Welcome to the 21st century, an era where evolving consciousness, transformation, and being woke are the trending terms, book titles, and social media memes. And while there is nothing wrong with that, many of us are missing the deeper calling of the deeper questions: What does it mean to be transformed, to evolve, to awaken?
Reading these words from Romans is one thing, embodying them and engaging them as an active practice is a vastly different way of life:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
One of the great things about multiple translations is that we are invited to explore the complexity of language to understand on a different, possibly deeper level. In reading the New Living Translation we are given such an opportunity:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Herein lies one of the most profound shifts I personally have undergone since my first submission to Whosoever back in 2000. In 2000 I was experiencing a great deal of inner and outer turmoil in my personal, professional, and spiritual life! Depression was a constant friend, and the suicidal ideations of my youth had returned.
Enter, stage left: Transformation.
In the New Thought spiritual tradition, it is common to hear people refer to “death” as a “transition.” We refer to people “making their transition,” or say they “transitioned,” rather than saying they died. I have noticed that this occurs for two main reasons. First, death carries with it an energy of finality, and we do not see death as being final. So a more energetically appropriate term was chosen.
Second, in full transparency, there are many in New Thought who use the term not because they “believe,” but because they fear the finality of death. I mention this because over the years I have come to recognize the facts that we — all of us — are in a constant state of transition.
We transition from morning to afternoon to evening activities. We transition from elementary school to high school to college and/or work life. We transition from various relationships as friendships change, romantic connections fray, our children become adults, etc. Even this breath, this inhalation, transitions to an exhalation.
Any attempt to keep things constant or unchanging is to rest in a consciousness of stagnancy. Any attempt to regain the life of yesteryear, to recapture the nostalgia and relive it repeatedly, is to imprison ourselves in a zombie-like hell where we are unable to truly live an abundant life!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 NASB)
When I, over the years since 2000, began to recognize the process of being in transition, to recognize the vast emotional landscape, to see the pain not as enemy but as invitation, then I was able to begin the process of truly transforming my mind.
One may wonder or ask: “Why, what is so important about transforming my mind?” Though we operate within the world, are we not invited to refrain from being of it?
We transform our minds, so we are not conformed to the “mind” of the world — a mass consciousness of lack, scarcity, greed, oppression, and more. In short, the mind of the world is the consciousness of the white supremacist, pseudo-Christian, capitalistic, heteronormative, patriarchal delusion. We transform our minds to first heal ourselves from the trauma and abuse this delusion has inflicted upon us.
We also transform our minds to then affect revolutionary systemic changes in the world (in our homes, churches, mosques, temples, court systems, schools, and legislation).
As I write this essay, I’m 55 years old, and because of the radical self-care I now embody as a daily unapologetic act, I feel the best I have ever felt in my entire life!
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
These words of Audre Lorde resonate in a profoundly powerful way where I understand that this thing called Spirituality, and a Religion of Love and Compassion, demands action!
It demands evolution! It demands that I individually — and that we collectively — wake up! Equity, justice, and emancipation from the shackles of Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Xenophobia, etc. This “political warfare” is actually “spiritual warfare.”
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
As a metaphysician, I understand and practice this to mean we are not battling people per se, but the consciousness and the beliefs that show up as the fruit they bear, as their acts of hate and ignorance.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16)
In reflecting on the 25th anniversary of Whosoever, the words of Fannie Lou Hamer come to my mind, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” The work of transformation, evolution, and waking up has been the work of the LGBTQ+ community long before there were letters being used or a flag being waved or parades being marched in.
This work was being done, is being done, and will continue to be done, in powerful and impactful ways, and we in the theological spheres must recognize this as a call to action.
Sitting by — watching, waiting, hoping — is no longer an option. It would be great if I could say that it was only one late night in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., that I sat on the railing of a bridge, watching my life spiral out of control with self-hatred, confusion, and fear, waiting for a breeze to nudge me over the edge and help me along, and hoping for the answers.
The actual truth is I have no idea how often I sat there. What I do know is that nothing changed for me until I changed how I thought about myself, the Bible, my beliefs, my sexuality, etc. When I deconstructed a faulty faith and reconstructed a new more authentic and empowered one, my tree — once nearly barren — began to bear the most succulent, nourishing fruits I could imagine!
Now, as a Black Gay man in the United States of America, who has been a minister for several years and is now a newly ordained minister within Centers for Spiritual Living, I am even more committed to the work. Committed to identifying what is mine to do.
I ask daily: “What does it mean to ‘minister’ to the community?” “What is mine to do?” “Am I responding from fear or from faith, from anger or apathy, from resentment or reconciliation?”
Much has occurred and changed since my first essay here to today — both of my parents have died (made their transition); 99 percent of my biological family are not in my life in any life-affirming and meaningful ways; my family of choice has also undergone some painful changes as three of my five sons are now estranged. And a former friend and martial arts student of mine who became a stalker who tried to kill me in 2001 has resurfaced in 2019.
I mention this as a sampling of my journey simply to say that I have found from firsthand experience, from living my spiritual faith daily walking the walk, that there is power within us.
Ruach, the breath of God, moves us, it inspires us and gives us the ability to resuscitate and breathe life into our daily experiences.
Have we transformed over the years? Yes.
Is there more transformation, evolution, awakening to be done? Yes
Can we do it? I have absolute faith that we can, and we will because we are!
We don’t heal in isolation, but in community. (S. Kelley Harrell)
Senior minister at the Center for Spiritual Living Greater Baltimore, Rev. Dr. Raymont L. Anderson is an author, visual artist and ASL performing artist. He earned doctorates in metaphysics and theology from the American Institute of Holistic Theology, a master of fine arts in theatre pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a bachelors in education from Carlow College.