This is inspired by one of the very first posts I wrote for TLS way back in 2012.
When you leave the church, you might feel a little lost. You might feel that your spirituality, like water poured out of a bottle into the sand, is just spreading out in all directions with no focus. You may feel like your spirit has dissipated like helium in the atmosphere. Nothing is sure anymore. You can’t feel anything solid under your feet.
On the one hand, the freedom is a good thing. Right? The boundless freedom you now experience is positive and can be enjoyed once you learn how to do it. But, on the other hand, the freedom you now have might feel like you’ve suddenly been thrown into the deep end before you’ve learned how to swim.
One of the reasons this is happening is because when you are a part of a church, your spirituality had a kind of structure. There are services, small groups, instructions, and a network of relationships. Now that you’ve decided to be spiritually independent… whether you stay in the church or leave… these props to your spirituality are either lose their importance or are gone altogether.
Perhaps you need to establish new ones, at least temporarily.
Here are some suggestions:
Find time every day to be inward. Some people react to the term “spirituality” because it suggests a theology they may not agree with. What I mean by “spirituality” is our inner life. So, when I intentionally attend my spiritual life, the best time for me is when I wake up first thing in the morning. I begin my day with an expression of joyful trust. Trust in What Is. Blessing or Benediction. I also try to take a walk and exercise every day. Usually I take an hour after work to walk in this knowledge. You can call it a prayer walk, or a meditation walk. I just try to be present in the moment and breathe in What Is.
Keep a book on the go that encourages you. There are plenty of good books out there that give positive and encouraging information. In my opinion there’s also a lot of garbage. So eat the meat and spit out the bones. Get encouragement every day from positive reinforcement. Read a book about studies in happiness, for instance. Read something that is going to make you feel better. It’s not wrong to be happy.
Read a book that is way over your head. Deep theology or philosophy works for me. Something that not only stretches my mind but destroys it and makes total renewal the only option. Like Barth. Žižek. Krishnamurti. Read some mystics, like St. John of the Cross or Thomas Merton or Meister Eckhart. You will see you are not alone on your journey. This keeps my brain sharp, curious, and intelligent. Seeing how others think outside the box validates my own thinking outside the box.
Plan to get together with friends. Do this every week so you can talk about things that matter. Something other than sports, the weather, shopping, kids, or your next vacation. Make a deep connection with friends you enjoy every week. Otherwise, like Lisa and I have experienced… if you don’t plan it it won’t happen. Plain and simple. You need to plan to get together with people you can talk with on a significant level. This is a tough one but try it.
Finally, if you can, find a professional you can talk to, like a counselor, a spiritual director or coach. They can help you find a way to self-advocate and self-validate. They can help you get better. Be willing to pay them! A good one can help you discover that the path you have chosen is not only valid but urgently necessary for you right now. I’ve paid for counselors, coaches, and spiritual directors… sometimes all at once. I figure I’ll lay money down for a stupid car. Why not for my soul?
Those are just a few things I would suggest. They are easy to do. And they can help give shape to your spirituality. It will help you feel less dissipated and more intact as a spiritual being. Sooner or later you will learn to enjoy your freedom and some of these props will not be as necessary. Instead, they will become treats, as they are meant to be.
Love you guys!