This post is by Noelle Juday, our May Pilgrim in Residence. Noelle writes at nbrynn.com and has a passion for storytelling. When she contacted me about the possibility of sharing about her own spiritual journey here at A Sacred Journey, I immediately said yes. The story she’ll be sharing all month is exactly the type of journey I want to share with and awaken in others—one which moves us toward mystery, and, consequently, draws us closer to our true selves and the Divine. Tune in each Wednesday in May for Noelle’s series!
Lacy writes in the introduction of her book, Pilgrim Principles, “Pilgrimage speaks to a longing for something more and a faith that something beyond ourselves can be experienced if we are open to the search.”
I have longed for more and been searching for the Sacred for as long as I can remember. As a very young child, I recited bedtime prayers and memorized Scripture verses for Sunday School every week. At home, I conversed with God on my own terms, with outlandish requests for piles of candy and heart-broken pleas for peace in our home. A bit later, I remember running through the woods with my head tilted toward the sky, searching for a sighting of God.
By the age of twelve, I was actively asking the Sacred questions of life: Who is God? Where is God? What is the meaning of life? I sprinted toward the first signs of an answer, making my home in the evangelical Christian church for the next fifteen years. There I found purpose and answers—what I thought were Divine promises and theological certainties to every possible issue of life.
I was a model Christian youth—up by dawn for prayer every morning, leading Bible studies, memorizing large portions of Scripture, going on mission trips all around the world. I devoted myself wholeheartedly to the teachings of the church and altered my life accordingly. I, like all those around me, was terrified of falling into the “backslidden” category, and so hushed my wanderings and silenced my questions whenever they came up. I begged God for more faith, memorized more Scriptures, went on more mission trips.
What I didn’t know at the time was this: the Divine is bigger than our personal or evangelical boxes.
I didn’t know at the time that a question could be Sacred and that yearnings for more could be of God. I had never heard voices like Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, who wrote, “If it is true that God exceeds all our efforts to contain God, then is it too big a stretch to declare that dumbfoundedness is what all Christians have most in common? Or that coming together to confess all that we do not know is at least as sacred an activity as declaring what we think we do know?”
I didn’t know at the time what Madeleine L’Engle expresses so well, “The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee…” I certainly didn’t know, or have space for what Rob Bell articulates so well, that “God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith.”
It would be a long, painful road toward awakening to these truth. Toward owning that not only was I committed and passionate, but I had become dogmatic and controlling. Toward expanding my views on faith and rebuilding my connection with God.
What questions have you silenced over the years? Can you embrace questioning as Sacred? What boxes have you built around the Divine?