“Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have been there.”
I heard this quote long before it landed. When it did it changed my life.
I have lived from both perspectives. I was blessed to have brought up in an evangelical church. I frequently am confronted by people who rigorously reject their religious upbringing. I compassion the fight for it is one I have lived. I went through a painful and in retrospect a necessary relationship with my religious upbringing. I remember at an early age feeling the shame and remorse of being what I was told was a sinful and faulty human being. By the tender age of seven I had already taken on a sense of self that believed I was responsible for the crucifixion of a perfect and only son of God. This haunted me. Even after I had taken the steps the church told me were necessary to redeem myself I lived in a sense of fear, guilt, and dread. I tried so hard to be perfect. To make up for what I truly and deeply felt was an abominable self. Though I heard descriptions of a loving God they were obliterated by vivid pictures of hell, fire, and damnation.
I now know it was my religion that created my internal hell. >br>
It was also the path that led me to freedom. I no longer live with a sense of blame. I know now that my religious upbringing was what led me beyond it. It led me to question more, to dig deeper, to open wider, and to detach from a thought system I was here to transcend.
It was my own faulty sense of self that became my living hell. Darkness and depression shrouded me. I became obsessed and absorbed in the story of me. I hung upon the cross of my own self aversion, and it finally led to my conversion. When I stopped blaming my religious past I finally saw that it was a representation of a journey my Soul was guiding me to take. Religion led me to a new God and so to an expanded sense of Self. To a spirituality that is now steeped in love, compassion, and inclusivity. When I realized I had already survived my own internal hell I no longer feared been sent there. That realization has become my doorway to heaven.
Hell is the belief and identification with my own separate self-story. Heaven is the recognition that there is no separate self. Heaven is the remembrance that I am Sourced in a Love so vast and all inclusive that it is beyond what my mind can even conceive. Yet it is the Livingness that my heart embraces and unfolds.
I sometimes still fall into the pit of my own forgetfulness. I do not stay there long. The fires of my misperceptions burn and awaken me to the fact that I have gone unconscious. I realize I have once again sent myself into hell. This realization is my choice point and my entryway into heaven. I can stew in the story or I can choose to be lifted up and out.
In a very real sense it is hell that has led me to heaven. And grateful, indeed, am I.