It’s incredibly ironic that I’m writing this piece at 2am. Because today I want to talk about my journey of faith and self-discovery….and the insomnia I’m experiencing right now is directly attributable to this.
But to talk about this properly, we need to go back in time a little.
In 1985 my mother had an asthma attack. A serious one. Indeed, it was expected she wouldn’t survive. But survive she did.
The first words she said to my Dad on coming out of her coma, were ‘I’ve been with Jesus by Galilee and He sent me back”.
I’d been going to a Methodist church since I was a baby – but when I heard this, I’m convinced it helped point me towards Jesus. After all, Jesus had saved my mum’s life. So I had a lot of reasons to trust God. However, the next 10-15 years would test these to near destruction.
My mother may have survived her attack, but there was a cost – she lost her short term memory. And as a result, my father had to carry the family financially and emotionally, and she, being an independent working woman who now couldn’t work, became depressed, and turned to alcohol for escape.
As a teenager, my day became psychological bullying at school, followed by breaking up my parents fights. 10 years after her initial attack, my parents marriage ended. It was a release for me, even an answer to prayer. I was still sticking with God. Prayer was my escape. Jesus was the one who listened. He was with me. God was still big enough for this. The evangelical, religious God I’d grown up with, was enough. Then, anyway.
But 5 years after the break up, when I thought things had finally settled down, asthma returned and finished it’s job on my mother, and she passed away.
This broke me. I’d begun to stop trusting people after years of bullying and the trauma at home. But this severed my trust in the divine. I couldn’t get how this was allowed to happen.
The God I’d followed was no longer enough. I’d moved beyond Him. He wasn’t big enough for my circumstances, for my life generally. I had questions and doubts, and all I’d known before was small, and almost irrelevant. I couldn’t clarify this in my mind at the time, all I knew then was that things were different, and I had no way of articulating it. I still went to church, but it wasn’t enough.
I had all these questions, ideas, theories, queries…but nowhere to ground them or explore them. Then, in 2005, I picked up this cool looking book called Velvet Elvis. I read it in one sitting, in two hours. And I’d never read a book in one sitting before.
This book talked about a God beyond organised religion, a God who embraced questions, doubts, mystery and uncertainty. A God bigger than my brain, bigger than my experiences. Somehow, a God who I didn’t know everything about, was much easier to come to terms with than one I had all figured out.
12 years on, I’m still learning more about Him – and the more I learn, the less I seem to know.
And 18 months ago, I began a journey back into my past. I’d had counselling and prayer in the 17 years since my mother passed away, but had still only dealt with the symptoms of my trauma. The root, the core problem itself, had barely been scratched. And 18 months ago I finally began to journey into it.
I can remember, as clear as day, myself in prayer, getting a picture of myself and Jesus standing a top a mountain. There was a deep, dark valley in front of us, and He invited me to walk this valley with Him. Saying it wouldn’t be easy, and it would likely be painful, but that it was what I needed.
And I said yes. I chose to walk a deep dark valley full of open wounds, the battlefield of my soul – because it was the only path to healing.
But what I didn’t realise then, is it would also be a path to a deeper relationship with the divine.
Walking The Valley
I’m still walking this valley in many ways. Because going into this valley has meant facing the darkness…which is painful. Like the ripping off of the biggest, most sticky band aid you can imagine. So insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and wrestling with the divine have become parts of my life.
But in the process, I’m being healed. I’m having to trust God like never before – out of necessity, in many ways, which has included trusting Him with of the biggest strongholds in my life, and areas I lack faith – money.
I’ve sat with a therapist and spiritual director, and several coaches, and worked on every part of my inner self. I’ve been doing atheism for lent and critiquing my faith. I’ve been learning about spiral dynamics, and exploring non-dual spirituality. I’ve been delving deeply into the questions I’ve always had and been doing some full on wrestling with the divine (and yes, it got physical at one point…from the inside out).
So now, my faith is in this unique place, where somehow I am part of a liberal evangelical church, but also embracing non-dual thinking, doubt, questioning, mystery, and moving beyond both conservative and liberal traditions of Christian spirituality, to a more transcendent faith. My mind has opened, and my heart is healing, and Jesus to me now is bigger than anything i will ever be able to experience and comprehend. He’s always ahead of me, way ahead of me, of all of us, and all the ideas we have about Him. I’m learning to see the divine in yoga, in science, and other places I’d never have considered before. For me, everything really is spiritual.
And this feeds back into my life. I’m a month away from having to rent out my flat, and I have low moments, and insomnia, and anxiety – but I also feel alive in a way I’ve not been before. I’m learning to be fully present and embrace the divine presence in me right now. I’m learning to let go of assumptions and limiting beliefs, both about myself and the divine.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where exactly the divine is taking me. But reflecting on the last 18 months, it’s clear that as I discover more of myself, I’m likely to discover more of Him too.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. After all, if we’re truly made in the divine image, then of course, as we delve deeper into ourselves, we’re naturally going to be going deeper into the divine.
And in many ways, both of those are bottomless wells in their own way. I’m diving, with a small light to lead me to the next step, just enough to sustain me for the present moment.
My word to you reading this, is to not be afraid to go on that potentially painful journey of self-discovery. It may be deeply painful, but eventually you will find healing for your soul, and you’ll also find depths to the divine you may never have known before.
Because I’ve learned a journey into ourselves, can be a journey into the divine mystery.