And that's what it was--some of the stories (there are so many more!) from my journey out of Episcopal parish ministry, through the process of getting clearer within myself to my decision to renounce my ordination as a priest. What's quirky about my journey, and what had the "coming out" quality for me, was that I really had to give myself permission to take a vacation from God, to start living my life without concern for the idea of God, in order to hear my soul.
One of the things I love about writing is that when it "works", I learn things in the process of writing that I didn't know, or at least didn't know quite so clearly, when I started. Or I find better, more compelling language for understanding myself and my life and hopefully for helping others to connect to their own lives, too.
One particular gift that came to me in preparing to tell these stories was to see that "cutting myself loose" from God and letting God go on without me and me without God was much much more than a theological experiment or project, if you will. It was, and is, about life, about being human, and especially about being myself from the inside out, trusting my own unfolding relationship with my soul in conversation with the life around me. As the "Two Books" story reminds me when I get fuzzy, it all boiled down to a choice between "death in holy orders" and "living free".
"The Two Books", c. Sukie Curtis, 2009
Another gift was the realization that, not unlike the way so many women learn to put other people's needs and wants before their own and sometimes do not even acknowledge that they have any needs or wants at all (a lesson that I witness again and again spending time with my ninety-year-old mother!), I was doing exactly the same thing. Only my list of "more important" claims included not only my children, and David, but also God and the Episcopal Church! My ordination had all the fancy language signaling a "holy obligation". But what never occurred to me to ask was what kind of holy obligation I owed to myself.
Over the years since leaving my ordination behind, I have come to believe more and more that each of us has a truly holy obligation, a sacred duty, to be fiercely committed to (which also means taking responsibility for--sorry!) our own happiness, our own deep, soul-level happiness.
That's not a simple process. It takes commitment, diligence, awareness, attention, patience with the learning curve, courage in the face of pressure to "revert". And it brings with it much joy and freedom and lightness of heart!
I got asked some good questions at the end of my talking, and in retrospect I wish I had allowed more time for letting that conversation unfold some more. Maybe I'll bring some of those questions and some written comments into the blog for an expanded conversation.
And while I'm at it, I might as well post the text of what I spoke in the blog too. It was pretty long, so that will take care of several days' posts, and might actually help me to get back in the swing of blogging!
Let's hear it for coming out parties! And thank you to everyone who came to St. Luke's yesterday! And to David for lots of support and tactical assistance.