This column is meant to be a reflection on my life as a journey in progress. I've been spending quite a bit of time on introspection lately in discerning just how I came onto the Pagan path. The astonishing thing that I have discovered is that I have always been on the road, but I just didn't recognize it.
Whenever I have prayed or tried to give a "human" form to my concept of a higher power, the one thing that was constant was that whoever I imagined was always in nature. God, for me, rarely existed inside a church or tabernacle. Although a devout Catholic for my married years, I had a very difficult time with the concept of "Jesus in a box". I also wondered how so many bad things could happen in a person's life with such a loving God overseeing.
I've come to realize that all of the perceived "bad" in my life were things I had to endure to lead me to where I am today. In each circumstance, I walked away with a few battle scars, but with a greater amount of strength and self-wisdom. As I was experiencing each "lesson", I always sought solace in nature. The running water, breezes, the warm sun...I felt a wonderful connection to something much larger than myself and the energy built up inside to allowed me to handle my difficulties. In a church, I felt fear, guilt... afraid that I had to watch my every move because it would surely lead me to hell if I didn't. I even taught religious education to young children (grades 1-8)... my classes were always different, though, and I rarely stuck to the "curriculum"... I avoided the lessons on the hierarchy of the church, damnation, "Catholics don't worship Mary; we see her as a mediator"... I'm sorry, but I refused to teach the kids that Mary's role was nothing more than God's go-between! My lessons included visualization, music and forming a personal relationship with God... I told them that God was not "out there" somewhere, but inside their own hearts. I got into some trouble with the priests and the rest of the administration because they felt I was not preparing the children well for the sacraments.
After leaving the Catholic Church for personal reasons, I reflected on what had drawn me to "religion" in the first place... where did I find solace? What worked for me? Where would I be free of the hierarchy of male domination that had always irked me about the church to begin with? When I was introduced to Wicca, I realized that this had been my path all along. Had I not experienced what I did with Catholicism, I might not have recognized this about myself. I wasn't searching for something else until things turned sour. I'm not saying that if I'd remained a Catholic I would be "lost"... not true because I always returned to nature and sought God there. What I am saying is that I would have missed out on the richness of my connection with Mother Earth. I'd have missed Her healing properties for the body as well as for the soul. I do not regret former affiliation... the dissatisfaction I felt led me to where I am today and for that I am eternally grateful.
This is the latest lesson I've learned about myself. I'm no longer looking back on experiences in all phases of my life with anger, shame or hurt. Each struggle surpassed was a triumph in survival and added insight for the future.