Yesterday we were given a simple homework assignment: write down your ten biggest dreams. And not a dream like “I want a million dollars” but a dream like “I want to end world hunger” or “I want to be a human rights lawyer as part of the U.N.” or “I want to be an astronaut.” These were not just our dreams, but our soul’s deepest desires. “What do you REALLY want to do?”
My list was all over the place but had a clear theme:
1. LOVE: be love, give love, receive love, share love
2. Help people everywhere connect deeply to a sense of love
3. Be a dance professor
4. Be a minister
5. Lead retreats
6. Get married, have a family
7. Write a book
8. Write a children’s book
9. Have a dance company
10. Take yoga and or ministry (same thing?) to juvenile halls, prisons, women’s shelters, hospitals, youth centers, etc.
What it really boiled down to for me was that I truly want to live into this whole Dancing Pastor thing and just bring out as much love as I possibly can in this world.
In class, we went around and shared pieces of our lists and then we were given a task: pair up with someone and sit down together; one person asks, “What do you really want to do?” and the other person will share one of the bigger things on their list, then the first person asks, “Why?” and the conversation continues but the first person is now only supposed to respond to whatever the second person is saying with one word: “Why?” The idea is that it helps you boil down your exact motivation behind your dream. Our teacher, Paula Tursi, said, “If you don’t know why this is your dream, you won’t make it happen.” So we went off with our partners and had our conversations.
My partner was Jane, this beautiful and incredible 65-year old woman from Syracuse, New York. She shared her dream of a perma-culture and yoga community with me. Her motivation comes from the joy she feels when gardening and creating something sustainable and doing yoga. She’s had her share of struggles and has witnessed the struggles of others, so she really just wants to help others be happy.
I then shared my dream of really just wanting to live into being a Dancing Pastor and talked about how dance and ministry weave together as a calling in my life. Before Jane even asked me “Why?” I knew my motivation was to help people feel loved, and when she asked the question again, my answer was, “Because I don’t feel loved.” As Jane asked me, “Why?” over and over again, we uncovered something I didn’t realize was still living within me:
“I just don’t feel loved. Intellectually, I know I am, but I don’t feel it.”
“Because I don’t trust it.”
“Because I’m mad at God.”
“Because I was robbed. My mom was this amazing woman and everyone who knew her always tells me about her and how incredible she was and how much she made people feel loved and how she was this amazing minister. How she would’ve been the perfect role model for me. And she’d definitely know what to do about this whole Trump thing. I just feel robbed of her love.”
Why do you feel robbed?
“I don’t know. I just wish I could’ve had that. But I know I wasn’t robbed. I did all this research as a kid about MS to try and understand it, and learned that pregnancy can trigger the symptoms. I know her pregnancy with me triggered it.
You haven’t forgiven yourself.
“I don’t know. I just know that if it weren’t for me, she’d still be here and people would still be experiencing her love. She should be here, not me.”
This is of course paraphrased, cut down from quite a long conversation, most of which is muddled in my brain. But as Jane and I kept talking, I realized this:
I want to help people feel loved because I don’t feel loved, because I don’t trust that I am loved, and ultimately because I’ve never felt like I deserve love. This was the big whammy that I’m still sifting through: I want to bring love into the world because I feel responsible for taking it out. I’m not mad at God, that was a cop-out answer; I’m mad at myself. I’ve been living my life trying to be my mom and acting in self-deprecating ways because deep down I’ve always felt like she should be here, not me.
Ugh. Deep breath.
Jane sat with me and held my arms as I cried. She kindly reminded me that it’s magical when parents see pieces of themselves in their kids, and that I’ve taken my mom’s message of love and made it my own by adding dance to the ministry. She told me my mom wouldn’t want this any other way, that she would’ve always put my life before her own. Jane asked so gently, “And why Jesus instead of anyone else? Would he have chosen anyone else before himself?” Knowing that my mom identified strongly with Jesus in her last days, this question from dear Jane resonates deeply within me.
I still don’t know what to do with all of this. I’m still sifting. I’m grateful to have this time and this place to be able to process it all. I’m grateful for Jane, and everyone else here. I’m grateful I got to go salsa dancing for hours tonight, and for the joy it brought me. And I’m grateful for a therapist, spiritual director, and loved ones back home, and for my deep relationship with God, Christ, Holy Spirit that I trust will help me on the path to healing and forgiveness – to Grace and Love.
I hope and pray that those of you who’ve read to the bottom of this will simply just hold me in prayer. I don’t ask for encouraging words and please no, “Please don’t feel that way” phrases because the truth of the matter is that I do. I do feel this way. Right now, I feel responsible, even if I know intellectually it’s not true. And telling me not to feel that way just adds shame to that feeling. So please, I just ask for prayer and love. That’s all I really need in this life anyway.
I love you all from the deep wells of my heart, and I hold you all in prayer more often than you know.
With immense love and deep gratitude,
The Dancing Pastor