New Mexico Spirituality
Hello. My name is Donovan. My wife’s name is Molly. I have one son and four daughters. My father is from Zia Pueblo. My mother was raised in Jemez Springs. As a kid, I was an altar boy. Because my father was from Zia, I grew up participating in native ceremonies. When it came to morality, my father engrained two things into my head: I was never to hit a girl, and I was never to come home drunk. He made it clear that if these things happened, he would destroy me.
I visited New York City for the first time in 1996 and asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins in the middle of Times Square. I came back to Albuquerque as a Christian and started attending Calvary of Albuquerque. I learned about the Bible at this church. As a missionary, I traveled to Hungary, Mexico, Honduras, England, France, and Slovakia. I got my first church job in 2001 at Calvary Chapel Rio Grande Valley, located in Belen. Two years later, I took a job at Calvary of Albuquerque as a janitor. A few short months later I was asked to become the worship director.
In 2007, I started working at City On A Hill, where I learned to define my faith in Jesus with theological terms.
In 2009, the church became Mars Hill, which represented an era of learning about church methodology… and church implosion.
In 2015, what remained of that implosion here in Albuquerque became North Church.
I like reading Stephen King, Saul Alinsky, N.T. wright, Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut, the Bible, Mein Kampf, and now, J. K. Rowling.
Throughout the course of almost 20 years after meeting Jesus, I was sure that I had cracked the code on God, ministry, and spirituality. I knew that God had revealed himself through Jesus. I read some books about God by various theologians. I felt established in my faith. I was familiar with ministry. I had been a part of a couple of well known churches. I became cultured in post-modernity. I saw the sophisticated progress of technology. I felt current with the trends. Ministry became a thing of management.
My faith was tamed by systems, processes and structures.
I was driven by vision, mission, values, goals, and objectives.
I was a machine.
My dad died on January 30, 2014. For my whole life, I lived in the anticipated shadow of one day having to bury my dad through native traditions and ceremonies. I did not want to do that. Yet, through his death and the ceremonies that followed, God reintroduced himself to me as a mysterious, ancient, primitive, and undomesticated God.
For most of my Christian life, I worked myself out of giving any spiritual merit to my Native American experience. I saw everything in black and white. Christ was the way, the truth, and the life, and the spirituality of my ancestors was demonic. I fought with my dad about worshiping worthless idols many, many, many times. I stopped participating in ceremonies and embraced American Evangelicalism. I dismissed so much of Native culture.
Doubt, fear and insecurity ruled much of my faith. I fought to become familiar with my new faith through reasoning, education, training, methodological studies, sects, teachers, systems and theologies. I seemed to stop short of understanding the depth and history of faith. I let men and movements define the stopping point - Edwards, Piper, Driscoll, Heitzig, Mars Hill, Calvary, Calvin, Luther, Catholicism, Orthodoxy. I didn’t let God be God. I needed to control the narrative of who God was. I needed to relate to one or the other but never at the same time.
A STRANGE MEDIATOR
I had a number of interactions with the Triune God through my dad’s Native death ceremony and burial.
I argued with God. Is my dad in hell? I thought you were a god of mercy, compassion, grace, and love. His response to me was, “You know these terms, concepts, and ideas because I have revealed my name to you. Otherwise, you would know nothing of me. Yes, I am these things. And know that I am infinitely and eternally more concerned about your father than you know.”
I experienced the archaic consequence of Adam’s sin. I heard the ancient song of Adam’s grief and mourning over death through these indigenous ceremonies that were thousands of years old. I carried my dead dad out of the hospital with my own hands, drove him to his house in Zia Pueblo, laid his stiff body on the floor, unzipped the body bag, covered him in Indian blankets, and - finally - stared at his cold face.
As the tribe went into the fourth and final day of ceremonies, I took a defensive spiritual posture. This will be demonic and pagan, so I will pray for these souls. I will minister to my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was ready to minister.
And God said, “Enough. You will do nothing. I will minister to you.”
After all the ceremonies were finished, a Catholic mass was given for my father. It was empty and lifeless compared to what I had experienced with the Native traditions. I sang a few Christian songs in a three-hundred-year-old adobe church. The Franciscan priest named every single saint who walked the face of the earth. The priest also - detachedly or relationally, I do not know - determined that my father was floating in purgatory. I wanted to scream, smash my guitar and tell everybody to go home. My white-anglo-non-native friends experienced the worst part of my father’s death through strange Christian traditions.
I can refer to God as mysterious, ancient, primitive, or undomesticated. I can refer to Him as explainable, current, defined, or classic. Either way, interacting with God who transcends traditionalism, modernism, post-modernism, and ancient beliefs has left me riddled, perplexed, and naive.