My story as a priest is a humble one. I grew up with nothing in the projects of Atlanta, GA, the only son of a single mother who did her best. All God ever meant at “home” was empty prayers over supper and a visit to the East Point Baptist Church on holidays. What more could you expect from a woman raising a child in the 90s by herself with a high school diploma, three jobs, and a cigarette habit? So spirituality was never a big deal to me. I more cared about Power Rangers, Hercules, and staving off predators. It was never an easy time and God never helped.
I remember one Sunday we were living in a motel overlooking the freeway. It was a crackhouse. I remember because the movie Congo was out and the woman who was selling the crack was on Jerry Springer in the laundry room. I remember I did something bad that week so my mama and James, the blind K-Mart stock clerk turned haphazard step-father, took me to see a pastor. He tried to convince me that I was going to hell or some shit. Didn’t phase me. The only reason it was significant is because that same weekend Homer was on the Simpsons playing guitar with a cross and it scared the shit out of me. That was the first time I ever felt the Spirit.
It never really surfaced again, except in basketball, (you can always feel the Spirit in basketball) until one day a friend I’d made in high school invited me to church. It was the first time I’d ever been to a youth service and these guys really nailed it. Passable music, glowing lights, the whole nine yards. They really made it comfortable to confront the idea of the spiritual. That night I became a Christian. I owe a lot to Matt McCord for orienting me properly all those years ago.
I was a part of some gnarly teen Christian culture by way of the Passion Church around this time. We had some… let’s say… ecstatic… experiences ourselves. However, at the very least I got used to feeling the Spirit. While I didn’t understand what it was then I certainly understood its presence in my life. Now that I’m older and more experienced I can see that it is a neural pattern, a way of being, but then I thought it was an angel on my shoulder telling me the right thing to do or condemning my imperfections.
In college, I was a biblical studies major, minoring in biblical languages. (A real turn on for the ladies, let me tell ya.) However, in my earnest attempt to find the Spirit I made inroads intellectually and spiritually. I encountered some deeply humbling, and even humiliating, experiences on Lookout Mountain. If the Spirit isn’t in-and-around Chattanooga, TN, then just tie me up and send me down the river now. Because I got experienced.
I went through life after college trying my best to find the space between my real world experience and my utopian ideals of heaven. While Seminary didn’t work out after I finished the Old Testament, I still tried hard to discern the Spirit while also walking the disciple’s way in the devil’s mouth, the restaurant industry. But more often than not I found myself drunk, high, or worse, justifying a numbness.
That lasted a long time. Kind of still does. Those were the dark years. Some have a dark night of the soul. Mine lasted a decade.
Since, I’ve come to understand the Spirit, which is why its familiarity to me is a comfort and doesn’t cause alarm. If I would’ve come by this feeling all of the sudden it would’ve blew me over like the Falls that took my breath away at my baptism. Thankfully, when I rediscovered the Spirit as a man I already knew it. I could breathe into it. While my road had been rocky, it prepared me to actually receive and channel the Spirit.
Now I see that the Spirit is a sort of program, an inclination, shaped and molded over millennia by those who’ve sacrificed for It’s proliferation. It is divine, timeless, and feels… heroic… put simply, meaningful.
If you can live in it, calmed and inspired away from the tumultuous roar of the rat race, then you can channel It and let it inspire you to truly great heights. The Spirit is our heritage in western culture. It’s the hero that slays the dragon, the addict who kicks the habit, the buzzer beater…We can aspire to such things when we focus on connection to each other and our environment and not division based on tribal loyalties. Each one of us is precious and unique. We must commit ourselves to the ancient ways. Feel them. Reinvent them when necessary. We know these ways deep deep down. The inclinations that made man, man. We know them because they’ve brought us to where we are.
“Here I raise my ebenezer! The Spirit has brought me thus far!”
Meditate on that. Feel the light. Be found in the light of the sun. Walk in nature. Feel for yourself. The Spirit is near to all our hearts. If we just reach out, we can find it. Let life pass by like the waves on a river, ever present, flowing down the time stream.
I am a priest of these ways, the ancient ways. The way of the Spirit. The way buried deep in our genes, mastered by the discipline of our greatness. When we channel that source like a battery, the world will light up for the Universe to behold.
Peace be upon you. Let there be light!
P.S. If you would like a copy of Larry’s booklet, Let There Be Light, which is the ancient story buried deep in our collective consciousness described above, reach out to me. I don’t put it online because it’s too important. Anything worth doing is worth putting effort into.
May the Spirit lead you to meaning, fulfillment, and inspiration.