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Losing my Religion
by Nancy Thompson

What does it mean to ‘lose one’s religion?’ The phrase above is a lyric from an old rock tune by a band called ‘REM’. As an aside, REM is an acronym for ‘rapid, eye movement’, which is found when we are at complete rest in sleep and are usually dreaming. This sleep is completely restful yet the paradox is, that this sleep can be woken from in an instant.

I didn’t even know the name of the band who penned the title of the song, but this phrase lately kept being repeated in my head and I had to look it up from whence it came, so at least credit could be given to the writer for it.

All of us who have found Christ have found that we have lost all religion. We have lost all those things, which to my mind, includes everything external that we once pinned our identity on in this temporal realm, whether it was our career, our religious denomination, our friends, our family, our this or our that or anything else that we thought once defined ourselves. Jesus said that ‘we’re to lose our life to find it’, and this meant losing all religion, however we defined ‘religion’, which to my mind, includes everything external to who we truly are. Our hearts always wanted to have a true sense of belonging, and we always reasoned that we belonged to what we did, or believed, something outside of us. And all the outer things in our collective pasts could not reconcile that illusive eternal part, something we knew was missing, but could not quite put our fingers on. In the end, how could we ‘belong’ to something that was passing, i.e. the world; something that never remains static, but keeps on moving like a river. So we ran the gamut in our pursuits, defining our individuality from without. And yet, the truth was staring us in the face, so to speak, that all truth was inner truth and it was the inner truth expressed by us, whether we knew it or not, in our quest.

This ‘losing my religion’ and the search for belonging to something permanent also included our forays into the ‘organized’ church, which was the main training ground to our finding that we didn’t belong there either. Somehow, we struggled in our trying to do this, and that, praying, tithing, whatever it was in that particular place, that defined you externally as belonging to that external church. Trying to be something we were never meant to truly ‘be’. We traded one set of external clothes for another set of external clothes; however these ones we cloaked ourselves in were ‘religious clothes’. And the suits that we wore never seemed to quite fit. The pants or sleeves were either too long or too short. The suit was either too tight or too loose. We either felt constricted or felt like we were dragging yards of material around. And no matter, how we tried to ‘make’ the suit fit, it never did, because once an alteration was made, and we figured we had the ‘right’ suit, some other threads began to unravel and the buttons popped off.

As the real truth dawned in our hearts, we lost even that old cheap, threadbare, worn-out suit; that suit of ‘religion’ that never fit and was never meant to fit. So we took it off, piece by piece and this was probably the most difficult thing to do. We lost it all and much of that losing was not without tears, regrets, anger or whatever despair we sunk into. Yet, the paradoxical truth of this loss, was that the more old ‘religious’ clothes we lost, which never fit anyhow, we began to live in a freedom of movement of the Spirit of Him, in a transparent, made to measure for us suit, who rose in our hearts and began to show us His kingdom, without walls, without borders, prescriptions, conscriptions or descriptions.

Lately, I’m beginning to think I’m a living paradox. The paradox being that I belong nowhere but belong everywhere. In losing all, I’ve gained all. And what have I gained but the true inner eternal life. And this new life goes where it wants to go, does what it wants to do, and sees all things as the eternal kingdom, which exists moment by moment, even when I’m least conscious of it and likely most especially when I’m least conscious of it. This eternal kingdom hides itself in the temporal world. A hidden kingdom lived by lives that have been hid in Christ in God. The paradox continues to operate in the temporal world but not of it.