First, in the words of the theologian William Martin Joel: “You may be right… I may be crazy…” The more I learn about other traditions or perspectives, the more I see wisdom (as well as some goofiness). I am engaged in spiritual practices by wrestling with these questions and reading a lot – by meditating, walking, making healthy choices, listening to podcasts, and engaging with others. I uncover truth in what I see, read, and hear. I seek what is most helpful and life-giving.
Ask me in a year: my spiritual beliefs will shift again. I’m excited for that! I’ve learned the world is less black and white. The gray is getting larger and more nuanced. There’s freedom and meaning in not being certain.
You are empowered to determine your own beliefs, no one else can do that for you. This page then is a current definition of my spirituality.
“Do you believe in GOD?”
“Yes… well, maybe as an acronym“
G RATEFUL – Thankful for the lessons of the past and the gifts of the present
O PTIMISTIC – Hopeful for future; I choose hope over despair/fear/anxiety; I will be a light for others.
D EDICATED – Loyal; Conscientious; Driven; Truth-seeking; Service to others; Health of self and sphere.
The universe is indifferent.
It took me a long time, as well as some grief, to come to terms with that.
Now, I find it incredible and freeing. I’ve surrendered understanding where it all came from. There may be a power sustaining it all, but I doubt it has a personal relationship with me, is “watching” us, or intercedes. I’ve never heard his/her/its’/their voice. I don’t think anyone has “the Truth”, though they can claim their Truth. I don’t believe there is an after-life in the traditional sense, I think we create heaven and hell in our lives right now.
“After-life” to me means (1) how we continue to remember/honor those who are gone and (2) the legacy we leave for others. Universally, I think all living things are connected, like a web.
Just as we didn’t choose where we were born, I don’t believe we choose where we go at the end of life. We all come from the earth and return to it. We should all ask as Mary Oliver does, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
“What about Jesus?”
I believe the life and death of Jesus is instructive – there is much wisdom in his story. While I believe he was a real person, I don’t believe in the virgin birth. I don’t believe he rose again as described in the bible. However, I do believe in the pattern I see: Dying to oneself, forgiving others, renewal, walking with “the broken”, etc… I believe Christians were called “The Way” in ancient times, much of “The Way” is life-giving.
“What about the bible?”
I think the bible is not “God-breathed”, but man-inspired and man-decided (what stays/goes). Like Jesus, it is instructive and has much wisdom of the ages in it. The bible is a collection of stories and poetry, written mostly by men long after the described events. People today find it difficult to agree on what happened two minutes ago, it’s nearly impossible to know what happened 2000 or two million years ago.
The bible is a tool – it helps reframe our perspective on things, and even though we live in a different culture now, there are universal truths in it. There are also fables in it. Just as I don’t believe in a personal God, I don’t believe in a powerful devil or angels and demons either. I don’t think Jonah was swallowed by a whale or that Noah and kids survived a global flood with all the animals 2X2 and started the planet all over. Even so, the bible has taught meaningful lessons to generations. It is also interesting; it contradicts itself and has different “flavors” because of who wrote it and when. While it guides as a helpful roadmap, it can be used as a hurtful weapon, because of who reads it and how they use it.
“If you’re not Christian, then what are you?”
Wisdom-seeking and spirit-fueling.
I feel most spiritual when outdoors — I find nature fascinating. I learn through trial and error. I trust my gut more (my inner spirit). I’m honest with myself and others, even when the answer is “I don’t know.” I’m more courageous with actions and settled in heart.
After a few years of church-hopping, I’ve chosen to be a Unitarian Universalist: Unitarian (not a trinity, looking at religious practices/wisdom as a whole), Universalist (we’re all in this together, let’s act like it). I find some eastern practices of meditation and centering helpful. I attend All Souls Community Church. I feel very welcome and at-home there. It is not flashy, high-tech, or full of catchy slogans and formulas — there is much wisdom, respect, love, and care happening with this group.
“How do you view other Christians/Christianity?”
I know many Christians who are the most loving of people. They move with assurance and are convicted to do right. “The Way” provides a map to healthy living for many. It guides their steps in how to love others. They are hopeful like I am. I cannot claim to know their truth, though I have my truths, and there are many similarities. Both our “truths” set us free – to love and live fully. Their prayers are many times my hopes– either way, we seek assurance and clarity in what to do about it.
I think it’s possible for “the Christian” and people of other faiths to both experience the “Fruit of the Holy Spirit”: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control… I’ve also seen people (Christian or not) choose rotten fruit in how they live and treat others — sometimes they don’t know what they’re consuming and how it impacts them.
I also appreciate “holiness” and “the sacred”. When singing “Amen/Allelujah”, I sense an acceptance, a “let it be so”. When I see people practice communion or someone tells me they are praying for me or a situation, I don’t resent it — I see it as a caring practice, a stopping and stepping in care for another.
It’s one thing to be settled in my heart, another to be public about it. I’ve only begun to let others into where I am spiritually. For example, I wish to be more comfortable in public prayer experiences. Can I talk out loud about what I’m grateful/hopeful for, even though I’m not addressing “God?” Would it be better to remain silent and listen to others pray? What should I do when asked “Please pray for me?” or when there is the equivalent of a wink/nudge like we’re thinking the same and we’re not.
I’m not sure how others will take it, it’s probably a bigger deal in my head than in reality. I’ve been good at saying nothing, nodding my head, or being vague so far. I think it’s important I own up to my beliefs because it feels disingenuous to be quiet when people are so open with me about their beliefs. I like listening to what others think. Will they still be open if I express not being on the same page? I still want to serve with my “brothers/sisters” — will we still be able to do it side-by-side?