Sometime over the last few years, I lost my faith.
Maybe it was the result of being in survival mode for so much of the time, between my dad’s illness and death and the COVID-19 pandemic that began soon after. Maybe it’s the chronic, mid-level stress about climate change or my perimenopausal hormones or the fact that according to multiple studies, I’m at the bottom of the U-shaped curve of happiness.
At some point, though, I realized that I’d been relying solely on my own will to get through life, and it wasn’t working so well. I started circling back to the idea of faith.
I’ve never been a super religious person, but since I was a child, I’ve believed that there’s more to the world than what we can see, feel, hear, touch, and taste. For a good stretch of years, through my work in 12-step programs, I was comfortable calling that “more” God. Not the old, bearded, white guy God, but something more fluid and shape-shifty.
Other times, I’ve thought of love as my higher power. Or nature. Or the energy that shimmers and crackles when a group of people sit together and share openly about their life, their struggles, their faith.
Lately, the concept that’s working for me in terms of faith is being open to the mystery.
There are so many things my mind can’t grasp, like the fact that white light somehow contains all the colors of the rainbow. This always surprises and delights me on random afternoons when a little rainbow appears on the bathroom floor. I know it has something to do with prisms, but my brain just can’t process it. To me, it’s a mystery. A small miracle.
Or the way that when I take long walks, writing ideas pop into my consciousness. The sweet flow I sometimes wade into when I’m writing, when I get the strong sense that I’m not the one writing—instead, I just happened to tune in to some channel in this wild universe.
Or the fact that there’s a point in early pregnancy when fetuses have a tail. Why are we not talking about this all the time? We grow tails and then they disappear!? If that’s not mystifying and miraculous, I’m not sure what is.
And then there are the stream of moments I’ve experienced with my kids and my husband when they’ve said the very thing I was just thinking and I could feel the invisible connection between us hum and shiver.
When I think about faith in a broader sense, when I strip away the dogma, the preconceptions, when I just embrace that there’s more to this world than I can put my fingertips on, something shifts.
I remember that I don’t have to visualize a specific being in order to pray. When I feel an intense connection to my dad, or my brother, or anyone else I love who has died, I don’t need to believe in an afterlife. I can just feel the feeling, sweet and real in that moment, and think this is part of the mystery.
We live in a world that’s brimming with knowledge. Data. Statistics. Electronics. News—fake or real.
I love the idea that there’s something more nebulous, a yin to the yang of modern life. More than that, I need it. I don’t really want to live in a world based solely on data and quantifications. I want a world with space for mini-miracles, for rainbows of light to stretch across a wall when the sun hits the right angle. Or the spark that becomes a song where once there was silence. Words that drip onto the page, becoming books.
In my searching, I was trying to intellectualize faith, to wrap my mind around it. But not everything can be thought out.
Something shifts in me when I open myself to the mystery of it all. I step out of my thinking, human mind and into something looser. Murkier, yes, but also wider, more expansive.
If all else fails, press your fingertips to your sacrum (chances are, you once had a tail there—a tail!) and say:
Today, I open myself up to all that I can’t see. Today, I practice sitting in my own wobbly faith. I allow myself to be astounded. I mark the moments of wonder.