Last night I sat at a trendy new cafe in my hometown drinking beer and eating nachos alongside friends. I use the word “alongside” intentionally. I wasn’t simply with them. We talked and shared and were honest with each other about what life and relationships and faith look like and I believe that we are traveling alongside each other even if I live a few thousand miles away.
Through our conversation we admitted to things that are hard to admit – like that we aren’t sure what to do with what we used to believe and we don’t know what to do with the future and that there is this big empty space when it comes to things that, at one point, seemed so clear.
As I crawled into my mom’s guest bed and nestled under quilts and drifted off to sleep later that night I became a little more okay with the big blank space that has been bothering me about my life recently. More okay because I am not alone in seeing it. More okay because maybe starting over isn’t such a bad thing. More okay because if what I did have was so easily demolished then it probably needed to be demolished. Holding on to the old way of doing things was just making me anxious, but I have spent a long time trying to hold on. I am tired.
I have looked at my life – specifically my inner life and my spiritual life – as a big blank void for a little while now. I don’t know what I believe and I don’t know if what I believe has any resemblance to what I used to believe or not. I am not sure what to do with what I was taught years ago and I am not sure what to do with the portion of my life I spent dedicated to serving other people and traveling the world because I believed I knew something other people needed to know. It seems prideful now and, especially since it has lost its strength in this moment, seems misguided.
But, what if it isn’t a big blank void I am dealing with? Big blank voids are full of anxiety and fear because they offer zero security and they deny hope and they mock what used to be deep conviction. They are like a black hole that eats up anything you throw at it – never satisfied.
What if instead it is a big blank canvas? A place in my life that can be redrawn to better depict what is actually true in the world around me – the truth of the people I meet, of the deep places of the heart, of the spiritual world that seems so mysterious to me right now. What if this canvas is just being primed for a new illustration of beauty and love and peace and care and community – the things that really matter.
If that is the case the big blank void turns into a hopeful, positive thing that could take me and my heart deeper into the “cloud of unknowing”, deeper into the connections that really matter and further from the vanity and fluff that bother me about modern Christianity. If that is the case the big blank void is a promise that I can hold on to and an acceptance that at some point in my future it won’t seem so anxiety ridden to have doubted for a while or so depressing to have second guessed or so weak to have let go and started over with a new set of understandings and belief.
I am not there, yet. I have a big blank something sitting in my life that produces way more questions than answers. Is God real? Knowable? Do I have to throw out intuition and meditation and other spiritual practices? Doesn’t that mean he would be an insecure God as to need us to only interact with him one way? Do I have to do things the way pastors say when they fall from great heights and make great headlines doing so? Can I read my horoscope without believing I am inviting something dark into my life? Can I explore other forms of spirituality? Can I just not explore anything for a little while and spend some time remaining unconvinced of all things? Can I look at my demolished house of faith and say, “Good! That’s done! Time to start new and build something that won’t get knocked down so easily!”
Ten years ago or so I lived in a tiny studio cabin in Manitou Springs, Colorado. It was maybe 250 square feet in total, and had teal green carpeting – which was ridiculous in light of the red sand that surrounded the property and got tracked onto the teal green carpeting. It had a fireplace that didn’t work and I lived there with my rambunctious dog. We slept on a futon and walked in the nearby mountains and had friends close by. The 250 square foot studio cabin had been built in 1919 and my parents believed that if the wind blew too hard it would just fall over.
I lived really happily in that cabin for a season. It suited me and my life and the way I wanted to live, but it wouldn’t have suited me forever. Sometimes, the thing you think you love needs to be torn down and something new rebuilt. Holding on to the pieces doesn’t help. You have to start all over.
This is my confession that I am starting all over when it comes to faith and belief and whatever there is happening in this world that is beyond what we see. I just don’t know what that is and I am tired of pretending that I might and I am tired of trying to answer questions about what I believe and my values within a framework that just doesn’t work for me anymore.
I am tearing down the old house to build something new. I am accepting my big blank void/canvas as where I need to be right now. I am shedding the part of me that thinks I did something wrong or messed something up in order to be here. I am no longer comparing myself to the people that I once knew that took a different route and are more entrenched and seemingly more dedicated to what I am doubting. I am freeing myself to discover what it really means to be free, to have love for other people, to see more clearly and to trust.
I am starting over.