A healthy spirituality, our relationships with God, Creation, and each other, is so important for a healthy and vital life. In our relationship with God we are “given” our faith as children. We’re taught certain ideas and concepts about what we should believe and how we should think and act. However, as we live our lives, we sometimes find ourselves harmed by these concepts or we simply can no longer make sense of what we were taught as children because it doesn’t match our life experience. When this happens, we can either cling to our beliefs, becoming fundamentalist, or we give up on our faith altogether. However, there’s also a third way.
Beyond the given God there is also an “ungiven” God, a hidden and mysterious Divine Presence that we can’t quite ever know fully. There’s always something new to be learned, some new revelation to be discovered. When the given God doesn’t make sense anymore, we can reclaim our faith by going in search of this ungiven God. We can try to find more meaningful understandings of the Divine and our spirituality. But, because what we’ve been taught is so deeply embedded in our psyche this can be a difficult journey. It can seem very threatening when we are presented with challenges to how we have always understood the world. However, if we choose to take on this mission, there are several steps we might consciously consider that can be helpful:
1. Name our hurts. It’s important to tell our stories and name out loud what has hurt us or what no longer makes sense to us. If we can’t name it, if we can’t express our doubts and concerns, then we can’t get past them.
2. Understand our hurts. We need to deconstruct what is bothering us. What doesn’t make sense? How does it conflict with our life experience? How does this make us feel? It’s important to explore both the logical and emotional aspects.
3. Let go of the beliefs that hurt us. We need to give ourselves permission to let go of what is no longer useful or healthy for us. This can be very difficult as it might be scary or even feel like a betrayal of our upbringing. Ritual might be helpful in letting go. It might also take time. Think of letting go as a process, not as a one-time decision.
4. Reclaim our faith. It might be easier to let go if we’re aware that there is something else waiting for us, that there are other valid ways of understanding the world and the Divine. This step is our search for those understandings. In addition to letting go, we might ask what was good about what we were taught? What is worth hanging on to? We can also learn about new understandings by reading books, talking to spiritual leaders and our peers in our spiritual community, and by reflecting on our personal experience. We might even dive deeper into how our religious tradition has understood whatever issue we’re trying to let go of because often religious traditions can have more than one way of understanding something.
Spirituality is an important part of our human experience. We have a choice how we react when we are confronted with crises of the spirit. Don’t give up on your soul but embrace growth, the never ending cycle of resurrection, of letting go and being re-born.
(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by a discussion I led at a church retreat in October 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)