August 2, 2013

The Summer of Jesus Versus Buddha. (Part 1)

In June of 2004, a few days after celebrating my 24th birthday in my hometown, Austin, I flew back to California, where I was living at the time.

On the flight, I met a guy. And so began The Summer of Christopher, also known as The Summer of Jesus Versus Buddha.

The energy of, you know, the Universe, that magical, mystical stuff that twirls and sparkles and is forever moving and changing, shifted palpably that afternoon as we barreled across the blue sky above the clouds from DFW to San Jose.

I’ve drafted dozens of versions of the scene on that airplane, attempting to rewrite the flight in which Christopher crashed into my life, to make sense of it all. I’ve realized it doesn’t matter what exactly was said or done.

I do remember that I was last in line to board the plane, and he came onboard after me. It was a Southwest flight with unassigned seats. I had just sat down in an aisle with two seats toward the front of the plane. I was sitting by the window, as I like to do. The seat next to me was free. He asked permission to sit there, and I nodded. He handed me a business card that said he was in real estate. I was physically attracted to him right away.

He went by Christopher, not Chris. How did we start talking about religion? I cannot exactly recall.

Who are you, where are you coming from, where are you going? I said I was a yoga teacher. He said he was Christian. Oh? Really? What a goddamn shame.

When he said he’d never kissed a girl before, and he had turned 31 on the day before, I was shocked and refused to believe him at first. Then, I believed him. He had been raised in this terribly conservative Christian culture and had been miseducated into thinking any physical affection with a girl was a sin. I remember feeling pity. I had most intentionally lost my virginity at 18, for the duration of one skit on Saturday Night Live, in my college dorm room, on spring break of my freshman year at UT.

I remember telling Christopher that I would kiss him, so that he could experience his first kiss right away. He blushed and rejected the offer, but took my hand and held it the rest of the flight.

Here was this All-American, tan, tall, cute, funny guy who was obviously attracted to me, too. So what if he’s a Christian? I thought. So what if he literally believes in the Bible? Surely he would get over that, because I sure wasn’t going to start believing that way.

I began to see him as Christ, not consciously and not that first day but that’s when the seed was planted. It had to be destiny. Same airport, same airline, same destination, same row. Our paths were meant to cross.

I came off that plane a different person. A girl worthy of love and affection. Despite his orthodox Christian belief system which clashed with my “pagan” tendencies toward yoga and tarot cards, we somehow connected. In our short time together, he would alter my life. He would influence my spiritual path more than any other guru, lover or acquaintance.

But, God, I was so naïve! I didn’t identify him as a Fundamentalist Christian at the time. Even though, when I probed, he said he that Creation happened in seven days and all that bullshit. Because the Bible told me so. Even though he argued against evolution. Even though he was committed to saving his virginity for his future wife. No making out? Not even kissing! This was heresy!

It wasn’t until after the relationship imploded that I was able to apply the F-word (well, both F words, Fundmentalists and F#ck) to Christopher and his family. I mean, I immediately realized he was crazy conservative, obviously. In his early twenties, he and his brothers had formed a Christian a capella quintet and toured the nation singing gospel songs. Really.

I’d already been a serious yogi for four years by this point. And I was just starting my sitting meditation practice. I’d gone on a four-day personal zen meditation retreat at Green Gulch farm in April, and I met Christopher two months later. I was just beginning to explore Buddist philosophies and mindfulness practices.

Ecumenical was my favorite word. It was very important to me that multiple paths to Truth co-exist. I’m all for Jesus, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think many of the things currently done in His name have much to do with the essence of his teachings.

I’d been raised Catholic, hence exposed to Jesus from an early age. I was baptized as a baby. I wore a frilly white dress for first holy communion at age eight. I refused to confess at Confession at age 10, because even then, I thought it seemed weird to go into a small closet and confess my sins to the Father. He was just a priest after all, not God.

Mass was always the longest, dullest hour of my week, so much superfluous standing and sitting, monotonous singing and robotic signs of the cross. The part I liked was kneeling after communion, pressing my elbows into the sleek wood of the pew in front of me, just like the grown ups. I delighted at the whoosh of the rust-colored vinyl pads when I pressed my petite knees into the miniature benches. But the greatest pleasure was always at the end of the service when the priest stepped forward, spread out his robed arms and said, “Mass has ended. Go in peace.”

So, from an early age, I had put Jesus up on a shelf instead of inviting Him into my heart. I had a problem with accepting anyone as my personal savior. I just didn’t see a need for it. Yet, I gazed into Christopher’s blue eyes and thought, Okay, sure, I could love Jesus for this.

The other thing was, at 24, I already had a decade of memories of bad pseudo-relationships cluttering my nascent love life. My best friend had had a steady boyfriend in high school, another one in college, and another one after college whom she married. My history was the opposite. After my first romantic interludes with a few scuzzy “older” men (at the time, 18 and 23 year old guys were considerably older), I started online dating and met a slew of scuzzy guys closer to my own age.

I mistook promiscuity for power as I slept with guys, but had no significant relationships. The ones I thought I loved didn’t love me, yet I clung to them. It was a fruitless chase that always left me wanting more, a meaningful connection, or at least a steady something to do on Saturday nights. Instead, I settled for what was available: next to nothing.

Then, Christopher entered the scene and all that changed on a jet plane. He held my hand. He stroked my hair. He spoke sweetly to me, but he was also sarcastic and witty at times.

He told me he loved me after we’d known each other a week, and when I said it back, I really meant it.

(to read part two, please click here)

Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: via geraldford}

Read 7 Comments and Reply

Read 7 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Michelle Margaret Fajkus  |  Contribution: 55,855