*Disclaimer: this is NOT a post to influence any religious ideals, or to push you toward or away from a specific philosophy*
You may see the ceiling.
You may see the sky.
Now look within
Does your spirituality have a ceiling?
You may feel so. You may feel trapped. You may be experiencing spiritual (not a religious) crisis.
A crisis happens when we experience drastic changes to what gives us meaning. Our goals, values, beliefs, identity, and focus are deeply rooted in our spirituality. It’s our soul. It’s what connects us to the world.
It’s a deeply painful place to be in as it impacts your psyche, social life, and cognition. We would do anything to avoid this place. Even blindly follow a path that we may not know to be true.
I put a caution tape around my mind and heart.
“What is this life about”
“Is God real” – “WAIT. Don’t go there” – “But… what if God isn’t real…?”
Many of us have these thoughts. Our hearts and minds in a tug of war, with us holding the rope in the middle.
But it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We attended church, we lived the rules, we read spiritual doctrine, we worthily engaged in various religious ritual.
It’s hard to stand up straight, when the rattle in our vertebrae is enough to make it snap.
Spoiler alert, it does.
I remember the day it happened, when the rattle of doubt broke my faith. The pendulum heavily weighed down by logic, science, philosophy versus that of religious doctrine. And with the break in faith, I was thrust into spiritual crisis, and with it, identity crisis. The idea of who I am, and who I am meant to be, completely thrown out the window. I couldn’t help but feel deep despair. There’s only so much strength that can carry the perpetual weight. My diaphragm collapsing at the very idea of prayer.
A disconnect to meaning and values typically leads to behavior that isn’t congruent with what brings peace. I recall limping through life chasing what I thought would bring joy, and found myself more and more disappointed. Failing to recognize that it was my spiritual growth that was lagging behind.
And I am so grateful it did.
Paradoxically, faith needs doubt to grow.
What is faith without challenge? It’s empty belief to symbolism. It is the stories of experiences. It’s not until life intersects with faith that you truly understand your spirituality.
To put it into perspective, try explaining the taste of your favorite food to a person with no sense of taste. Try to explain falling in love for the first time to an 8-year-old child. To understand these experiences, one must actually experience it.
For some, life comes so hard that is rattles our core to the point that our spirituality can’t carry us. For others, they discover truths about their religion that aren’t in line with what they were raised with. For some, ideas were forced upon them, and they never felt “true” to them to begin with, but chose compliance to appease the culture they grew up in.
Either way, the end result is the same. We feel empty, confused, or resentful.
There are a few paths we typically take when we enter a spiritual crisis.
• Some choose to bury it. The thought of being without their story of spirituality is to anxiety provoking to bare.
• Some completely separate. In hopes of finding something new.
• Some use it as an opportunity to tolerate doubt and rely on their faith to move forward.
Either route leads to different outcomes, but all of them have something in common. Something isn’t resonating with their idea of faith. Their faith isn’t congruent with their identity, values, or morals. And it isn’t until our spirituality aligns with our personal identities that we feel peace.
Which brings up an important point. Oftentimes, we need to do personal work to better develop a firmer sense of spirituality, or vice versa. Our personal development may require a firm spiritual foundation.
Some of the people with the strongest grasps of spirituality didn’t find their faith in a book, they found it in life. They found themselves in a dark cave, and the only light they had, was the hope that a strong spirituality can manifest.
That being said, I challenge you to embrace your doubt. It’s your way of saying “is this real?”, “Is this resonating with me?”. Put your faith to the test. And if it falters, don’t immediately dismiss it, allow yourself to develop a spirituality that rings true to you. Seek guidance, meditate, pray (if you engage in this practice), hang with nature, listen to what your soul is telling you. It’s in the quietest places, where you feel the loudest messages.
Self-disclosure: My faith rattled when I was a young boy who experienced some personal trauma, my faith completely shattered as an adult when deployed. The stories I was told didn’t align with what life was throwing at me. This, coupled with divorce, threw me into a crisis. My moral compass wasn’t functioning, I lost touch of meaning in life and humanity. My broken compass pointed me to alcohol, partying, isolating, breaking hearts of many women, and a mountain of shame. I felt empty.
I needed the emptiness. I needed to corner myself in a cave. I needed to grieve my old thoughts of faith. I needed to break down, so that my spirituality could have room to grow. It was in the emptiness where I humbled myself and told myself that “I can’t do this alone”, “What I am doing is not working.”
I sought consult, and listened to my heart. I knew some behaviors brought a sense of emptiness, while others brought a feeling of peace. Oddly enough, I found myself engaging back in LDS practice, (This is not a post to promote the LDS church) but with a personalized spirituality supported by philosophies in Buddhism, psychology, and other practices of Christianity. My spirituality, coupled with the life experiences that I am gratefulto have occurred, have greatly strengthen my vertebrae, allowing me to walk with more peace, and have the strength to tolerate doubt.
For some, faith is confirmation that things have occurred. For me, faith is being able to tolerate doubt, and engage in behaviors that are congruent with my higher power and my personal values.
For the readers I am pleasured to speak to, I would encourage you to do the same. Allow space for doubt, and use it as an opportunityto learn about yourself and your faith. Let your spiritual growth be like a tree. Have strong roots, but have leaves that transform with the environment.
Lastly, I struggle to call the phenomena of faith crisis an actual crisis. I liken it to a spiritual opportunity. It’s in the most challenging times that we have potential to grow the most. Spirituality is no different.
And that’s how you experience a spiritual awakening.