it will be the former: that we can find strength through diversity and that divergent saints will be welcomed back in with an embrace instead of with expectations that they conform. I have so many hopes and wishes for the church, for my faith of origin, my family within the gospel and those who have felt disenfranchised by faith crises and transitions. I choose faith and hope and love.

Sometimes I wish I could’ve stayed in Eden. Sometimes I long for it so much, to go back to the simple easiness of looking to someone else to act as an intermediary with God. Sometimes I miss having clear, well formed answers right at my fingertips.

But most of the time, I am glad. It is better to experience sorrow, to learn to know the bitter from the sweet. It is better to retain my agency than to hand it over to an organization, to get confirmation from heaven instead of assume God is micromanaging from on high.

To be clear, because there have been questions and I’m sure that there will be others: I have not and am not leaving the LDS church. I love the church, despite it’s flaws. I’m very attached to my LDS identity and beliefs. I’ve added to them and taken things out of the truth basket that never belonged there in the first place.

I’ve left Eden, a place of safety and innocence, where prophets were infallible and errors were small, where God clearly dictated doctrine that was never interpreted incorrectly by mortal servants, where every General Conference talk and printed church manuals were scripture. Eden was a place of knowledge and certainty, where I could check the boxes and go to heaven.

In doing so I have found pain, yes, but also growth and wisdom and a greater understanding of myself and of God. And joy. Incredible, beautiful joy.

I have no doubt that some of my friends and family will read this and be sad for me. You will see this as an apostate manifesto and shake your head that I’ve been deceived by Satan. I expect some of you will view this as an invitation to preach to me, to attempt to save me. I know that some of  you will be hurt. I’ve put off sharing this for so long in part because of that.

I know you don’t understand. I’m sure some of you are afraid for me. I know some of you will see this as pride. Please trust me. Please understand that I meant what I said when I said I took every step to God first. If I’m on the wrong path, I’m going to be very confused when I meet Jesus at the gate. That’s not pride talking. I am genuinely and constantly seeking to do the right thing and genuinely and constantly seeking to not do the wrong thing.

I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still making mistakes and trying to sort out what I’m supposed to be doing, but I believe I’m on a good path, the right one for me. Figuring things out is part of the mortal experience. I believe that God still working with me and guiding me in my journey.

If you want to talk to me about this, I would love to talk to you. I am not interested in being preached to. I don’t need to be saved. But I would love to talk freely about our beliefs. No doubt some of our beliefs will differ; we may even have strong disagreements over certain points. I think we still share many beliefs, though. I won’t try to preach to you or save you either. I may even challenge your faith narrative and ask tough questions, but will respect your path as you respect mine. Again, I would love to talk.

For those of you who are struggling with a faith crisis or transition, please know that I am here. I believe our Heavenly Parents are too. Wherever your path leads, I am here. I have struggled and wrestled with tough topics and beliefs. I’m invested in loving you and supporting your journey.

For those of you who have family or friends experiencing a faith shift, I am here for you too. If you want to know how to help them and love them better, I can help you help them. I’m invested in loving you and supporting your journey.

There are many wonderful resources for you and for your families. I’ve linked a few of my favorites below.

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt

Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Developmental Map

Healthy Mormon Journeys

Gospel Topics Essays

Joseph Smith Papers

You did this. You fix it.

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I am sure in the last couple of days I’ve offended people. I don’t doubt that some of my friends think less of my opinion now. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I’ve been unfollowed or even “unfriended” on Facebook (I haven’t bothered to look).
 
I’m really trying not to care.
 
Like many libertarians, I sit in an uncomfortable middle ground. Many of my friends voted for Trump after an agonizing decision making process. Many of my friends skipped to the polls to vote for Clinton. I understand both votes, but personally chose neither.
 
The longer I sit with this, the angrier and more heartbroken I find myself. While I do understand (sort of) people’s votes, I do not understand why the establishment engineered this.
 
I do not understand why the RNC did not do more to stop Trump from the get go. I do not understand why the media ignored or minimized Trump’s ugly sexual history. I do not understand why they did not censure him when he said awful things about Megyn Kelly. I don’t understand why the Republicans fought out a battle of ego while Trump took the trophy.
 
I also do not understand why the DNC guaranteed Clinton was the nominee. I don’t understand why they intentionally worked against Sanders and his supporters. I don’t understand why they alienated a large portion of their potential voters for a candidate who has a controversial past and questionable judgement.
 
I also do not understand the reactions from the left or the right. Trump is awful. He is the scum of the earth. It is hard for me to fathom him as president.
 
However, my friends on the left, you need to understand: violently protesting in the streets, shutting down traffic and slowing PD and EMS response, attacking Melania Trump, blaming the right as sexist, racist, and bigoted only serves to divide us further. Claiming that Trump voters do not understand what it means to be afraid of the government is naive. Why do you think they bought all those guns you mocked them for? Unfriending people on Facebook puts you in an isolation chamber that makes you less able to understand the right. It is that kind of language and behavior that got us here in the first place.
 
The left’s utter refusal to relate to the right is as responsible for this as anything else.
 
Meanwhile, the right’s response is equally upsetting to me. Dismissing people’s fears, uninviting your liberal family from Christmas, ignoring the fact that Trump is a sexual predator because you hope his policies are good, voting for change for the sake of change (come on, this is what you criticized the left for with Obama), only serves to fracture us more. Happily supporting fascist policies scares those of us who know better. Right now, today, this minute, you need to reach out to people who are frightened and assure them that you voted for Trump in spite of his planet-sized flaws and you do not hold his bigoted views.
 
The right’s complete dismissal of Trump’s character as concerning and his policies as dangerous is as responsible for this as anything else.
 
The only people who benefit are the power players of the oligarchy. Your refusal to listen and understand and take responsibility for how we got here means that we will continue on this path which leads to more pain and more political upheaval and more of the same.
 
So pick. I made my choice. I will not keep perpetuating the cycle. I’m going to continue to sit in the painful middle and continue to reject the system. If you will not join me, I’m afraid that you are helping perpetuate the cycle. You, my friends, you did this. Now you need to fix it.

Dear everyone 

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The last couple of years have been filled with tremendous growth. By which I mean I completely came undone and shattered and had to figure out which bits of me I wanted to keep and which ones were no longer serving me. Eight-years-ago Me doesn’t recognize Today Me, probably doesn’t like Today Me. That’s ok.

I’m still probably getting a lot of the being a decent (Christian) person wrong. That’s a topic for another post, however.

One of the things I like most about Today Me is my greater capacity for genuine compassion. I’m more likely to give “people” the befenit of the doubt and assign to them the most charitable motives I can believe.

Of course, it’s always hardest with the people closest to us and I’m still learning. Isn’t it strange that the people we hope give the most leeway for our choices are the often the ones we are least able to do the same with. Of course, we always want to believe the best in each other, but practicing that is a lot harder than wishing it. I’m no exception.

When I look around me, I find myself more and more and more believing in the idealism of voluntaryism because at its core, voluntaryism requires us to be the best versions of ourselves and to expect the same from others. When we expect to see good, I think we tend to, even if we “disagree” with people’s choices or opinions.

It is in that spirit that I offer this:

Dear everyone,

I believe you are doing your best. Aren’t we all? Don’t we all just take the bits of ourselves that we feel good about and the bits that aren’t ourselves but we wish were and put them out for the world to see?

Here’s the thing: authenticity is messy and it’s all we make it out to be. It’s ok to save face and honor the space you’re in and to have to learn how to balance being all you and not scaring people off. We’re all trying to figure it out.

I believe that when you leave the cart in the middle of a parking spot, instead of putting it in the cart return, you’re doing your best. Maybe that seems silly, but I used to judge people like you. Then I had two kids and dealt with chronic pain. Funny how perspective changes things.

I believe that when you cut me off in traffic, without a signal, putting your life and mine at risk, you’re doing your best. Maybe you’ve succumb to the lie of urgency and you’re texting while driving. That’s dumb and dangerous but that ones a hard lie to ignore.

Please know that when I’m less than gracious, when I flip you off and lean on my horn, it’s because my mommy instincts immediately think of my kids growing up without me and I haven’t yet learned to trust that they’ll be ok. I’m doing my best too.

When you talk loudly on your cell phone on the back of the bus and annoy everyone around me, I get it. This is maybe the only time you’ve got to talk to your sister who lives across the country and who is impossible to get a hold of. Sometimes I feel like that about my own family and I love 4 hours tops from any of them.

When you yell at my family at the restaurant because we’re ready to order and you just want to bring us drinks, I’m going to look around the restaurant and see how busy it is. You have no way of knowing how much hurry we’re in. I’ve been there. I’ve never yelled at a customer, but I’ve yelled at coworkers, supervisors, and employees. We’re all human and we don’t always manage to keep our big feelings inside. It’s a huge bummer when an outburst hurts another or ourselves.

When you insist for the 40 billionth time that I have to be Izzy and call you Jake and play the game your way, I’m going to take a huge, deep breath and decide if I’m going to play with you or teach you, in the gentlest way possible, that you don’t get to just demand everyone plays the way you want them to. Isn’t it amazing how we expect so much out of our littlest people? When we take a step back and remember they are always doing their best, it makes us expect better of ourselves in dealing with them.

When you say “yeah, I just couldn’t get it together to get that done,” I’m trying really hard to remember that you are doing your best. You’re not intentionally making my life difficult. What I’m expecting from you is hard.

When you tell me you’re not paid enough to do the job I expect you to do, I get it. When you’re rude to me at the store, I get it. When you talk down to me, I get it.

When you say I’d better vote for your candidate because the other guy is worse, I get it. When you tell me how dangerous refugees are, I get it. When you tell me how awful women are who get abortions are, I get it.

Every last one of us are living the stories we’ve been given. We’re not all ready or able to move beyond them, to be better and do differently. Even when we don’t buy the story we’re living, it still takes work, and a heckuva lot of it, to make our best today be less than our best tomorrow.

By responding with grace, instead of reminding you how much your “failures” make my life hard, I’m helping set you up for future success. By seeing the most charitable interpretations of you, I also feel like I’m setting me up for more success. It’s easier to be kinder to me when I’m not in the practice of passing judgement.

Dear everyone, I’ve got your back. Keep working on your best self.

Much love,

Today Me

Lessons from Eden: Allowing the Serpent

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Of late, I’ve been contemplating the Eden Myth and particularly the Serpent in that story.

My upbringing initially gave me a single understanding of the serpent symbol – that of Satan, the devil and deceiver. However, reading the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series in my teens (oh, yes, my Mormon is showing), introduced me to the Serpent-Messiah symbol, which adds complexity to the Garden narrative. In fact, it has left me wondering for many years if the “sin” Satan was punished for wasn’t beguiling Eve but stepping in where Christ should’ve been. This is especially true because God gave to Adam ALL the trees of the garden and Eve was never instructed not to eat of the one (having not been created yet when Adam was warned away).

The choice of a serpent is even more interesting to me when its symbolic meaning is evaluated against Jewish/Israelite and other cultures and beliefs. The snake represents rebirth, wisdom, fertility, intellect, and more.

But I digress. My thoughts of late have shifted specifically to wondering who let the snake in. Of course, this is assuming a literal version of events, but follow me anyway.

If God created Eden under any circumstances (as a haven, a place to allow Eve & Adam to learn and grown and “progress” to maturity once they were separated from Heaven, or a place for them to exist in the in-between as long as they chose not to progress further, of as a place for them to live in perpetuity) then God Themselves set the rules.

They could’ve kept the serpent out. They could’ve kept the serpent from beguiling Eve simply by keeping it out.

Think about that. The entire fall was completely preventable with a simple rule change.

The Serpent didn’t sneak past God. It didn’t get there without the knowledge and allowance of Heaven. God, all powerful and all knowing, could’ve prevented not only a fall, but the beguiling of Eve.

They didn’t. That tells me something.

I don’t believe in a God that sets us up to fail. I don’t believe that we are supposed to intuit the rules or receive them second hand.

Clearly, Eve was always intended to take the fruit. She was always intended to allow for our progression. Our Heavenly Parents have no desire to keep us from more light and knowledge. At some point, They let the Serpent in. They let the Serpent “get to” Eve.

To me, Eve’s fall was a carefully thought-out choice but that choice was available to her because God allowed it. To me, it’s a powerful message that we were always meant to progress (and transgress) beyond the boundaries of Eden.

God is not afraid of our rebirth. They are not afraid of our gaining light and truth, wisdom and knowledge, experience and understanding. They teach us line upon line and, in time, they allow the Serpent to appear in our lives. That’s not necessarily a sign that we should turn away (remember the Brazen Serpent and the Messiah-Serpent archetype).

Instead, it may be a sign that we are ready to grow again.

Surrender and trust

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We are waiting for another baby in our house. I’m now “more pregnant” than I was with Miss M. I hope for all of my friends that they (you) always go longer with your first baby than with the second. Something happened in my brain when I hit that date and it kind of sucked. I have really great care providers and friends who talked me out of crazy, but it’s a difficult headspace for me to be in. (Side note: everyone needs at least two or three friends who are birthworkers! They’re the best in this kind of space!)

The reality is, where I’m at right now is a situation I hate to be in: I want to control the uncontrollable. I have to simply be patient, surrender and trust. That is SO hard. So hard. Often when I’m in this space, every bit of anxiety bubbles to the surface. Things I thought I’d resolved pop back up. It’s actually a really wonderful place to be, even though I hate it. It’s a space for growing and learning and making peace.

This space reminds me of the symbolism of a spiral and the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth: the path is essentially the same. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no choices to be made, only a journey to be taken. As you walk the labyrinth or a spiral path, you often come back to the same point over and over again, but with a different perspective each time. That perspective allows you to understand that point differently, to learn the lesson again more fully, and to learn things that we couldn’t learn before. It’s a powerful opportunity.

It also stinks, to be faced with how stubborn you are and how much the same lessons need to keep coming up. It can be frustrating to see how much you didn’t learn a lesson you thought you had. That frustration is another learning opportunity: one that invites you to be gentle with yourself instead of judgmental and that in doing so to learn how to be more gentle with the other flawed humans we are surrounded by.

A friend of mine commented that we are all smoothing off each others’ edges by bumping into them. We are also afforded this kind of softening opportunity when we bump up against hard boundaries and uncontrollable situations.

Surrender is hard. Trusting God, trusting fate, trusting others, trusting ourselves, especially when we have absolutely no control, is hard. But often it’s the hard things that teach us the best lessons.

Figuring out how to do that well is messy and I’m really ungraceful sometimes. But I’m thankful for that mess and the chance to learn to be more gracious and graceful. Life constantly invites us to learn more. Really the only question we are left with is not whether or not we will be thrust into the situation, but whether or not we will embrace it, even when it’s the last thing we want to do.

For me, that’s what surrender looks like and that’s how I learn.