Poetry · Writing

A Poem Published, a Reflection

amanda-butlerYou may have already seen the posts on my various social media outlets, but my poem “Filial Prodigal” has been published through the Christian online magazine ALTARWORK.

Now, there’s something surprising about the previous sentence; at least, it was surprising to me. I never thought I would be a published Christian writer. Only a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes if someone told me that in the future I would be a Christian writer. Only a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the word “Christian” alone.

But Christianity, and religion in total, has gotten a bad reputation – ironic in its negativity. Christianity, the religion that is supposed to be about love and acceptance, has become synonymous with those who thump the Bible at every opportunity to exclude the least of these. That’s why I turned my back on religion as a whole for a few years.

As my grandma described it, I threw the baby out with the bath water. For multiple reasons, of course – there was not one singular event that was the cause of my absence. Growing up, I experienced religion as a means of control and manipulation. As I got older, a priest used shady means to obtain my phone number so he could text me a rant on why I should attend church. I was caught between a religion I loved and the people who represented that religion. So I took the advice of Timon from Disney’s The Lion King – “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.”

With these few years, I took some time to focus on what I truly believed. Growing up, I thought I HAD to have certain beliefs to be a good person. It was such a dichotomous way of thinking, so I practiced opening my mind. I turned to politics and shaped my societal beliefs – I formed an open and loving heart to the LGBT+ community, gun control, and took a stance on abortion (hint: it’s not the stereotypical Christian belief). What I did not realize was that this was a part of my journey; I needed to know what I believed politically to reinforce what I believed spiritually. But I did not know this yet.

I tried exploring different religions and belief systems. I tried praying to goddesses. I tried to practice a different seasonal calendar. I tried not praying at all. But nothing stuck, except the belief in one, omniscient God. One line in my poem encompasses this time in my life: “there is a loneliness/ in independence.”

Fast forward to last August. I was at a rough patch in life, suffering anxiety attacks – as many as three a week. This was also a time in my life when, although I still rolled my eyes at religious fanatics, I had a more open and a more tolerant mind. I wanted to look at Christianity objectively. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to criticize a religion, I might as well read the Book associated with it.” So I picked up a Bible for the first time in years.

And something amazing happened. The more I read the Bible, the less anxiety attacks I had. My thoughts progressed:

“I might as well understand the religion.”
“I might as well understand the religion I was raised with.”
“This passage is actually kind of beautiful.”
“Huh, I’m having less anxiety attacks.”
“Why don’t people practice what this actually says?!?”
“I might as well understand my religion.”

The more I read the Bible, the more I realized that this whole time, my faith had been in the people practicing the religion, and not in the God behind the religion.

Personal beliefs are still just that to me – personal. This is probably the most I will blog about religion in one post. I keep my beliefs to myself, and other people have their beliefs. I am not a born-again evangelical, nor am I a convert. I have always been a Catholic – my beliefs just spent some time hibernating.

And now, my poem about this time in my life has been published by ALTARWORK. I don’t know whether ALTARWORK found me, or if ALTARWORK was sent in my direction – but I do know that I am now part of the ALTARWORK Writer Family. I have found a Christian community that accepts me no matter my beliefs or side on the political spectrum – and I will cherish any Christian community that accepts this about me. Because acceptance regardless of beliefs, occupation, gender, or sexual identity is truly a Christian concept. You know, the whole “love your neighbor” thing.

I have two more poems appearing on ALTARWORK in the near future, and I’m looking forward to continuing on this journey.

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