First there is a story about slaves who had been liberated from centuries of dying from a life that was never their own. There are poetic miracles that make us want to believe in a God who wants freedom for human beings so badly that They will defy what we know to be true in order to rescue us. We align ourselves with those free people who were forging more than a path through the desert - they were conjuring up a new way of life out of dust, and heat, and fire, and a hovering cloud. We feel their breath in our bodies, the hum of human connection at the base of our own existence. We remember Ubuntu: I am you and you are me. We once left Egypt.
Alexander Shaia once said that there is a word the Hebrews used for Egypt that, when translated, means “the narrow place”. Can you see that? The way the narrow place, the smallness, the oppression, the abuse faded away behind them as they stepped into a wide wilderness? The openness of the sky and the cold night air, no more walls and doors to lock them in with the heat? The strength and exhaustion of bodies that had built someone else’s empire before standing open hearted in the sweet air of uncontained desert? The loss they carried with them, the grief of children murdered and families desperate to survive? The scars on their bodies and the cracks in their hearts? It wasn’t supposed to be that way. It was never supposed to be that way. Don’t you know you were never meant to live that way?
Something happens when we leave the old thing, when the narrow way closes behind us, when we liberate ourselves from abuse of any kind. Once we’re no longer surviving the pain, our subtle bodies catch up to us and we find out just how angry we are. The church won’t tell you this, but it’s just to be angry, it’s fair to be bitter, it’s valid to flinch when a trigger happens. You’ve been crushed, beaten down, manipulated, mistreated, used, lied about, lied to, dishonored, violated, ignored… you’ve been building an empire that doesn’t serve love and the weight of that is too much. So scream into the fucking wind and let the truth of what has happened to you exist everywhere else, but don’t let it get trapped under spiritual abuse or silencing.
At some point in the story those wilderness wanderers had been walking for three days without water. They were exhausted, depleted, and already emotionally thin - you know that feeling of being so soul dry you almost can’t get out of bed in the morning? Imagine that coupled with sheer physical despair.
But then it’s right there: water. Water enough for everyone to drink and maybe, maybe The Divine is watching out after all. Until they drink it…
The water is bitter. As bitter as their now free hearts. So bitter it burns in their mouths, stings the cracks on their lips, and drops their lingering hope onto dry desert floor. The wholehearted despair is as thick as the cloud that reminds them they were worth saving. But now the story feels dark, feels cruel, feels like God Themselves have forgotten about them. As if they were forgettable. As if humanity weren’t always the point of the entire story. As if we had left Egypt for nothing.
They do what we have all done: they go dark. They slip into the shadows of their pain and they angrily ask Moses what now? Weirdly Moses finds a stick and he throws it in the water, turning it sweet, and they’re saved by a miracle. But not really. The sweet water wasn’t the miracle, the bitter water was. The ritual with the stick wasn’t the healing, the desert pool was. We know now why the water at Marah was bitter and we know now why Divine Love offered it. The high levels of calcium and magnesium in the water would have done two necessary things for them, for us. The magnesium would have worked as a laxative, purging any parasite or disease they had carried out of the narrow place with them. They would have moved into their new life with a fresh start, cleansed. A short distance away was an oasis called Elim and they would have rested there, healed there, prepared themselves for the kind of wandering that leads us all away from the old thing and into the new.
There’s something else. Endurance athletes use something called dolomite to survive in harsh conditions and for long periods of time. Dolomite contains calcium and magnesium. The bitter water was for them. The Divine was for them. All that time in the narrow place had taught them survival, but not trust. It’s hard to believe that the universe is working for our good, that Divine Love has one goal in mind: to lead us to a good, free life. We aren’t handed this version of God, we aren’t given a picture of a god who has always been creating in deep wilderness to bring people home to themselves.
When we reframe who we think God is we do something miraculous: we face bitter water and we find that we’re willing to drink it. Not because we’re martyrs and not because “God won’t give us more than we can handle”, but because - at the core of our existence - we know that The Divine is for us. We know that the universe is propelling us forward and that surrendering to that flow is the act that sets us free. If everyone and everything is our teacher, then nothing about our experience can be used against us. Nothing can diminish the soul deep knowing of how good we are, how worthy we are, how loved we are. It is the practice of that belief that makes us a student of the wilderness and not a slave to the narrow place.
I know the exact way bitter water slides down my throat, fills my soul, and asks me to fall back into an unseen oasis. I know the bitterness of an anxiety disorder that is as present as my skin most days. I know the bitterness of being an adult long before I was done being a child. I know the bitterness of multiple sexual assaults. I know the bitterness of both men and women in churches and ministries minimizing me and suffocating the life out of my soul. I know the toxic bitterness of purity culture. I know the bitterness of a depression so deep I tried to die. I know the bitterness of a marriage that was a product of trauma and intensely painful for almost the entire 14 years we were in it. I know the bitterness of holding my convulsing, vomiting baby while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. I know the bitterness of two hours spent in an ER thinking she had died without me. I know the bitterness of pouring my life, my creativity, my heart, and my values into a ministry that I now know abuses people. I know the bitterness of leaving my own narrow place and spending years dodging assaults from the people still camped out there. I know the bitterness of losing friends I trusted. I know the bitterness of divorce. I know the bitterness of being manipulated into a relationship with a man who I painfully learned was a narcissist and a liar - but all in the name of Jesus.
The point about all of this bitterness is that it has a purpose, but it has to move through us. We can taste it, talk about it, feel it, breathe it - but we can’t live in it forever. Bitter water is meant to purge us, to cleanse us, to heal us. It’s what the wild forces of love and freedom create for the sake of bringing us closer to our deepest healing. And we only find it in the wilderness, tucked between plants that thrive off of almost nothing and mountains that give us a view of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go - because The Divine has always used the wilderness to meet with us.
There’s more though. The story stretches all the way past finding a home, planting roots, and establishing a new kingdom - one they built for themselves this time. The threads of this particular human experience make the story of David in the wilderness even more important.
And that's the part I can't wait to tell you.
*Come back tomorrow for part two of Leaving Saul
There's a particular way I have survived life from a very early age: I analyzed what people wanted from me and then I became it. I used my power as an empath to discern what was needed and then I gave it. Every last drop.
The church wanted my smallness, my purity, my submission to insecure, narcissistic men. My family wanted my steadiness, my capacity to carry the emotions that ran through our home. My childhood friends wanted my ability to agree to everything, to quietly go along with the way we did things. One friend wanted my affection and when I wouldn't give it he took a twisted version of it anyway. Ministry leaders wanted my invisibility and my learned ability to take the brunt of their own childish reactions to girls who loved Jesus. My ex-husband wanted my codependent attempts to make him feel better about a lifetime of abuse and disappointment. When I couldn't give that anymore, he wanted my submission to a narrative that made me the enemy. My former yoga community wanted my learned capacity to serve a narcissist. And my own dysfunctional self wanted to survive at all costs.
Going wild comes in waves, in pieces, in layers. It starts somewhere small, with a thin skin that didn't cause too much loss to shed. It starts with pulling back at something that you are desperate to peel off of you and then there you are. A truer part of you surfaces, takes a breath, and is born.
It's beautiful, liberating, breathtaking, and so painful. Babes, it hurts to go wild. You stretch past skin and breath and heart that have acted like boundary lines your entire life. You learn the language of your intuition and realize how often you have ignored her, leaving you in situations that still burn in your mind. You make a million mistakes when you flex new muscles for the first hundred times. You lose elements of who you have been to uncover who you have always been waiting to be. You keep waking up at 3am to grieve what was, what you will never be again. There is no unknowing what you know now and there is no going back to a compressed, lifeless existence. Your heart learns what it's like to live outside of being abused and manipulated. Your soul learns what it feels like to take such a deep inhale that you expand in every direction. You are waking up, slowly and brutally. You are coming back to life, gloriously and in full color.
I've shed purity culture and reconciled to my body and my sexuality. I started making decisions about my relationship with sex and how connected that is to my relationship with myself. I've made mistakes, but they have never felt like shame. Shame only comes when you have denied your truest self, your divine connection, or your intuition. I listened to all three and moved forward as freely as I was capable of - and then I changed course immediately if one of those three voices started to stir in another direction.
I completed my relationship with the church, not angrily or bitterly, but fully and completely. That way of life doesn't fit who I am anymore. I needed to walk through a long process of moving on, but it has only freed me to love deeper and live clearer. Leaving the church liberated me to explore the Jesus path in a new way, to find hidden truth and mercy in passages of scripture that were often interpreted to manipulate me and in new sources, writings, and explorations of where God is. I am reconciling to spirituality and letting it evolve, expand, and grow as it will.
I've released the idea that I need to be married in order to be happy or complete. I don't know that I need it anymore. Without an inch of self deprecation I've recognized that I may not be made for a long term partnership - I'm a whole lot, friends. I'm a 4 with a 5 wing on the enneagram, which means I'm all head and all heart - all the time. I'm always in process, always slowly shifting into something new, always finding new wells to dig, always working on healing or transforming something about myself. I have yet to meet someone who could hold that space with me for a long time and I'm okay with that. I keep myself open to what the universe shifts in my direction, but I've stopped needing it to happen.
I've been painfully extracting the strong desire I have for my divorce to be peaceful, or compassionate, or fair. This is where I practice the law of detachment the most. I know where I am right now, grieving and bleeding out on a weekly basis. I know where I'm going to end up, healed and whole and free from a toxic relationship. But how I get there, what happens to get me there, is not something I want to try to control. It's a daily practice to open my hands and trust that my resiliency and my commitment to peace will attract opportunities to move forward. I mantra through open hands and an open heart as often as I need to.
There's infinitely more to what going wild means for me, but here's what it comes down to: we untether ourselves from expectations, or ill fitting rules, or abuse and manipulation. We set our own hearts free and then we start feeling out the edges and corners of the life we've been living out of habit or force. We learn to really breathe again, to be moved by the force of Love that courses through our veins. We say yes when we want to say yes. We say no when we want to say no. We ask questions and, when we need to, we grieve like wolves alone in the desert. We tap into the primal instincts that make femininity sacred. We listen when our gut is speaking and we shift course when we are no longer being true to ourselves. We accept that our hearts are good and that, if we are really listening, our hearts will direct us onto the divine path over and over again. We speak when we want to speak and we cultivate solitude when we need to be spiritually fed. We let The Divine be more expansive than we were ever taught to believe They could be. We see our interactions with people as opportunities to grow or heal ourselves. We meet each other and ourselves exactly where we are at. We stop apologizing for being who we are, for walking the road to Divine Love in the way that we do. We celebrate our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our powerful personalities. We move forward, whatever that looks like.
Going wild is in us. It's something we have always needed to do and something we are warned against doing. There's a reason patriarchy and religion are so terrified of a wild woman, a reason they work so hard at keeping them in their place by using terms like "Jezebel spirit", or "submission", or "helpmeet". There's a reason the myth of virginity and the toxic percpetion of purity is shoved down young girl's throats. There's a reason the culture in general wants women to stay small and quiet. And, hear me, sometimes it sounds reasonable - especially if you were raised to normalize it. But your soul knows, the wolf in you knows, the wild in you knows. You can't keep breaking yourself to fit inside that box anymore. And, when you're ready, you'll peel away a single skin, shed one small thing, taste the way freedom burns on your tongue. When you're ready to breathe again, you'll feel your way forward and you'll know you aren't the only one. You will remember having read this post and you'll know that your wild is celebrated here, safe here, loved here.
When you're ready, set your heart wild again.
We’ll always circle the law of detachment, knowing that our hearts want to grip the known like it’s the only thing keeping us breathing. We’ll thread our fingers through the past and call it love, but love has always been the unraveling, the tug to unfurl our lives like sails and let the unknown open up around us. We were meant for open water, for endless horizon, for risk and for experience. We were meant for more.
And we’ll face ourselves over and over again, tiptoeing around the fear of what new thing could liberate us or demolish us. We can set ourselves free, but not without severing the pieces of ourselves we’ve left in another heart. We can rewrite the story, but not without the grief of moving from one chapter to another. We can choose healing, but not without exposing the wound to the air. We can light the way, but not without setting fire to the bridges we have spent years building.
The law of detachment will invite us to the clarity of where we are right now and where we know we are going. The practice of relinquishment will ask us to give up control of how we get there. We may know that the goal is wholeness, freedom, wildness, and growth, but we don’t need to know how we get there. Let the universe move around you, the divine flow pull life all the way through you, let love expand your broken heart.
Let yourself live.
Just as life happens with you.
How we move from here to there is a free fall, a knowing that we will land softly if we give way to the process rather than struggling against it. So detach from control, from desperation, from manipulation, from codependency. Practice letting the force of Love do its thing. Maybe the sensation of falling will become the full, powerful sense of sails full of wind and ships that fly over the water. Maybe you’ll wake up to what divine love has been creating all along. Freedom, babes. The story is always about freedom.
“To love yourself should be no quiet affair, but a loud uprising.”
Exist loudly. Take up space. Be unapologetic in living your life as truthfully and as wildly as you are currently capable of. Expand. Grow. Stretch into voids and past thresholds you’ve been too afraid to cross. Choose self kindness before you choose making someone else happy. Love like a river, cutting straight through rock and carving a new life out of the old one. Forgive yourself for all the ways you have wandered off the path in search of freedom. You were never lost, only wandering. Breathe with all of your soul from the back of the room, let the sound shake the air the way the energy of om moves through creation. Unravel your heart and all of its pain as an offering, like heat rising from your rib cage. Let the Divine Healer, the Mother of the Universe reshape you with fresh air and the ancient flow of never ending mercy. Be healed. Be loved. Be more than enough. Be soft and be fierce. The only way we learn to be human is by embracing our past and our persistent existence with gentleness. Love yourself.
All the way out in the desert past the city lights glowing south of us - out where the real light gathers like clusters of prana pulsing in the dark. Out in the cold and the quiet with stars arcing across the sky and I’m catching my breath every time. Out where the only sound is the soft sound of music from the speaker and horses moving in the dark across the way. All night long under stars and surrounded by a forest of Saguaro. Coyotes found something deep in the desert and they howled out of sync with each other. This is what wild feels like.
I came out of the desert different, my heart unlocked in new ways, my energy moving through me in an untethered flow. I can’t explain it, other than this knowing that I am more reconciled now than I was before. I’ve sorted out something in me so old and with words I didn’t know I had been waiting to unleash from my throat. It had to happen this way, it had to be some sort of magic that could only happen in that exact moment.
I found a peace in being alone, in focusing all of my energy on my own awakening. I found a piece of myself I was missing and it landed smooth and soft back into my soul again. Like coming home. Like exhaling. Like taking my heart in my hands and gently putting it back in my chest.
For the first time in decades my love starved self is completely content with being in the presence of my own self, breathing my own air. Whatever it was that unlocked in me out in the desert temple priestessed me into the thing I’ve been trying to do for months. I don’t need someone else’s exhale to fuel me, to heal me, to purge the hurt from my bones. I can love myself there, all the way to wholeness.
It was healing to matter, to be remembered.
I’m not a theologian. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a seminary student. I’ve read the entire bible multiple times, searched hungrily through it for decades, & learned at 12 how to use a Hebrew/Greek study tool to get a better understanding of a more original translation. I studied yoga for 17 years, studied the energy body, & read books by Buddhists, Celtic theologians, & heretics like Rob Bell. I’ve deconstructed everything I ever believed in and have been rebuilding my faith in wider, broader, less absolute spaces for years. I don’t have answers, but I have questions.
My entire life I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all the ways we try to define god - how we name them, assign gender to them, & simplify the existence of a deity, or energy, or source of existence, or force of love so that we can feel safer & more known. I don’t even think god despises that. I think they understand our need to feel anchored to something, but they’ve always been so much more than we’re capable of perceiving. We’re foolish to discount how other people experience them. We just cut ourselves off from an element of divine love that only another lived experience could help us learn.
But we talk about god being the universe, or about god being in everything, or about divine breath being in all of us. We talk about the omnipotence of god, the nearness of god, the never ending expanse of god. We talk about the voice of god - the sound of om - that still reverberates at the base of creation, only audible to the people who sit long enough and listen patiently enough. And we talk about being held in god’s hand. So FOR ME it feels more like this: what if the entire universe IS the DNA of the divine? What if we are held in the hand of god because we are LITERALLY a part of the hand of god? What if everything we study, and touch, and see, and sense IS god? What if god is near because we are in the cells of god? What if god has no beginning & no end & we live in an always expanding universe because we are a minuscule part of the very existence of a mystical, energetic, encompassing god? And what if every story, every song, every poetic attempt to define god has ALWAYS just been that? What if we are all just trying to connect to what we already know to be true somewhere in our divinely infused souls? What if?