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Weighing up the heart


Always, there are our  hearts

to consider.

They are most

precious to us.

The heart is a means

of description.

It will locate

the sentiment.

Speak up

 small red thing.


The heart is

the deciding factor.

Wave your arms around

see the sky bloom.


This poem was the theme of my year when I left church three years ago.  It seemed to me to encapsulate the journey I was trying to embark on; a journey of solitude, deconstruction, and honesty. Of learning to listen to my heart.


“Speak up, small red   thing”, I often said to myself, as screeds of other voices, narratives, ideas, and ‘shoulds' echoed around my head. I had had enough of other people's ideas. Their ideas about God, the world, my place in the world, how to be a good person, how I could best serve and follow God…  It had got to the point where I no longer knew what I thought.


The heart lives

as a steady witness

within the body.

We would hope

for a rigorous


for the heart to


the reliable place

in which it dwelled.


Always refer back

to the heart.

It is where

the world

began.                                                                 Jenny Bornholdt


As well as these voices crowding in my head, another problem was my perception of god. It had got to the point where the theology in my head didn't match with what I felt in my heart. Even though I knew, theoretically and theologically, that I shouldn't expect god to make my life go the way I wanted it to, I somehow couldn't stop myself from believing that s/he should. The underlying message I received  at  church  was  that  if  I  was  a  good enough person, and if I tried hard enough to be the best Christian for my age group, god would bless me. Even though I knew this wasn't the case and didn't want to believe in a god like that, I still did. I felt as though I was trying to do the right thing and to follow god in the best way I knew but it began to feel meaningless.


The way people at my church seemed to connect with god felt so different to me. People's prayers made no sense to me. As time went by, church services became a more and more negative experience. I would feel frustrated and more disillusioned, as each week it was further confirmed to me that my faith and experience of god was very different from that of the people who spoke up at church.


I remember waking up one Sunday morning and suddenly feeling incredibly strongly that I just couldn't go to my church anymore. That it was time to stop. That was it. The god I encountered there wasn't trustworthy or loving or life-giving. Instead of trying to do “the right thing”, I had to be honest with myself and those around me.


This was scary stuff. My life revolved around my church and my involvement in an inner-city Christian community. Deciding that I could no longer go to church, and eventually also that I had to leave the community group was huge. I couldn't comprehend my life without these involvements. But I somehow knew that to continue would be worse. I realized in a funny way that if I cared about god and my connection with her/him I had to leave to give time and energy to this journey. Paradoxically, I both wasn't sure if I even believed in god and I knew that god was calling me away from my Christian world to find him/her.


I had a picture in my mind of a Michael Leunig cartoon of My Curly, a character of his who travels the world not quite knowing what he's searching for. He's setting off on his own in a little sailboat, into a stormy ocean. There are a few people standing on the shore waving good-bye to him, and he's sailing off with a determined and slightly scared look on his face. I knew this was me. I couldn't see the destination, how I might get there or how long it might take, but the important thing was embarking on the journey and letting go of what was behind. I knew it was scary but I knew I had to do it. And I had to do it alone. This was about me finding (or maybe discovering) there was no god.


So much of my identity had been tied up in my Christian world. I knew I was a good person because I helped people around me. I led small groups, ran a homework club and lived with teenagers in need. I protested for the rights of the poor and sabotaged corporate billboards. I was cutting edge. Or I had been.


Now I had to shed all of these things. Even things which I knew were still part of me and of my character. But everything had got so tangled up with my confused perception of god that I had to clear everything out until I could hear my heart.


Things felt empty and dark and hard.


They kept feeling hard.


I started meeting with a group of church leaving ‘refugees', who wanted to tease out and discuss some of the issues we were mulling over individually. The ground rules of our group are really important to me:


Let god defend god. Everyone's point of view is valid. You don't have to “toe the party line”. A tidy answer will not be found at the end of each discussion.


Being able to talk freely about my ideas in a safe environment felt incredibly helpful. It was okay for things to be up in the air. It didn't matter if you didn't know if you believed in god or not. It was okay to be honest.


The conversations we've had in this group are one of the things that have been really helpful for me in discovering a new faith. Little by little, I have felt comfortable saying that I believe in… a spirit of goodness that exists in the world… which might have something to do with our lives… a creator spirit… God (both female and male)… this god is so much bigger that we can comprehend… this god loves people in the world… this god loves me…


As I have learned to listen to my heart, and to trust and believe it, I have felt so much more able to articulate what I believe.


Recently, it dawned on me that I think I trust god again. I couldn't pinpoint when I started to feel that, or even necessarily why, but I knew I did. And that I want to follow and honour this god with my life. Crazy! With this realization came a flood of contentment. Contentment!


Let us pray for wisdom. Let  us pause from

thinking and empty our  mind.  Let  us  stop

the noise.  In  the silence let us listen to our

heart.  The heart which is buried  alive. Let

us be still and wait and listen carefully.  A

sound from the deep, from below.   A  faint

cry.   A   weak   tapping.    Distant   muffled

feelings    from   within.   The  cry   for  help.
We shall rescue the entombed heart.  We

shall   bring   it  to  the  surface,  to the  light

and  the  air.  We  shall  nurse  it  and   listen

respectfully  to its story. The heart's  story

of   pain  and  suffocation,  of darkness and

yearning. We  shall  help our feelings to live

in   the  sun.  Together again  we  shall  find

relief  and  joy.


Saying that I believe in god again is almost a bit scary. It feels so fragile and tenuous that saying it out loud almost blows the belief/feeling away. I don't want to get back into thinking about god in the way I used to when I went to church. I like the god I know now so much better. And I think that this god likes me. I want to carry my experiences with me, and to continue being honest with myself about what I know in my heart to be true.


Always refer back to the heart,

It is where the world began.


...... likes pacific rose apples, teaching 7&8 year olds, summer, Jenny Bornholdt's poetry, eating brunch on Sunday mornings…. 


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