UP FROM THE MUD AND SLIME I CAME
Birth is frightening, messy, and bloody. I was there for the birth of my twin sons. It was an incredibly painful and scary experience for their mother. And the boys? Well, they emerged slathered in blood and amniotic fluid -screaming, and helpless. I wasn’t allowed to hold the one who emerged first until they had cleaned him up, and of course, gotten his lungs working.
We are thrust into this world bloody, messy, exposed, cold, and screaming. All this after nine incredible months of safety, comfort, and nurturing. The time we spend in the womb is probably the most secure we will ever feel. In this life anyway.
Which is why it’s always troubled me that spiritual rebirth is often portrayed as an overnight, immediate transformation. As if embracing a few simple beliefs, practicing them for a few days, and proclaiming to have “given oneself” to a diety makes you a “new creation.”
Call me cynical, but after going around the block a few times, I call bullshit. As a shame-based addict with Bipolar Disorder, I have faced a more formidable hurdle in my spiritual experience than securely attached people with a reasonable degree of mental health….
But we all suffer from varying degrees of emotional or spiritual sickness. My 26 year harrowing spiritual experience, coupled with the necessity of an ongoing regimen of spiritual recovery work and self-care for me to remain reasonably fit, AND my observations of life and my fellow travelers clearly demonstrate to me that spiritual rebirth is messy. It is painful. It requires effort. It requires help from a power greater than oneself.
There is no quick fix. No easy answer. No magic bullet. It’s not a trip through the drivethrough. Or an order from Amazon Prime. Or a cup of Keurig.
Microwave spiritual transformations are a myth perpetuated by fly-by-night purveyors of disingenuous books they’ve written or “techniques” they’ve “discovered. Putting a few Band-Aids on a gaping wound that staunch the bleeding long enough for them to collect their fee and rapaciously move onto their next victim reserves a special place in Hell for them.
An honest to goodness spiritual transformation demands the hard work of ripping out one’s old way of being, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors “root and branch.” And replacing them with healthier, more enduring, more effective, and and more other-centered ways. This is both difficult and time-consuming. And the necessary level of commitment often must be catalyzed by significant pain.
Not long after I started my spiritual journey towards recovery and stability, I was fortunate enough to befriend a fellow traveler who was suffering from similar maladies and was traveling a similar path. We often reminded each other of our rebirth, and our deep desire not to die again spiritually, by repeating, “Up from the mud and slime I came. And back I will not go!”
It’s been touch and go over the years. But I’ve managed to hold onto some semblance of my rebirth or transformation, even through some very self-destructive and unstable times.
For that I am grateful. And my experience, plus the experience of hundreds of others I know, has taught me that I have zero interest in cheap grace. I tried it and found it wanting. It frays away like the raw edges of a piece of sheer fabric.
What I have today -a renewed mind and spirit forged by the Higher Power of my understanding and through trials, tribulations, and hard work -was worth every drop of blood and sweat. And every tear drop.
Even though even it’s not guaranteed to last.
One day at a time. But for the grace of the Higher Power.