My friend Michelle DeRusha is about to launch her first memoir, Spiritual Misfit. Michelle and I have been exchanging emails for months, prior to me landing on her launch team. After I read Michelle’s book, I told her that this book?–It’s a beautiful masterpiece. Michelle and I discovered that we have many similarities, beginning (but not limited to) the way we experienced faith as children. Michelle graciously invited me to share my own spiritual misfit story on her blog. This story ran last friday but as I was away at Refine, I didn’t manage to share it here.
Some of my most vivid memories are of myself, kneeling in church, staring up at a crucifix. Jesus, held there, with His mouth downturned, and his lifeless eyes in a fixed in a steady gaze. I’d stare with intent at his anguished expression, almost willing myself to feel what He must have felt. I’ve lived life keenly aware of my deserving of punishment. Guilt can be a handy thing, but I think it’s safe to say, looking back now, I lived too long under the weight of not simply guilt for my inborn sinful nature, but shame as well.
The kneelers were padded but after a few brief minutes, my knees ached and I’d catch myself slouching just enough so that my rear end could rest against the pew. Resting there for a minute, the shame was quick to convict me. Needed to ‘rest’ during this sacred prayer time was a sign of weakness–I was sure of it.
Looking down at my thighs, I’d shift my weight from kneecap to kneecap, eager for the liturgy to end. Then inevitably, the confession would begin, followed by the Our Father.
I told myself that kneeling was a small sacrifice to make, considering Jesus’s sacrifice. I’d guilt-trip myself through the prayers on my knees, flogging myself with shameful barbed words about how weak I was to complain about 5 minutes on my knees on a padded kneeler.