I have a text saying that friends have recently received from me excessively. No commentary, no explanation, just “GOLD.” When this question appeared on my screen last week, I wanted to send back my favorite response. In the realm of truthful, hard, beautiful ‘what if’s’ for the spiritually seeking, this is GOLD. I’m going to do my best to unpack this gem, but before I begin, I need to place myself in the posture of learning. This is a question that I share with the asker. Regularly.
When you grow up in a tradition that is known for promoting and loving the experiences of faith that exude emotional responses, you have a warped “experience” of faith. As I have moved though different seasons of growth and tearing apart and construction, I have come to understand that my moments of greatest connection do not come when I FEEL spiritual. I falsely equated feelings with connection to the Divine in my younger years. As I have endured pain and struggle and grief, I discovered that the moments when I feel the most distant, even cold or uninterested, that God is actually working and shaping me into an entirely new spiritual shape. But these moments do not feel full. They actually feel quite lonely and empty.
When I first began to see these as holy moments, it was painful. I struggled because they did not present themselves as moments of fulfillment. They hurt. They made me question. And then I would walk a few more steps and I would realize that my soul felt stronger. Not because I was happy or had answers, but because I found that my grounding was secured with experience and reflection. As I learned in high school theology class, these are the very roots of faith. When we walk, one heavy foot in front of another, and realize that we are trusting that the God of the universe is at work – in spite of our undoing – we find our faith. A faith that is deeper, and more real and more full of questions. Instead, a faith that will be trustworthy when faith FEELS inadequate and incomplete.
One more thought that may give another dimension to this question: For those of us that have grown up with a context for faith that is wrapped in a handed down expression of spiritual connection, we often reach a moment(s) that require us to choose a different path. Do you remember the Pick-a-Path series from childhood? I think they were also called the Adventure Series. In these stories, you would reach a moment of the plot and choose a direction to continue. If your experience of faith is anything like mine, you have reached these moments multiple times in your faith life. Sometimes the path was obvious. Sometimes more hidden and nuanced. No matter the circumstances, taking the first step down the chosen path is the hardest part. But an amazing thing happens as I embrace the adventure. The weight of the situation shifts from the choice to go or stay or believe or deny, and transforms into the beauty of the journey. I’m not saying this is easy. I would actually admit that it is one of the hardest things that I have experienced in life. But a shift in the path is not a destruction, it’s simply an opportunity to change course. Honoring the journey is one of the most spiritual things that we can do. Allowing ourselves to honor the journey rather striving for a feeling allows us to be present all along the way.