The longer I live, the more I believe that faith is a miracle. Faith that unflinchingly views our world in all its warring madness, yet still trusts in love. Faith that weathers those nights of existential angst, the abyss yawning, and somehow reorients to hope.
I also believe that each person’s faith journey is unique. Religions “evangelize,” sharing their versions of absolute truth, but every signpost pointing to Mystery should include a disclaimer: “This is the best approximation we are living with now. We invite you to join the dialogue!”
As a recovering alcoholic, I treasure a cornerstone of Twelve Step fellowships. We share the wisdom that a “power greater than ourselves can restore us,” but we never proselytize. One’s higher power must arise from personal understanding. Otherwise, the relationship lacks authenticity and strength. Spirituality, not religion, is the wellspring of recovery.
Over the years, I have heard some stirring accounts of people’s searches for truth. Here is one of many from my book, The Pattern (freely downloadable here). I hope it increases our sensitivity to the sacred journeys of those around us.
One woman, raised in oppressive church environments, rejected all notions of God or religion. She believed that ever since we crawled out of caves, we have grappled with the question of being born to die, the issues of ultimate meaning, the enormity of mystery surrounding us. She saw the beauty in certain faith systems and philosophies, but if those who practiced them became even slightly insistent that their truth trumped others, she quickly exited the scene. She had forever had her fill of judgment, misguided zeal, and the pressure to conform.
In early recovery, she was forced to confront the truth that her life had led her to anger, cynicism, isolation from others—a state of mind she medicated with prescription drugs.
One morning she was seated on her porch, meditating on a passage of daily reading. The air was cool, the early light soft upon her face, a chorus of birds lilting from the trees. A sense of peace settled over her. It was deeper and more profound than anything she had ever experienced, calming her body, mind, and soul. Though she had always balked at prayer, familiar words echoed in her mind: “Grant me the serenity…”
She says she will never personify this experience, attributing it to a deity, but its power is undeniable, and she believes it is not an outcome of her own thinking. It is something greater than herself. Her Higher Power is this peace, this serenity, and learning to live in the middle of it one day at a time is her program.
I am eternally grateful to my faith community known as the Presbyterian Church (USA). Raised in a Christian household, I became a wandering soul, searching through many philosophies and faith systems until my friend, Rev. Rex Stewart, invited me to visit his home church, St. Andrew Presbyterian, Albuquerque. I describe what followed in my book Invitation to the Overview (freely downloadable here).
From the moment I entered that church, I experienced a homecoming. This was a community of faith that embraced searchers and encouraged free thinking. They respected the sanctity of individual conscience. My personal beliefs were my territory, not theirs; they simply celebrated the chance to commune with me. Giving people the space to connect to Spirit without the pressure of conformity is a priceless gift. This is one of the meanings of sanctuary.
I feel privileged to be on this journey with all of you!