Poetry,  Religious Trauma

The Hero’s Journey

Hundreds of voices, none the same
Each one yelling “The truth is plain!”

Thousands of beliefs, each one unique
A cacophony so loud I can’t even think

“You are welcome here” I’m told “If you obey every decree”
I try my best but it would help if they could at least agree

I play by the rules, give right answers, but soon I find they’re all trick questions
A house of horrors, crazy mirrors, trap doors, learn my lessons

I follow one voice, ten shout all the more
I turn toward another, but fifteen bang down the door

Running down the hallways, twenty closing in
No matter who I listen to, I never can win

Faithful, I follow until the dead end – they said this was the right way
“We must obey God rather than men” they say, quoting verses every Sunday

What they really mean is “choose my ideas over the other guy’s”
Every church, every sect, claiming the other lies

One church teaches God is a strict punisher to fear
Another assures me God is good but you still can’t be queer

I’m accosted with “check everything against scripture!”
When I do, my studies reveal a good God wouldn’t torture

Not like that!” They say “you need to submit to authority”
So I take seminary classes and get a pastor’s degree

Some react “you can’t do that – that’s not how God designed a woman’s mind”
Others say “great job! Now stay within these preset lines”

Running in circles, dodging bullets, a constant guessing game
Approval of others my cross to bear – slowly going insane

Walking the aisle, already on edge – listening for cues
Shallow breath, try to fit in, eyes narrowing from pews

My heart is pure, led by God-given conviction
But to survive the system, I must obey man’s benediction

My ministry flourishes – if you dare, judge me by my fruit
Community, healing, love – still determined to give me the boot?

You defend and speak for God? Wish I was so anointed
You condemn my path – interesting – it’s where the Spirit pointed

Apparently Jesus loves tax collectors and sinners
But I’m hellbound for leading interfaith dinners

Pulled in fifty directions – help, I’m breaking apart
Taught to blindly trust people but never my heart

How is there one God but thousands of bosses?
To make it out alive I run and count my losses

It’s been years now, making my own way, going it alone
Distant wagging fingers, shaking heads, slander and gossip drone

But they should be happy now right?
I’m no longer there to endanger their plight

But wait, I round the corner, a few are waiting in ambush
What do they want with me? I’m not part of their church!

“Leave me alone!” “Go away!” I’m not being rude
“Stop chasing me!” Once in church, forever tattooed

Sprinting with wolves at my heels, I see them behind every bush and tree
I’ve already lost everything, what more do I need to do to be free?

Mustering courage, holding my ground, I turn and fight
“I don’t care what you think, it doesn’t make you right”

Go ahead, bare your teeth, shame me
I dare you, spread rumors, defame me

The wolves shrink back, their hunting strategy failed
Falling at my feet are the merits they hailed

I slip away through the brush, safe this time
Sojourning this exile’s endless mountain climb

There will always be predators along this lonely, overgrown path
They’ll sniff out my blood, try to reach me with their wrath

I’m a sought-after prize, they surely won’t forget
But I remember my power – after all, I’m a threat

Admittedly it’s a treacherous way, often travelled wearily
But take heart, the hero’s journey never came easily

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