Last night I found myself struggling through a book of daily devotions that was gifted to me months ago. Flipping to the back page, I glanced at the number only to realize I was barely halfway through. I sighed. Here I was, dragging myself through the pages of a book whose message didn’t speak to me.
Why? My gut response was that I wanted to finish what I started. That tenacity carried me through plenty of books I didn’t like, but tonight something told me to dig deeper.
Why, I asked again.
Why would I force myself to do something I didn’t want to do, especially when I didn’t have to do it? What was the point?
I closed the book on my lap and contemplated the answer. The devotional I was forcing myself to read was given to me by a family member as a Christmas gift. It was written from the perspective of a religion I was raised to believe in, but found myself at odds with over the years. Life experiences changed my perspective on life, on spirituality, and on the eternal Mystery the world has given so many names in attempt to understand. I have never been one to shy away from tough questions, but in my journey for answers I was unable to reconcile my own truths with that which I was taught.
I do believe we can find truth in things we don’t entirely agree with, and yet there was no connection between my own personal convictions and the advice I read on the pages. If anything, the advice the writer offered up felt like empty platitudes rather than insightful.
I realized then that I was entirely disconnected from the language of the religion I was raised in. I had spent my adult life refusing to deny it. I preferred to say that I “was searching for answers” rather than admit that the answers I once believed in were now like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
There was that question again. But I didn’t have to dig for the answer to this one. I knew my reasons for not admitting my beliefs had changed was a mix of shame and fear. I felt ashamed of the fact that my beliefs no longer fit the same mold as my parents, and I was afraid of their reaction should I tell them that truth. I was also afraid to admit that I no longer believed in the stories that made the world make sense. Because if I didn’t, then how would I make sense of anything?
My thoughts drifted to a recent conversation in which someone said, “You keep saying ‘I’ve been doing this for twelve years’ like it explains why you should be able to do it or enjoy it now. But you aren’t the same person now as you were twelve years ago. You aren’t even the same person you were twelve months ago.”
Oh, how those words rang true! I’m not the same woman I was when I saw the world through the lens of my prescribed religion. Yet for years I’ve been fighting this change in attempt to fit back into a faith that no longer worked for me. I never stopped searching for answers, nor did I stop believing that we were spiritual beings born of something much greater than the bodies we reside within.
But I don’t see God the way they did. Nor do I believe that this deity worked in the ways that they expected and believed. My views on this Great Mystery were different. I wasn’t a lost soul, just one with a different perspective.
People see this grand Mystery through their own imperfect lens. Religions were founded on trying to explain what we all feel connected to but can’t explain. Many dedicate their lives in search of answers, and yet…
None of us know for certain.
Many of us catch glimpses of it. We see miracles we can’t explain and have transcendent, emotional moments in which we know without any shadow of doubt that we are connected to something bigger than our mortality.
And that’s okay. Part of life is exploring the Mystery both within and beyond ourselves. We ask questions we’ll never find answers to, but in the midst of seeking them anyway, we’ll grow in ways we never imagined. We’ll change and evolve and find purpose. That purpose may even change as we change, and that’s okay.
But until I admit that I am not the same person and that – like the size 1 skinny jeans in my bottom dresser door – some things simply don’t fit anymore, I will never have the chance to grow.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. For the patch will pull away from the garment, and a worse tear will result. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will spill, and the wineskins will be ruined. Instead, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”Matthew 9:16-17
I need to accept that I’m becoming a new thing, and that is okay. If that new thing means the old thing no longer feeds me, then I need to let it go. Eyes forward; heart forward; I need to loosen my grip and let myself grow.