| I grew up with a Jewish Mother, who had become a Presbyterian, to fit in with my Presbyterian Dad. When I would go to my Presbyterian bible class for kids, I would tell of my psychic and spiritual experiences and they would assure me they weren’t real. I couldn’t understand this as the bible stories talked of Moses and the burning bush and he was revered and yet I had Jesus and the gang in my backyard and I wasn’t believed?! I loved Jesus so much, and I loved God, never questioning any of my experiences until they were questioned and dismissed by my bible schoolteachers, parents and doctors. It left me feeling sad and confused. My parents were telling me to face reality all while taking me to church to supposedly believe what the teachers and bible told me and yet they denied my direct experience of Jesus and God. It just didn’t make sense to me, nor did it honor me or support my spirituality.
So luckily, around age 8 or 9,I had the strength, courage and wherewithal to ask to leave their church and I began my journey through most of the Christian churches in our town and later, Quakerism, eastern religions, forays with the American Sikhs led by Yogi Bhajan, Rajneesh, Islam, New Thought Christian churches and my ongoing love of Dances of Universal peace and Sufism. Dances of Universal Peace was created by Samuel Lewis, a Jewish rabbi, a student of Ruth St. Denis, the mother of modern dance and a student of Hazrat Inayat Kahn, the man who brought Sufism to this country. I grew up also surrounded by Native American influences and studied and attended many pueblo dances and Navajo ceremonies.
I still receive judgment from some as “living in darkness” and “not having Jesus in my heart”, which is amazing to me, as I have had direct experience with Jesus, have lived my life completely devoted to God and spirituality, even if it doesn’t fit the mold of traditional religions. So it was with great relish that I dove into the book, Reluctant Pilgrim, by Enuma Okoro. An African Catholic father and an African Christian mother raised Enuma in Africa and America. She talks about her childhood fascination with crucifixes, her love for the ritual of communion, her deep love for Jesus and God and yet her ongoing struggle to really live as she sees a Christian should live…going to church regularly, being a part of a church community and even wanting to help the poor. She describes her attempts to find a church, her cringe worthy discomfort with helping the poor, and her other perceived shortcomings with sincerity, humor and even at times whining! I loved her honesty and self-depreciating humor. In that way, she reminded me of another favorite author, Anne Lamott. And what grounds this book is the fact that Enuma got degrees in religion, and yet still she struggled to find the path that honored her devotion and yet were in integrity with her needs. Throughout it all she weaves in stories of her romantic life, career struggles, family strife and especially her female friendships that support and lift her up. At the end, it seems like she has found a “home” that truly does provide the comfort and belonging that she is seeking.
This book validated my sometimes strange to the world search to take my deep passion and devotion to God and find a place of belonging that honors my understanding and experiences. I know that the work I am to do completely supports Jesus (Jeshua) and God. It has been challenging, lonely and painful to travel this path often alone, often judged and rejected by even those closest to me, but still I have kept on because it is hardwired within me to surrender to this spiritual path. So now, like Enuma, I am ready to dance in joy, in this space of belonging, serving God and humanity in the light, with love!
Katelon T. Jeffereys