I received a letter from one of our members this week. This is the problem I love addressing. This is what TLS is all about. Even yesterday another member asked me basically the same question. So this reality is real. I’m just going to copy a part of her letter, used with her permission, and I’m going to give what I wrote back.
“Back to my problem — Now that I have deconstructed the beliefs I once held as Truth, I don’t know how to connect with God. I don’t know how to approach Him. So I don’t. But I miss Him. I don’t know how to read my Bible anymore without falling into my old patterns of belief. I am not sure what to do with it anymore. I am aware that there are books you suggest, but perhaps you could steer me in a direction that would be helpful. I think I am afraid (and I don’t want to be afraid) of latching onto “religion” again….religion that binds. How do I remain spiritual without becoming religious and ruining my life? (LOL)….funny, but I am serious. I finally feel I am able to REALLY love people as individuals and accept myself, instead of daily slaying myself and others for every way in which I and they don’t measure up to the Bible’s ideal.
Perhaps you can suggest some exercises and activities for me? Not just books. I do love to read and would love suggestions for books, but sometimes “doing” leaves a bigger impression on me than words on a page. I need my own experiences to replace the old ones that are so deeply carved into my psyche.
Thank you, David.”
Here’s what I wrote in response. I hope it is helpful:
“Thanks for trusting me with you story and your ‘problem’. Actually, it’s not a problem. It’s just life.So… here’s what I have to say.
1. Why worry about what could happen? So what if you become more religious or spiritual or return to some former theological position? Or what if you become even less of a believer and an atheist? As long as you arrive there honestly then you’re okay and you will feel okay about it at the time. The fact that you are aware of your patterns is all that you need. Most people aren’t aware and that’s a serious problem. So I congratulate you on your increased self-awareness.
2. Our spirituality is seasonal. Sometimes we go through intense times of intimacy and sometimes we go through intense times of alienation. Sometimes there’s wind in our sails and sometimes there isn’t. If there isn’t, relax. Enjoy the doldrums. Just because you don’t feel any wind right now doesn’t mean it no longer exists or will never return or isn’t blowing elsewhere for now.
3. I personally feel the more mature our prayer, the more silent it becomes. How else could we pray without ceasing? There are no words. I rarely if ever use words, so I can’t even really say that I ‘pray’. It is more like a communion or intimate sex, to use a graphic illustration, where no words are necessary but can actually be an intrusion.
Don’t judge yourself. You sound very healthy. You are self-aware. Let whatever moves you move you. For example, yesterday I listened to one worship song over and over again for hours while I wrote. Now me from years ago would have judged the me now for that. But not anymore. That’s just how I felt in communion with myself and The Benediction in that moment. The other day I pulled out my bible and read the story of Joseph and Mary losing Jesus on their trip to Jerusalem when he was 12 years old and I meditated on that. Big deal. It was nice and meaningful at the time.
In the same way Lisa and I relate to each other differently now than we used to… the way we make love or talk or do things together… this has all totally changed as we’ve aged and matured. So we just go with it. If I fall back into a bad habit Lisa tells me and I fix it. No big deal. I’m far more aware now than I was when we first married.
As for practices: what moves you? What helps you? If not reading, then what? Music? Meditation? Keeping a journal? Painting? The last three years I spent drawing Sophias. Now I’m finished. That was a very spiritual exercise for me without it being intentional really. All things are spiritual. Even my meeting in the coffee shop this morning. It’s like Brother Lawrence’s classic spiritual book, “Practicing the Presence”… even doing the dishes is a spiritual exercise. That’s what spiritual maturity looks like. And I think that’s where you are.
I hope this helps.”
This is the kind of stuff Phyllis and I are going to be talking about at our Potluck tomorrow. I hope to see you there: DETAILS