21 Aug Overcoming Dissonance June 04th, 2017
As my social and religious identity shifted, writing, as a form of narrative therapy, helped me to work through psychic dissonance. By framing my story as a coherent whole, I could connect my past, present, and future—drawing from ways I had experienced and interpreted my world.
Despite having moved away from theological Judaism, it remains the dominant narrative in my life. I continue to align myself with an oppressed, marginalized culture because I want to witness, honor, and respect that part of me. My experience of anti-Semitism, for example, forged the character and resilience that defines me today.
Writing reached deep into my psyche and spoke to a subconscious part of my soul. It evoked the peaceful transcendence of prayer and meditation. On a recent morning, for example, looking out the window, I noticed the difficulty of pinpointing the precise moment darkness edged into light. In putting pen to paper, I realized how the stages of my life may have been discerned this way—after the fact, and then, only subtly.
This led to the realization that my conversion evolved, not from a single illumination, but from many incremental points of light. My resistance to faith wore down as I studied the Jewish roots of Christianity. By conceptualizing myself as a first-century Jewish believer, I could live in a world of my own understanding, apart from rigid cultural, religious stereotypes.
On a high wire, balancing identity and family dynamics, I held onto faith the way one would grasp an unwieldy oxygen tank. Though isolating and cumbersome, I kept it close because of the breath of life it gave me. Living on high doses of the Holy Spirit, what I call “libido for the soul,” kept life invigorating and purposeful.
I attended to my inner life by reading, writing, praying, and meditating. Many times, I attained what the mystics call “joy”—a contentment richer and more profound that anything the world could offer. Cultivating a peace that transcended cultural boundaries, I never experienced what one would call “loneliness.”
Practicing the presence of God in the ordinariness of life didn’t require a sanctuary. My time of willful solitude served to prepare me for the fellowship that came later. My path should encourage so- called “renegades” who have left their childhood affiliation and who find themselves outside of traditional sectarian boundaries. Diana Butler Bass and Jeffrey Arnett contend that many them still adhere to spiritual practices and look forward to coming back to renew their affiliation.