QUESTION: For the first time in my 52 years of life, I am learning who I am and I am starting to like myself. I’ve been doing some inner child and deep trauma work these last few years. This work has opened me up to myself and a deep spiritual experience. A few years ago, I walked away from everything, a 15-year marriage and a life in the ministry. I started to live my truth; I came out as gay and now am married to a man. I no longer identify as a Christian, but I do miss teaching and the ministry at times. My view of God and spirituality has completely changed. I feel like it was a waste and I don’t know how to reconcile my past life in ministry and this life I am coming to love. I listen to your podcast regularly and I do feel inadequate and left behind on a lot of this new knowledge, shamanism, Buddhism, and some of the other practices you speak of. Is there a way I can reconcile my past with my life today, and is it necessary? I do not believe in a hero (savior) to return from the sky. I am left with a lot of questions about my experiences in worship. Why worship? Is it necessary? Why tongues? Is it necessary to speak in an unknown tongue? Why did I have those experiences? Was it real?

ANSWER: My sweet brother, what a brave soul you are to do all you have done. To have the courage to nurture that quiet inner voice until it becomes a clear compass is no small feat. To follow its guidance in the face of society takes a whole different level of courage. Giving up an ego identity that brings us a sense of solidity, no matter how poisonous to our soul, is difficult business. So take a moment here, and really sit with and celebrate what you have done with your life.

It is easy to see a past where we were not true to ourselves as a waste. But, of course, we would not be where we are today if it was not for where we were not seeing clearly in the past. We can only be found if we felt lost. Easy to forget that piece of the puzzle. Be gentle with yourself. It is totally in keeping with human nature to miss aspects of the past. Break down what you miss about your ministry. Is it the service? Sense of community? Those can come in many different forms. Sit with that and get clear about what you miss and if it is something you would like to recreate in a form that fits into your life as you are living it now.

As for waiting for the hero/savior, you have become what you sought. How beautiful is that? Now the work is to keep following the directive of your heart, moment to moment, to the best of your ability. Paths such as shamanism, Buddhism, or any “ism” are just pointers to living an internally honest life. You are already living your truth, so what need do you have for more “isms”? If such things interest you, by all means dig into them. Do remember that letting go of a lifetime of seeking, in itself, takes work. Feeling a sense of loss or emptiness is normal. Learn to tolerate that feeling while feeding your heart.

Bless your past for getting you here. You can dissect it all you want and ask "was it real", "why did I have those experiences", etc. Such questions usually lead to more questions. When they come up, ask yourself: "who wants to know?" That is a neat little practice that can turn the external-focused awareness back into our center. The important thing is that you keep living your truth to the best of your knowledge in the present moment. Whatever it took to get you here, it was worth it.