Change isn’t fun, because it plagues us with uncertainty. Humans like to know what is happening, because predictability equals safety. On a primal level, when doubt, change, transition, and uncertainty arise so does our anxiety and fear. That’s why doubting religion, leaving behind the religion of our youth, or being “kicked out” of our religious communities can feel like a death. If you are experiencing this kind of struggle right now, I want to share my own experience and the practical spiritual tool I wish I had had - faith.
Going to grad school and studying theology turned me into an atheist. You’d think studying theology equals holiness, but I can attest it does not. People may have assumed that a young woman who studied theology had nun aspirations, but what grad school did for me was rip the Catholic rug out from under me. I felt like I could argue for or against any religious or non-religious point of view so I became convinced that none of it mattered.
And FYI, I never wanted to be a nun. Still don't. Please stop asking.
At the time, I felt like my life was falling apart (it kinda was - I was drinking a TON,) but really I was just losing the super Catholic worldview I was raised with. If I wasn’t Catholic, I didn’t know who I was. But instead of reaching for faith, I reached for the bottle. I was ostensibly atheist and not a happy atheist. (I’ve seen atheists have loads of faith, but I was not one of them.) Life at the time was all or nothing for me, and if Catholicism wasn’t the way, then I had no way.
I really could have used some faith during this time of deep uncertainty, but I didn’t have that tool then. I have a friend whose understanding of a Higher Power is not God or Jesus but the idea that “everything is going to be OK.” When I look back on my 23 year old self having a religious breakdown I share with her, “It’s cool. Everything is going to be OK. You’re going to find your way, get sober, finally graduate, and live your life. You may not find black and white answers like you were so sure you had growing up, but you will have faith. Your faith will shape-shift to meet the uncertainty of your days. Your understanding of a Higher Power will change and evolve - sometimes minute by minute, but it will work for you.”
Faith is my answer to uncertainty, doubt, change, and transition today. I have choices today. I can go through difficult situations thinking my life is over, or I can trust that everything is going to be OK. When the time of change or uncertainty is over, I always see that it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be.
My offering to you is the invitation to faith. Not necessarily the faith of your parents or your Church, but a practical, spiritual faith that works. Trust that everything is going to be OK. This time is going to pass by with or without faith. You have a choice. Uncertainty happens and is unavoidable, and faith is a great way to release control to ease the burden.
I hear you saying, “OK, HOW?” Do this:
When the panic of uncertainty arises, feel it. Identify where it is in your body. Don’t try to lessen the pain; actually, try to make it stronger.
Breathe into the space in your body where the panic is living.
Say to yourself, “I choose faith instead of this pain. Everything is going to be OK.” Breathe and repeat until you feel yourself reach a state of calm.
Invoke your future self, the person who is already on the other side of this uncertainty. Let them/her/him talk to you and share with you how you are going to get through this.
Then, place your hand on your heart. Remind yourself that you are here for you, you are home to yourself, and you will be kind to yourself through this time of uncertainty. “I’m here for you, I am home to you, I am kind to you.” Allow faith to transform your experience of uncertainty into peace.
Thanks for letting me share my experience with you. Take what works for you and leave the rest. May you know deep in your soul that everything is going to be OK!