Guest Post: What Spiritual Looks Like
Originally uploaded by clyde_curtis
A thought-provoking guest post from one of our favorite commentors, G. (The artwork is by her, too!)
“It is in our extremities that we come to know God” – Unknown
In my mind, there has always been an association between spirituality and suffering. If not outright suffering, at least a life of solemnity, seriousness, and sacrifice. Being spiritual was always pretty important to me. Whether I was naturally inclined towards it or it was was the default role I fell into in my family (‘pretty one’ ‘smart one’ and ‘athletic one’ where already taken) I can’t say. This is merely how it was.
A little shy and introverted already, the perceived requirements of monastic living came rather easy. In high school I frequently stayed home weekend nights and read the scriptures while other siblings went out and partied. As a missionary I was the one who got up an hour (or more) earlier to spend extra time studying and memorizing the discussions and scriptures. Even after returning home from the mission I dressed (rather prudishly) in dimly colored second-hand skirts, a lack-luster wardrobe seeming to go hand in hand with higher thoughts.
What I find especially interesting is the way in which I associated mybouts with de pression with my spirituality. Depression was a double edged sword where on the one hand I viewed it as resulting from sin (I vividly remember a talk by Sheri L. Dew where she stated something to that effect and I sobbed at the authoritative validation of my sins and unworthiness) yet on the other hand it seemed that the pain of my depression drew me closer to God. I don’t know exactly how to explain this, but in a way, the emotional wounds I felt became a sort of twisted token of the atonement, where I felt Christ’s pain and knew Him better because of it. Often my art reflected my pain, images of pierced hearts and little cuts and I viewed these as my religious icons, symbolic both of my own wounded soul and of the pierced flesh of the Savior.
But now I am conflicted. I do not feel so wounded any more. I no longer feel so cut up. I don’t want to say I won’t ever struggle with depression again (Knock-on-wood) but I am loosing my melancholy, my severity, my prudishness. In fact, I feel rather… frisky? Lighthearted and enjoying life. A sense of levity. I quite surprised myself the other day when I went shopping for a bathing suit (hadn’t bought one in seven years, it was about time) and found that the one I liked the most was a brilliant turquoise bikini. (!!!) I found myself thinking how much fun it would be to go to the beach, or have a pool party. Thinking about the beach is rather new for me and occasionally I have a hard time reconciling this with my ‘spiritual’ sensitivities, worrying that I have lost my touch.
Really, it brings to mind that story about the person who went to see the prophet, Joseph Smith, and was shocked and offended to find him rough-housing with the children, thinking that a ‘prophet of god’ would not behave like that. People have ideas about what a spiritual person looks like, acts like. I realized I have an array of different molds I use when casting my ideal mystic; the LDS version, the non- LDS version, the Christian version, the non-Christian version, the male version, the female version, etc… What I realized when looking at bathing suits and thinking about playing volleyball on the beach, was that none of my molds contain that person; a fun-loving game-playing social person.
Is Spirituality compatible with levity? I’m willing to find out. In the meantime… what are your thoughts on the subject? What are your own ideals of what spirituality looks like and acts like? And in what way do those ideals pertain to how you view yourself?