This week, I helped our son and his wife move. We carried boxes and furniture out of the house and into a pod, navigating porch stairs as well as a fairly steep slope in the front yard. I kept reminding myself to go slowly and find my footing before placing weight on the next step. What a great metaphor for life, I thought. We seem to be constantly trying to find our footing. It’s a little like crossing a swinging, bridge: one step bobs us up, the next dips us down. If you’ve ever crossed a swinging bridge, you know it helps to loosen up (like getting your sea legs), hang on, and go with the sway.
Whether descending a slope, crossing a swinging bridge, or making our way through life, finding and keeping balance is a constant challenge. We seek simplicity to balance ourselves an increasingly complex world. We long for peace to quell the panic of breaking news. We search for meaning in the constant stream of information that’s miles wide and toenail deep. We try to focus as social media bounces us from politics to the latest novel to health tips to nature photos to headline news, all within the space of 60 seconds. We crave wholeness in a life that fragments us into niches.
The upside of niches is that when we find ours, we fit into a community and feel more focused. Niches can help us balance. But there’s also a downside, and a big one: We humans grow and change; niches don’t. We flex; niches are rigid. Yes, they connect us with like minds, and that’s truly valuable. But while we can join any number of conversations, that doesn’t mean we gain a deep sense of belonging from them. Most of those “like minds,” we’ll never meet in person, which means they know only one side of us. We are flattened to fit into comment boxes.
Never have we been able to connect to so many people and still feel so alone. Never have we been able to fill our lives with so much and still feel empty. At this point I’m supposed to say that the answer is church or the Bible or Jesus. But I won’t – not because I’m against church or the Bible or Jesus. I’m not. But I am against quick, canned answers that ignore real and honest dilemmas. Religion can be just another niche, another fragment. It can pile on baggage instead of freeing us for the journey. It can blind us instead of opening our eyes and giving us clarity.
That doesn’t mean the spiritual side of life is nonexistent, or that faith is worthless, or that we can’t find meaning in our traditions and holy scriptures. But if we’re tired of canned answers, if our faith feels as though it’s crumbling, if we feel we’ve been blind to reality, then we’ve probably assented to someone else’s beliefs and never truly made faith our own.
To grow into a vibrant, personal faith, we have to “come of age,” no matter how old we are in calendar years. And coming of age means letting go of taken-for-granted beliefs and honoring our own honest questions. It means allowing ourselves to examine and challenge beliefs that don’t make sense. It means discovering and growing into a faith that is intentional, a faith that’s truly ours, a faith we step into with open hands, open hearts, and open eyes.
An intentional, personal faith is honest and freeing. It helps us find our footing on the journey, balances us when the world tilts precariously, and creates a center of wholeness in our fragmented lives. An intentional, personal faith is always in flux, changing, growing, and maturing. Sometimes the growth process is discouraging, sometimes it’s exhilarating, but it’s always part of the journey.
Since you’re reading this, the path of your journey is intersecting mine for a while. I’m glad to have your company. If you’re as close to home as I am, maybe we can share, for a time, this ridge between inventory and renaissance. If you’re younger, maybe what I see from this ridge can clarify your vision for your own journey.
When I was younger, I leaned in when older people spoke about what they wished they had known at my young age. Now I’m the older one, and it seems to be my turn to speak about what I wish I had known. Of course, you have your own discoveries to make, but since we’re all covering some of the same ground, maybe I can point you to a few interesting overlooks, help lighten your backpack, recommend some good rest stops, and hint at some roads you might want to avoid. At the least, I can give you a trail-mix of thoughts to carry with you. So I invite you to lean in as I continue to post my thoughts about the journey from blind belief to open-eyed faith.
Join me next week as I continue to explore this Life Unmapped. If you want me to send these posts and any updates to your email, simply sign up on the right.
Text © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy morguefile.com.