Amazing Grace (and other Hymns)

September 4, 2017

O Be Careful, Little Eyes

O be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little eyes what you see

There's a Father up above

And He's looking down in love

So, be careful little eyes what you see

 

O be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little ears what you hear

There's a Father up above

And He's looking down in love

So, be careful little ears what you hear

 

O be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little hands what you do

There's a Father up above

And He's looking down in love

So, be careful little hands what you do

 

O be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little feet where you go

There's a Father up above

And He's looking down in love

So, be careful little feet where you go

 

 

O be careful little mouth what you say

O be careful little mouth what you say

There's a Father up above

And He's looking down in love

So, be careful little mouth what you say

 

 


This song and Santa Claus is Coming to Town are basically the same song; Watch your thoughts, watch your actions, or some overbearing dude (physically or metaphorically) will not like you and/or bring you (physical or metaphorical) presents. The only difference being that by the time you turn 10, your parents usually tell you Santa isn't real. Unfortunately, you don't get this relief of news about God, so the message persists: What you choose to fill your mind and time with will directly affect your thoughts, which affects your actions and God is watching so you better fill-er up with some Godly stuff! In short, fill your mind exclusively with ideas supported by whatever version of "Godly" your particular church adheres to. My church claimed they were teaching me "How to be like Jesus", but that is obviously not true or so many more of us would be homeless, radical, off-the-grid sustenance farmers. 

 

Quiet Time

The most important part of my day as an Evangelical minion was my quiet time. This was my time to read Jesus culture books, passages from the Bible, pray, pray some more, and try not to fall asleep while praying. I think I was supposed to do this whole thing in the morning before the day started and I got all distracted by worldly things, but I have always been very bad at morning routines beyond "wake up on time”. My prayers started by thanking God for my wonderful life and then I would go into a laundry list of “refinement requests”. Refinement requests were me saying aloud over and over that I needed Grace. Grace is defined by Dictionary.com as

 

1. Simple elegance or refinement of movement

 

2.​ (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

First of all, we all know from my mad ballet skills that grace isn’t something I am even almost good at, despite lots of prayer. Furthermore, grace from God was supposed to be this beautiful thing that made me feel so much better about life, like “Hey, you know what. It’s okay that you totally suck, because God gives you forgiveness for sucking! Free of charge (except He did kill His son for you so you better not be ungrateful)!”

 

But somehow, call me crazy I suppose, all I ever heard was “You suck, Mattie Jo. You will never be good enough for God (or men in general. See: previous blogs). You are flawed and innately bad and need God to rescue you from your badness. You are weak and sinful. If you don’t have God, you are going to be stuck in your suckiness forever! Also, you are terrible at ballet.” And then I would ask God to forgive me for all the terrible things I did all day long like wish I could have sex, listen to secular radio, and worry about being able to pay for my car insurance (I should just know He’ll provide! He is faithful!**).

 

**The 11th Commandment: Never have enough money, always complain about how little money you have, but never try to actually make more money because rich people might be less in God’s favor than pre-marital-sex-having-harlots! And also please and thank you for giving 10% faithfully to your church for the provision of free coffee, sick sound systems, and fun spinny concert lights. - Rural Evangelicals

Ugh. This is called stealing from the poor! Robin Hood, where you at??? Also WHY DO THESE PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN IF THEY HATE RICH PEOPLE SO MUCH???

 

It is no wonder that by my teenage years and onward, I was a big ball of self-hate, insecurity, and had zero personal agency.

 

Bored And Confused

I'm not sure exactly when my prayer life took a turn, but it must have been around the time I realized "quiet time" and “grace” made me far more anxious than peaceful. Furthermore, I didn't like the structure of my preordained quiet time (except for taking notes. I fucking LOVE taking notes #Valedictorian). My prayers were really just me reciting my day aloud which felt like such an inefficient use of time (I’ve started praying prayers other people write. Such a time saver). I also didn't really want to journal about the Bible verses I had spent literally my whole life reading/reflecting upon. I mean seriously, how many times can one truly reflect on Romans 8? In church, they told us the Bible is so amazing because "the meaning of a passage changes depending on at what point in life you are reading it! Amazin!" That’s just not true. Biblical passages ALWAYS mean the same thing. You just have to like, study the history to know what the fuck the writer was talking about. Also, the Bible is really poorly written. There, I said it!

 

The more I read and learned, the more I became deeply confused by this idea of “needing to be saved from my sin.” Let’s really dissect this, shall we? God is kickin it in this Universe, that He himself created; and then, decided maybe company would be nice so he made humans. And even though He is “all-knowing”, us little human assholes somehow managed to totally blindside God with this Sin thing. And now we’re separated from Him because we’ve done this sin-thing He didn’t see coming; so He spent all his time creating different ways for us to reconnect with Him. And the ultimate answer to reconnection is worship (from animal sacrifice to Chris Tomlin concerts). I mean seriously, why would God make us in the first place if He knew we’d just be total fuck-ups? And the answer to our fuck-upedness is worshipping Him? That God sounds very self-centered. And also He should get a better hobby than creating things that make Him angry and disappointed all the damn time.

 

Basically I realized I really despised “quiet time” and I wasn’t gunna do it anymore because: 1. I was a friggin adult. If I can pay New York City rent, I can decide on appropriate daily rituals and 2. I didn’t even know if I believed in what I was espousing anymore. Before my well-intentioned heart knew it,  "quiet time" was no more. My sacred nightly routine had devolved to swiping on Tinder over a bottle of wine until I passed out, internally praying I would find a husband despite my lack of Holy discipline. And make it to that open call at 5am without a hangover.

If I can pay New York City rent, I can decide on appropriate daily rituals

 

This Love Has Taken Its Toll

Me, my liver, and my auditioning regimen are happy to report  the Tinder and binge drinking nightly routine has been kicked. Because turns out, filling my mind with loser Tinder date options and being drunk every night also took a toll on my self-esteem and consequently, my actions. So I decided it was time to construct a new “quiet time” routine. Thus beginning my exploration of meditation, self-talk, speaking truth into existence, deep gratitude, and eliminating negative energy from my life.

 

I began telling myself things about myself I didn't believe at the time, but would eventually:

 

I love you, Mattie Jo

 

I am so fucking hilarious

 

I am a talented, successful actress

 

I am a healthy human who doesn’t use food or alcohol to numb negativity

 

I am rich. I love money and money loves me!

 

I am kicking so much ass

 

Zac Efron totally wants to bang me

 

Instead of telling myself I was a piece of shit sinner all the time, I decided to start telling myself the Universe/God thinks I’m incredible simply because I was created. The Creator actually wants me to live my best life so I can fulfill my purpose on this earth with all the wonderful, unique qualities only I bring to the earth. Don’t I deserve to also think I’m incredible? Being insecure is not only a total bummer, it’s really annoying to everyone around you. It took some mad mental discipline, but every time I started to doubt myself or fall back into old, self-hating thoughts, I would repeat one of these affirmations to myself.

 

Being insecure is not only a total bummer, it’s really annoying to everyone around you

 

I stopped reading harmful material including fitness magazines and books about marriage written by Mega Church pastors in the South. I stopped reading the Bible devotionally and began reading literature by people who commit their entire lives to Biblical studies, as well as women who recognize patriarchy in the church (FEMINIST CHRISTIANS OH MY!), life coaches, and successful comedians/writers. I signed up for newsletters from women I really admire because of their strength, intellect, and honesty. I read material everyday that was inspiring, informative, and encouraging. I also continued to give a percentage of my money to various charities, but not to a church because I don’t currently belong to one. I do give to churches on occasion but because I believe in their mission not because I enjoy free coffee (even though I do totally enjoy free coffee).

 

There’s a corner of my room I call my “Gratitude Corner”. There hangs my vision board and a canvas that reads She turned her cant's into cans and dreams into plans (thanks sorority sisters #crafty). There are a few great quotes by Donald Miller, Glennon Doyle, and St. Catherine of Siena. Goals and daily affirmations, monthly prayers as distributed by Hope For New York, daily prayers from Redeemer Presbyterian, and the Ethos of Forefront Church Manhattan. Because I think it's important to cheer yourself on, remember what you're working towards, and remember those in your community who need help. Some mornings I stand in front of my mirror and read everything aloud, some mornings I don’t. Sometimes I read them at night, or sometimes I almost fall asleep during meditation.

 

Eventually I stopped hanging out with only actors because actors really like to complain about being actors and I didn’t want to be part of that shit anymore. I made my circle much smaller and didn’t engage when people guilt tripped me for “never going out.” I stopped getting drunk for fun and making regrettable decisions with strangers. I stopped dating as a pastime because I discovered most men make me more frustrated than fun, and I would rather hang out with myself than a stupid person just because they have a penis.

 

 

 

I stopped. I breathed. I started to get in touch with myself just by stopping and breathing. I became less anxious and more grounded. I spent time on projects I really enjoy. My auditions got a lot better. And here I am, about to get my Equity card about 37 years earlier than I ever expected. Taking solo trips Upstate and turning down sexy time opportunities with hot Italian chefs because this vacation is about me spending time with myself, not getting laid. And of course,  posting body positivity ass boomerangs that get 40,000 views.

 

This new quiet time I have manufactured over the past 2 years is really fucking powerful.

.

So my point is, that really fucked up hymn I learned as a 3 year old is actually not lying. You should be very careful about what you see, hear, touch, say, and ultimately do. But maybe those things you are seeing, hearing, touching, saying, and doing should be things that make you the best version of yourself. Not wasting time and mental energy apologizing for who are, beating yourself up, and wishing you were different

(I mean seriously, you made it through the vaginal canal unscathed. You are a damn miracle!) *** Because when you’re the best version of yourself -- honoring all your talents, passions, and quirks --you’re giving the world a literal gift from God.

 

I am a gift from God. I make the world better by being abundantly me.

 

And fuck the guy (the church, Jesus culture, Joel Olsteen) who made grace --an unmerited gift-- so damn exhausting.  

 

***There is a difference between making improvements in yourself and trying to totally change yourself. I think knowing the difference when you’ve been told your whole life you need God instructing every decision, requires a lot of practice to be very in touch with your intuition. The Western church is not big on meditation, but it’s essential, I tell you! You gotta really listen, know, and trust yourself  (Another thing we aren’t encouraged to do --what do you know dumb human?!) to make strides towards actual refinement, not self-torture in attempts to be someone you aren’t.

When you are the best version of yourself, you're giving the world a literal gift from God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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