Despite the warning in my Lone Ranger dream, my child’s image of God as an omnipotent heroic male dominated my spirituality well into adulthood. But after years of conforming to the rules and expectations of my religion I began to question it:
Why does God still feel so remote and impersonal? Why am I still afraid of him? Why, after all these years of trying to please him and do everything right, am I not a better, happier person? Is God really all masculine? Could God have a feminine side? If so, how would God be different? How would I be different if I had been taught to understand and honor both sides? Would I like myself more? Be happier? How would the world be different?
And so, having explored every avenue within my religion, I began to look elsewhere for what was missing in my God-image and myself. With the help of Jungian psychology my eyes were opened to the fact that just as the physical world is governed by the principle of opposites (North Pole/South Pole; night/day; female/male) so is the human psyche (conscious/ unconscious; masculine/feminine; liked qualities/disliked qualities). This led to the realization that honoring one side of any pair of opposites while ignoring or rejecting the other is just plain ignorant, and that all growth, both psychological and spiritual, moves in the direction of integrating opposites.
And so I began a program of inner work to understand and accept both sides of myself. Has this been easy? Well, let me put it this way: sometimes I feel like I’m walking a tightrope under the cosmic Big Top. Over there ladies and gentlemen, we have my left brain; and on the other side ….yes, there it is….my right brain! Now my masculine side; now my feminine. Now speaking an honest-to-goodness gut truth; now remaining silent. Today feeling heroic; tomorrow cowardly. Here, in love with myself; there, despising myself. Sometimes I’ve been the ringmaster, sometimes the clown. Sometimes I’ve felt like the bear tamer and sometimes I’m the bear.
And what have I learned? That the journey to self-knowledge leads to the Kingdom of God, a place where there are no clear boundaries, no opposites, no rules about who is more important, what you have to believe, or which side is right. Moreover, it is infinitely diverse and utterly inclusive. The psyche is a circus, replete with wild beasts, trapeze artists, jugglers, alligator boys, fat ladies, tattooed men, knife throwers, clowns, roustabouts and a whole bunch of bystanders in the bleachers munching on peanuts and cotton candy. And there’s the little ego, all alone up there balancing on the razor’s edge, making its way through the Big Top without a safety net, just trying to stay on the radical middle path to God.
As you read this tonight (on the evening of its publication), I’m attending a very special Under the Big Top costume party at the home of my brother-in-law, Tony, and his partner, Scott in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. With the help of entrepreneur Karl Strahl, owner of Century Costumes, and his brilliant costume designer, Del Reinhart, I’m dressed as…….drum roll, please…….the sexy bear tamer pictured above! (I should look so good!)
And my husband? Tonight he gets to be the bear!