Michael and I recently went to a United Pursuit show, and it was a show unlike any other I had ever attended. The band was set up in a circle in the center of the venue, and the audience settled in around them. When they opened the night, one of the singers explained that they play in a circle, because it helps the evening feel more like a gathering of family, and “Our songs don't mean much without a family.”
Over the last year, I've been on something of a spiritual journey. Not that I wasn’t on a journey the first 30 years of my life, but this chapter feels different and eye-opening. Do you remember the first time you did something you were advised not to do—and you woke up the next morning and realized that you weren't evil? For years, I spent my life fearing what I would become if or when I crossed the line. Or even how I would be punished in each day or how my eternal life would be affected. But this year, in 2016, I let go of my religion. I let myself say things out loud that I've thought for a long time. I let go of dogma and ritual and fear. And I embraced freedom—in pursuit of simplicity and love. And for the first time in my life, I don't feel afraid anymore. Even more, I am the same Nora, and in fact I think this Nora is kinder and braver and more able to love. Because I'm free.
Here are some lyrics that United Pursuit sang, that I found so much encouragement in:
I'm laying down all my religion
More than words, more than good ideas, I found your love in the open fields
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open
I reach out and you find me in the dust, say no amount of untruth can separate us
Though the seasons change, love remains
I wonder, what does vulnerability look like for me? What mountain am I climbing? How do I open my hands and let go? Here's one thing I know, I know for sure that there is a spirit of love inside me, it challenges me to make eye contact with you, and to ask how you are doing, to really listen to your response, and to notice when you have a need—and that is holy, my friends. That is a holy spirit. At one moment during the evening, one of the singers suggested that, "The truth is, we need everyone of us to find God." And I think there are few things more true than that—that we need each other.
I have a tattoo on the inside of my left wrist that is traditional symbol from Ghana called nsoroma; it represents that we are all children of heaven, and for me it is a reminder that nothing can separate us from love. I think the world is experiencing a lot of fear right now, but what I have found is that fear manipulates and controls, and love doesn’t. It is my hope that my journey will continue to take me away from fear and toward love, because love invites to explore and discover, and love is not afraid of what we will find.