When I was in my mid-thirties, I misplaced my faith. After many years of steady attendance, Beth and I stopped going to church. I became convinced that if there was a loving God, He would not let horrendously bad things happen to innocent people in this world. So, I tried on non-belief instead and called myself an atheist.
A few years later, my life coach told me how surprised he was that I no longer had faith. “You’re the most spiritual atheist I’ve ever met,” he laughed.
Some years later, I was in therapy with a fellow who ran men’s groups. He said to me, “I’ve been doing work with men for a long time. And the only thing I can tell you for sure is that a non-spiritual man can only go so far in his development.” That got me thinking. Was my non-belief a decision I needed to rethink?
Truth was, I had left organized religion for good, but I still harbored faith the size of a mustard seed in my heart. In time, it grew and now, once again, I speak openly about Spirit. I have no earthly idea if it’s Jesus, Allah or Oz that runs things, so I pray to them all including my ancestors and anyone (or thing) that will listen. I call it all “God” or sometimes “the Universe,” different names for the guiding light.
Need evidence? Listen to some of my songs. I’m not clever or musically gifted enough to write many of them. They are gifts. My marriage is further proof for me. I’m a pretty good guy and we’ve spent thousands of hours working on our union, but we have always felt guided since the day we met. I’m sure most people of faith have their own “miracles” to justify their beliefs – even when the world feels like it’s careening towards a dangerous end. There’s a lot to be scared about. But there’s so much beauty, too.
In my fifties, I began to recognize that I know very little about how it all works, but I believe that there are unseen hands that move things in a sometimes quick or sometimes achingly slow, loving direction. Bad things still happen to good people and I still don’t understand why, but it’s really not my business to understand. This may sound like “wishful thinking,” but I’ve tried life as a believer and a non-believer and decided that being faithful works better for me. It’s the same reason I always use a potholder when I grab something off the stove. I’ve tried cooking without one and the results are predictably bad.
I believe that my wisdom and growth have increased in direct proportion to my willingness to admit and accept that I have very little control over how things work in this life. That’s not to say that I believe in chaos or that I think we have zero chance to help the Universe along. On the contrary, I have seen magic happen hundreds of times and I’ve seen people act like complete doofuses. My role seems to be like an apprentice, a guy who plays a small but significant role in how things work, but it’s always, always God’s plan that works magic – not mine. If God is the architect and head builder, I’m the guy carrying the bricks at the job site. This makes life easier. I don’t have to design anything.
In fact, I’ve recently learned that trying to design my life, is like attempting to be God and causes me unnecessary pain and strife. So, I’ve officially demoted myself to a brick carrier. I am waiting for direction and I will happily jump in when I’m told what’s next. Some folks have a different experience, but in my case trying to be the architect and head builder has consistently led to a house that won’t stand.
This doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy or stopped participating, but it’s not the kind of “make work” busy that I was programmed to do. I’ve been going deeper and deeper into grief work, moving much closer to my wife, doing some service work, playing music and spending a lot of time watching, exploring and listening. I’m trusting that the Universe will trust me with an assignment when the time is right. Until then, I wait.
The Adventure started out as a physical trip, leaving a comfy place and exploring other places for the first year. All along, though, there has been an inward journey, one that has been going into often scary places where I’m going beyond my comfort zone. I’m regularly uncomfortable and confused, but I see it as circles of hell I must pass through in order to learn something important. I have no idea what it is, but I’m committed to the path.