This Lonely Spiritual Life
My story is a simple one. I did not have a dramatic, cataclysmic event that caused my falling out with the Christian church. It’s been a well beaten path. One with tears and frustration, anger and disappointment.
But above all… it’s been a path of loneliness.
I’ve hardly fit into any of the Christian establishments I grew up in. Whether growing up in my church’s youth group or living onsite for four years at a Christian undergraduate university, I have always been sort of a weird outcast. I’m not necessarily looking to place blame on anybody; I’m sure I own part of the blame myself. But the fact remains that after 30 years in the church… I don’t have a single friend that I feel I can have an honest conversation with about spirituality.
I suppose the thing that frustrates me is that people don’t want to try to understand their faith. Bible studies have turned into simple moral lessons, and the deepest questioning I’ve ever seen has to do with “faith vs. works” salvation. (Except that that argument is founded on a literal heaven or hell, an “old man in the sky” God, and a plethora of other assumptions we don’t even try to tackle.)
One of the most disappointing things I ever witnessed was a professor I trusted go up to give a lecture on the historical Jesus, and some old windbag stopped him before he started to state something like, “Now we’re all good to question anything and everything… except must hold strong to a virgin birth, literal resurrection, and sinless life.” Really? That’s like when Ford illustriously stated in the Model T days, “You can have your car in any color… as long as you have it in black.”
I can go on with my frustrations, but suffice it to say, the Christian church does not display any true, unambiguous exploration of its faith. It automatically draws a line between itself and other religions like Hinduism, so anything that those other religions do is automatically considered wrong.
Without ever questioning what would happen should they have been born in India to a devout Hindu family.
Now, I’m not here to say that every spiritual or religious thing written down is necessarily correct. I do believe there is a truth out there, but it’s very atomic. Almost literally. For me, we do find truth in the interaction of some plane of reality… and that’s about as much as we can agree on. Sure, I have mystical leanings that incline me toward one thing, and yes, I would still consider myself “Catholic” in the very literal meaning of the word. (Because “Catholic” means universal, did you know that?)
I don’t know… I suppose I’ve always been inclined to mystical or fantastical elements. I loved Lord of the Rings growing up, and I still play a lot of adventurous, high fantasy video games like The Legend of Zelda. So yeah, I have no problem admitting that my inclinations in those areas also incline me to look for more in this real life.
And this past year has been a major turning point for me. If you would have told me even two years ago that I’d be reading the Bhagavad Gita or studying up on psychedelics in spirituality, I’d have thought I was going mad. I’m sure even my wife thinks I’m nuts. But here’s the thing… I’m not signed onto a single one of these things. I continue to find truth in the Christian walk through good folks like Pete Enns and Richard Rohr while I find equally wondrous truths from Ram Dass and Ken Wilber.
I’ve not publicly remitted the church, and my wife still works in one. Yes, I am disappointed in my experiences with the church, but that doesn’t mean I’m throwing out Jesus and the Bible. If anything, I appreciate them both more now than I ever did.
But the reality is is that I’m playing this charade of having to live a “Christian” life when that isn’t me anymore. I put “Christian” in quotes in that last sentence because most churchgoers adhere to the symbol system of doing things like going to church every Sunday or singing worship songs. To me, those practices seem bizarre and foreign in the light of a spiritual walk of gratitude through nature quietly every single day, not just Sunday.
But friends… it’s a very lonely road.
Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” to play nicely for my families is hard. When they find out the truth — if they don’t know it already (hello, prying sisters) — they will think that I have gone mad. I will be made to feel like I’m crazy and that I should turn around, lest I face the wrath of hell. I’m not saying these families or friends are bad people; they are simply wrapped up in a narrative they feel is best.
And frankly, I’m not going to retaliate against it. If there’s one thing I’ve learn in this spiritual walk, it’s that everything is grist for the mill. There is no act, no person, no thing that God cannot play a hand in. As Pete Holmes crudely put it in one of his podcasts, “What’s saying God can’t work through a group orgy to help you meet your wife?” Is a “sinful” act forever a sinful act?
Honestly, I don’t have all the answers worked out. This new spiritual path is just that: new. I turn 30 in just a few weeks, so I fortunately have a lot of time to learn and love life in a whole new way. But I don’t know how to raise my daughters, don’t know how to live as a husband for my wife who remains in the church, and don’t know how to be there for my deeply Christian family.
I know these posts get low views, but if you’re out there wandering this same lonely path as me, feel free to reach out. It’d be nice to know somebody close to me is wondering the same sorts of things. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I’m willing to work through life in solidarity.