Sunday Morning Musings: A number of years ago I was part of a group of like aged men and women who met weekly for “therapy”. It was a tremendous help for me at a time in my life when things seemed pretty bleak. I still use many of the skills I learned. One comment in particular that has stuck with me is the facilitator telling us that we could not say: “I don’t know”. Rather than saying we didn’t know something we were to say: “I haven’t told myself yet”. Of course, I thought that was just playing with words, but now I know better.
Like many (most?) people I often used the excuse of not knowing something to avoid having to deal with the situation – usually feelings. When asked why I was upset or angry, I would often respond, “I don’t know!” rather than take the time and make the effort to really try to understand. I have also learned over the years that “my questions” need “my answers”. Yet too often we look for and hope that someone else will tell us.
I have found this also true in faith related matters as well (not that faith isn’t a part of all of life). When it comes to understanding the spiritual elements of our lives, it seems better and easier to have someone just give us the answers. Even in the more liberal denominations catechisms were taught which asked a question and then proceeded to offer the “correct” answer for the believer. The down side of allowing this to happen, and we have accepted this fact for centuries, is that we don’t grow.
Just as it is hoped that we will develop physically, mentally, and emotionally, we should also grow spiritually. Sadly, our spiritual growth has been stunted or even halted at a very early age. The likes of James Fowler and John Westerhoff in the studying of spiritual development have found that just like the other areas of life (physical, mental, emotional), we all need to grow spiritually. If we don’t continue to develop in any of these areas, we never reach our optimum potential.
Let me explain with a concrete example. Many “religious” people believe what they are told to believe (usually by the authority of the church or the Bible), but that can become problematic. Many people have “left the church” because they can no longer agree with what they have been taught. How often have you heard someone say, “I would feel like a hypocrite if I went to church”; “Too bad the church doesn’t practise what it preaches” to state just a couple? Too often rather than disagree it is easier just to walk away.
Recently, I was reading about a woman who called herself a staunch atheist. Then she felt herself changing and began to refer to herself as an agnostic until some asked her why she was sitting on the fence. My guess is that “she hadn’t told herself” yet. Rather than actually thinking for herself she chose not to give it any thought until she was challenged and allowed herself to explore her own faith.
Today, many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR’s according recent studies). I too put myself into that category. I am not an atheist even though I don’t believe in the God that is often defined by many churches. I am not an agnostic even though I can’t know all there is to know about God. But I do believe that there is something else involved in our living. As I have grown older I have learned to live with the mystery. I have told myself that it is not a matter of saying I don’t know, because I do know. And what I know is that I need to keep reminding myself that it is okay to continue seeking and living as part of this mystery.