"The price of recognizing Jesus is always the same: our idea of him, of the church, of the spiritual journey, of God himself has to be shattered. To see with the eyes of faith we must be free of our culturally-conditioned mindsets. When we let go of our private and limited vision, he who has been hidden from us by our pre-packaged values and preconceived ideas causes the scales to fall from our eyes. He was there all the time. Now at last we perceive his Presence." - Thomas Keating
I've immersed myself in theology as of late. I do have some non-theology books on my to-read list, but this is where I am right now, still mulling over the wisdom and experience of others to help me figure out where I am and what I believe. I've noticed several themes over and over again in the various books I'm reading and one of them is "shattered." Whether it is a shattered view of life or shattered ideas as mentioned above, I keep finding this thought as I read.
Here is the thing about something that has been shattered: it cannot be un-shattered. Even if you tried to painstakingly fit every shard back into the whole, it would never be as pristine and smooth as before it was broken. If something is merely chipped, cracked, or broken into a few pieces, you can attempt to put it back together. However, if it is really shattered into hundreds slivers, you can a) choose to use the pieces to make something else (just look on Pinterest -- people make a surprising number of things out of broken glass) or b) you can replace the shattered item with a new one. Regardless of what you choose, you cannot put it back together to be exactly as it was before.
I didn't realize it at the time, but this shattered experience had a lot to do with my break from church. I really could not continue to go to church week after week, trying to appear that I was okay when my idea of God had been shattered and I felt betrayed (at least in a way) by my own beliefs. The truth seemed too messy and made me feel too exposed and I wasn't in a place where I felt safe sharing any of those things out loud or face-to-face with anyone other than a few close friends. I felt too broken and confused and lonely -- and maybe even scared -- when I went to church. With my previous framework in shambles, I needed to take the time to become a student of my faith and sort out what I believe about God.
So, a lot of that is still true. I am broken. Any illusion of certainty I had before is shattered and has been for quite some time. The way I see it now is that I will either begin to perceive God's presence as something new among the shattered pieces or I will replace the pieces with something new.
This past weekend, I read the following passage regarding the way our preconceived ideas about God can keep our faith from maturing:
The means that we needed in the early part of our spiritual journey (but which we may have come to depend on too much) are gradually removed... Family, ethnic, and religious values are important and may support us for a certain time and to a certain place in the spiritual journey, but not to the place of total freedom that is God's ambition for each of us. - Thomas KeatingI may be broken, but I'm not scared anymore. I realize now that this is simply my journey. If I'm going the wrong direction, I will figure it out eventually. If no one else I know is going this way, that is okay. The more I read and learn and think about the beliefs of people I'll never meet and the generations of believers before me -- with all their passion and hunger for truth and differences and brokenness -- the less lonely I am.
I can't prove that what my faith is becoming now is what it is ultimately supposed to be. I can tell you that even if it feels like God is so very different from who I'd previously thought, letting go of those preconceived ideas and acknowledging that I'm working with shattered pieces feels so much more like freedom than pretending at certainty ever did.