Today’s essay is inspired by a recent conversation with my friend who is in the discernment process of becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church. He gave me space to talk through some of my feelings about faith and I’m revisiting the topic for today’s essay. I’m not sure what my own faith is anymore, but I’ve decided to be okay with the unknown.
Then I chat with my friend Lacey Rose about an essay she wrote for my old blog. In her essay and in this interview, she recounts the emotionally abusive relationship she was in as a teenager. She bravely discusses the lasting effects it has had on her, including anxiety, a need for control, and loss of self-worth. Leaving that relationship has brought her the most beautiful life, and we also talk a bit about that, including how she met her husband on MySpace. And if you want a good laugh about my horrible sense of direction, make sure you listen until the end.
Mentioned in this episode:
Jonathan’s Instagram @cultrkpr
Wild Cozy Truth interview with Heidi Schmidt: Ep. 31
Lacey’s blog Perks of Being a JAP
Lacey on Pinterest
Don’t forget about the Wild Cozy Truth Women’s Circle and Book Club! Learn more at wildcozytruth.com/bookclub. Photo credit: Laura Alpizar
Listen to this episode using the player below, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts!
The Mystery of Faith
“What’s your faith look like these days?” he asked.
We were nestled into a cozy corner in one of my favorite coffee shops, catching up after many, many years.
“I don’t really know,” I answered, truthfully.
Here I am, across a small table from someone I’ve known nearly twenty years who is about to join the priesthood. Damn right, I’m intimidated and a little ashamed.
We’ve watched each other grow and evolve for nearly two decades, both as people and as members of various faith communities. He moved from a rigid interpretation of the Bible to a radically inclusive reimagining of Christianity. And I moved from Midwestern Irish Catholic to… what exactly?
That’s a big question for a Thursday morning, so I decided to sort through it with him out loud.
“I don’t know what my faith looks like. I believe Jesus existed. I believe in his love for everyone. Does that mean I’m Christian? Was he the son of God? Was he resurrected? I don’t know.
I felt closest to my faith when living in Rome. How could you not feel drawn to it when living in the shadow of the Vatican, as you walk the halls of St. Peter’s Basilica, as you climb the stairs Jesus was said to climb? But was I closer to my faith or just closer to the church I knew? Is there a difference? I don’t know.
I feel most connected to a higher power when I’m in nature. What is it? God? Universe? Spirit? Gaia? I feel an energy in the earth, like there are lessons to learn and stories to tell in the dirt itself. Are the woods my church? I don’t know.
I feel most fulfilled when helping others. Social justice lights me up and I have a deep knowing that it’s my purpose on this earth. I know that liberating the most marginalized is our only path to real freedom. But is that faith? Or is that my practice? I don’t know.”
He graciously held space for my circumlocution as any good minister would. I felt understood but confused all at once. I realized as I spoke that I hadn’t really contemplated my own faith in a long time. I can certainly tell you what I’m not — I’m not Catholic nor atheist nor new age spiritual. I believe in the power of faith and social justice together and I have a soft spot for Christianity because that’s what I know, but I also need to see it change. I admire those doing the hard work of decolonizing, queering, and complicating a religion built from the teachings of Christ, but I’m still not sure if I feel a part of it, if I ever will, or if I even want to.
As our conversation went on, traveling from theologies to personal growth and beyond, I became more okay with not knowing. Like anything, part of one’s growth requires getting comfortable and familiar with feeling uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Nuggets of wisdom have been planted and I trust that they’ll guide me to explore when the time is right. And I trust this exploration is just part of the process and may never end. I’m nothing if not curious and skeptical, so if it happens that nothing ever feels right and I leave this world without a faith that fits into a box, then I’ll know that the exploration was the faith all along.
In the meantime, I’ll do the work I know I was meant to do, I’ll fight for equality and liberation, and I’ll honor the small miracles and everyday magic along the way. And when I’m stuck, I’ll seek out coffee chats just like this one. Ultimately, showing up with an open mind and heart is faith itself, and that’s all we can do.