A few weeks ago NLQ blogger and friend Bruce Gerencser asked for readers to ask him any question that they liked and he would try to answer it.
If you don't know Bruce you should scooch on over to his blog - The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser - and have a read. Bruce's life story is a fascinating one. He used to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist minister for many years and now he's an atheist.
While I'm not entirely done with faith and cannot call myself an atheist in good conscience I think I'm more of an agnostic. If there is a God, and I suspect there might be, then he really doesn't give a crap or intervene in our day to day lives like I was taught during my years as a sold out Christian.
The question I'd been wondering about and had to ask Bruce was what was the first thing, the very first thread pulled from the tapestry of his faith, that caused it to completely unravel. Was it a slow process or all at once. Bruce was kind enough to answer my question.
His answer made me start thinking about where exactly that point was in my own journey where the first thread was pulled and the tiniest seed of doubt sprang up.
My moment of thread pulling occurred because of Yoga.
At some point in the early 2000s we were all handed a paper booklet and told to pray, then fill out the book. It was a spiritual inventory list, all the sins you'd done, things you'd done that might open the door to Satan, etc.. a self-shaming checklist catalog that was a companion to the book we were fixing to study. I no longer remember the book name or the author but some of the questions on the inventory still stick with me, like having to admit to and renounce bathing in urine to glorify the devil.
I had no problem checking off the boxes on standard everyone knows it's a sin stuff like lying or stealing, but all the things on Satan worship and the lists of normal ordinary things they were trying to say were sin, such as watching television or practicing martial arts was extremely off putting to me. I could not see what the sin was in certain types of exercise.
One of the biggies in exercise-sin category was yoga. Yoga?
Now that I really could not see because I'd practiced yoga off and on for years, starting in the late 1970s when my oldest child was a new born. Every afternoon and morning, religiously you might say, I put my baby in the baby swing, took off my shoes, switched on the local PBS station and did yoga along with Lilas, host of the yoga program on PBS.
I was trapped in a bad marriage with a man I should never have married, home all day with a new born, trying to regain my pre-baby body and deal with the stress of a mother in law that lived next door and hated me. My twice daily yoga was a ritual that helped me cope with the hopeless situation I lived in. I kept up my yoga practice through the divorce but at some point stopped doing yoga more than once in a while.
The poses helped with my stress levels and the breathing exercises helped the asthma. It was a win-win in my eyes.
So when this spiritual inventory book went around the church and we started going through the booklet, talking about the sins, one by one as a group, I could not help but very timidly ask why yoga was on this list. It had helped me and I felt no need to repent from it, didn't think it should even be on this list.
Up until that moment I'd been a true believer Koolaide drinking Quivering momma. Believed every word of the Bible was true. Believed that believers would never lie to further their own agendas, that there was a demon under every bush.
When I voiced my concerns about yoga I was told that yoga was a sin because you had to chant the names of demons while doing yoga. Yoga opened a door to the demonic and I had better repent and ask God's forgiveness as quickly as possible.
There was just something about that I could not accept. I'd done many hours of yoga and in my spirit felt like what this leader said was very wrong indeed.
I didn't dare talk back but... I shrunk down in my pew and thought about this list and yoga. I could not ever remember doing any chanting in my yoga practice, certainly nothing 'demonic' I kept my mouth shut, but started thinking for the first time since we joined that church that someone was spewing bullshit about something they knew nothing about.
Later that day, after we arrived home from our usual five hour Sunday church service, I pulled my ancient and yellowing copy of 'Lilas Yoga and You' from the bookshelf and started reading through it. I noticed in the very first chapter that the author referred to their faith in Christ and practice in yoga. Confirmation of what I thought, that yoga was simply a harmless gentle exercise that held no religious connection in the way I'd practiced it. I realized for the first time as a Christian that sometimes people put additional rules onto believers that had nothing to do with Christ, reality or faith.
Once that first thread was pulled out others followed until the big messy tangle of threads that was my leaving the old church happened.
Funny how some small thing can start your journey in an unimaginable direction.
Yes, I still do yoga, but I stick with the water version now. If you lose your balance in the Warrior Pose and fall down it's much gentler to fail into the arms of water than the cold hard floor of the gym.