When you leave the church, you might feel a little lost. You might feel that your spirituality, like water poured out of a bottle, is just spreading out in all directions with no focus. You might feel as though your spirit has dissipated like helium in the atmosphere.
On the one hand, the freedom you now experience is positive and can be enjoyed once you learn how. On the other hand, the freedom you now have might feel like you’ve suddenly been thrown into the deep end and you can’t find your footing.
One of the reasons this is happening is because when you went to church, your spirituality had a kind of structure. There were services, small groups, instructions, and an intact network of relationships that these provided. Now that these props to your spirituality are gone, perhaps you need to install new ones, at least temporarily.
Here are some suggestions:
- Find time every day to pray or meditate. 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: This is a blessed day. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I also try to take a walk every day. Usually I take an hour after work to walk, often with my dog, and just walk in the Blessed. I walk through the Benediction. You can call it a prayer walk, or a meditation walk. I try to be present in the moment.
- Keep a book on the go that encourages you. There are plenty of good books out there that give positive and encouraging information. There’s also a lot of crap. 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 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. Read Barth. Read Zizek. Read Krishnamurti. Read some mystics, like St. John of the Cross or Thomas Merton. You will see you are not alone on your lonely journey.
- 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 spiritual connection with friends something 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.
- Finally, if you can, find someone you can talk to, like a counselor, a spiritual director or coach. They can help you find a way to self-advocate and -validate. A good one can help you discover that the path you have chosen is not only valid but urgently necessary for you right now.
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.