As I’ve said before, I used to write another blog. My posts were sporadic but always from the heart (I’m doing my best to post reliably with heart this time around), and the words below were actually from that very blog. I published this post last summer, and it was so personal (but thankfully so warmly received) that I want to share it with you here…
As a teenager (so not so long ago, admittedly), I fought hard to find holes in religions, or – more specifically – the idea of ‘faith’. Not in a spiteful, “here’s why you’re wrong and I’m seeking to take whatever comfort and direction you draw from your belief away” kind of way, but more in the sense that I penned endless essays to my Philosophy & Ethics teacher, borrowed his books and challenged his Catholicism almost daily. (He humoured me and challenged me back and as it turns out, we never did agree).
But other than that, I kept my opinions to myself – partly out of fear of offending anyone with an opposing view to mine (a personality trait I’m still working on overcoming), and partly because I knew that my opinions needed incubating: nurturing a little longer before being strong enough to stand on their own. And, I suppose, more honestly, I choked them back and pursed my lips because I was aware of the fact that I’d likely change my mind one day, and be therefore forced to row back from my position. Oh, the embarrassment of having to admit I was wrong! (A personality trait I’m always trying to improve upon…).
And yet, while I’m still just as reticent to share my opinions today, I’m beginning to relish how much relief there is in falling on one side of the fence. Admittedly, I still spend most of my time teetering on top with a leg swung in either direction (the opportunity to survey the changing view is often a good idea, as Sara says), but – little by little – I’m stretching a tentative foot toward the ground so far as spirituality is concerned.
I know (for the time being at least) that I don’t believe in a ‘God’ in any sense of the way the word is usually interpreted. And I don’t (currently) practice any rites or rituals that anyone living within a religion would recognise. But, I do feel ‘guided’ by something bigger. Larger. More compassionate, more wise and more generous than myself. Call it the universe, God, Mother Nature, or whatever – but I’ve been finding comfort and direction in what I can only describe as the embrace of something warm, infinite and intangible. Bethany wrote:
“I wish I could say that I always choose to work with these spiritual contractions, resting in the Father and believing that He really is near to me and loving me, but too often in those moments I respond in the natural rather than the eternal, focusing on my circumstances, wallowing in self-pity and doubt, angry and afraid, unable to hear the Father. And when I have relief, and the contraction ends, I hear the Lord again. And He, like Mark in the delivery room, whispers to me that He is near to me, that He is for me…”
What surprised me as I read Bethany’s words is that I could easily swap ‘Father’, ‘Him’ and ‘the Lord’ for my ‘warm, endless and intangible thing’ and reach the conclusion that we likely share a mutual knowing of the same ‘Bigger Being’. I can see parallels (though I’m sorry if that’s wrong and presumptuous or if I’ve offended you, Bethany). To me, it doesn’t matter what name I give it; what’s significant is that it exists for me.
To explain how and why I now feel the presence of that Bigger Being, I’d first have to tell you a story about something that was life-altering for someone I love very much. But it’s not my story to share (though I hope that one day I can pen it carefully to you, slowly, and in installments, and with respect for the feelings of people who might not want to share as much as I do). For now, suffice to say that love can be challenging and turbulent and painful. But also strengthening, nourishing and profound. Love is a doing word: a verb; and I’m constantly mindful of the fact that – when we say something like “I love you” – we should be focusing more on the quality of the love we’re offering rather than the ‘I’ that’s doing the loving.
It’s that intangible, warm, and infinite Bigger Being that helps me to love in such a way. However hard, and however many hot prickly tears are stinging my eyes and however selfish (though I hope, understandable) the what about me!?!?’s, it takes only a few hours for the hurt to subside and for me to see that the Bigger Being’s embrace is right there to relieve me and replenish me. And my mum’s love too, for (even with her own struggles) she’s always reminding me to give more ground, provide a little more slack and not misunderstand a situation. I can’t pretend for even a moment that I always remember that the Bigger Being is there, but sooner or later I’m able to let go of my own hurt and see that it’s observing me from the corner, quietly waiting to embrace me.
And so, whether it’s a Catholic God or a Muslim God, a Mother Nature or something else altogether, I think that for now (and for as long as I can envisage) it will be the Bigger Being that I’m drawing my strength from. When days run smoothly and we’re healthy enough to wake for another, I’m grateful and say thank you thank you thank you to the Bigger Being as I pad across my bedroom floor to the bathroom. When I’m tired, or frustrated or hurt, it’s the Bigger Being that reminds me that ‘something’ is here for me, fuelling me and giving me the reserve and patience I need to offer the highest quality of love I possibly can. And if I can use that teaching and reassurance for my closest relationships, what else could I use it for? What else could I do?
If you’re willing to share your beliefs/thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear what you think of this ‘Bigger Being’, and whether it resonates with you at all. And if not, that’s interesting too and I’d love to hear all about that! 🙂 (p.s if you’ve commented before on my previous blog, thank you so much and I can remember those comments almost word for word. They meant a lot).