This post is the final post 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’s been 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. To catch up, read the first, second, and third post in this series, and If you’ve enjoyed Noelle’s posts this month be sure to let her know in the comments!
When my husband and I moved home from Thailand after a devastating year and a half away, I longed for rest, for the warmth of community, for restoration and redirection.
Our time in Thailand had depleted us beyond recognition, both physically and spiritually. We had experienced betrayal, disappointment, isolation and loss. We had come home worn and weary.
Here I was, in my late twenties, no home, no job, no career goals or ministry visions, no roles to fill and no children to rock to sleep. I had lost everything.
I remember in the early the days after our return, sobbing again before a friend or a pastor, pleading for help and direction, “What do we do with all this grief? How do we live with this sadness? Where do we go from here?” The most common response was a sympathetic smile or a neat, “Give it to God.” And so, although well-meaning, we soon faced the limitations of our faith community to deal with our grief.
Our world of Divine promises and theological certainties had left us without a structure to stand on in light of our loss.
What do you do when all the neat answers no longer apply? What do you when you have followed the letter of the Law—sold all your belongings, fasted for weeks, prayed for hours—and tragedy after tragedy still come your way? What do you do when the clearly-defined, explained-in-neat-sentences God of your faith turns out to be Mystery?
At first, I tried to fit God back into my evangelical box, tried to make sense of our circumstances with Scripture and all those certain answers we had learned long ago. For every time I longed for things to be the way they had been before, I found, too, a growing longing for something more. I found myself unwilling to be stuffed back into a faith system that had failed me in my deepest need, unable to see God through all the language I had once clung to.
I still longed for the Sacred, but had lost all language to express that longing.
Over the next three years, we left our church, bought a home and built a family. My spiritual life retreated to a place of dormancy for a season as I dealt with the more immediate needs of newborns and bills. But soon, I became aware of that steady aching, and even from a place of spiritual wounding and confusion, I began to engage with the Sacred questions of life again: Who is God? Where is God? What is the meaning of life?
And to my surprise, I came upon author after author, many from my own faith background, who were grappling with these questions and finding that the real answers are never in black and white, never in dogma or doctrine as an end in itself.
The answers of life are in Mystery and in Love.
They are in engaging with the questions, and in accepting the uncertainties. They are in seeking truth, and prioritizing love. They are in allowing our souls, and God, space to be, and in finding whatever language speaks to that Being for us now.
How has language limited you in your relationship with God? Try on these alternatives and see what opens up to you: the Divine, the Sacred, Mystery, Love.
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