When you make a conscious choice to leave – or to stop believing in – a faith tradition, nothing steps in to fill the void. What do you do?
When Mairin invited me to be a guest on Keeping Faith, I felt a momentary jolt in my chest.
I was, of course, excited to be on the podcast.
We had been talking about it for a few months as she developed the concept.
And faith, in various forms, has been a fairly constant discussion topic throughout our relationship.
So I wasn’t that surprised that she asked me to be a guest.
But it still gave me a momentary pause.
For most of my life, talking about faith has been really difficult.
As I describe in the interview, I was raised in a very unconventional faith tradition – one that as an adult I can best describe as a cult.
(That word can conjure many different mental images. Possibly of horribly oppressed people, isolated and living together outside the margins of ‘normal’ society. That wasn’t me).
From very early on, “faith” was complicated and confusing.
I didn’t really understand the worldview my mother taught me.
I didn’t really believe it.
But I didn’t fully disbelieve it either.
It was hard to explain. And hard to reconcile with the world around me. I felt like I lived in a dual reality.
And so I tried not to think about it too much. And I never talked about it.
That’s changed over the years. As has my own personal faith. But what do I believe at my core, can still be difficult to explain.
Our beliefs are often shaped by what we have been exposed to and can become intrinsic to who we are without fully realizing how deep that runs.
And when you make a conscious choice to leave – or to stop believing in – a faith tradition, nothing steps in to fill the void.
What was once intrinsic to who you were is simply no longer there.
Even though leaving the tradition I was raised in was absolutely right for me, for years after I felt like a part of me was missing.
I found that despite some effort, I couldn’t fill the void.
Learning, studying, starts and stops of attending different faith communities, added to my understanding of faith, but didn’t make the void disappear.
Neither did turning away from faith entirely. Although at times that certainly felt like the easiest option.
I still had a lingering feeling of something missing, some intrinsic part of myself that was lost.
Gradually, that sense of loss began to disappear when I stopped trying to replace what I believed and instead began to reclaim what faith meant.
Faith is entirely personal.
It's influenced by all of my experiences.
There are echos from every part of my history.
It is shaped by the early foundations of my cult-like childhood, to what I was taught in Catholic school and the Christian churches and communities of my friends. By my educational path, and love of and connection to nature, and more recently, yoga and Unitarianism.
All these weave together to create my faith.
Even the aspects I no longer 'believe' are a part of my faith because they have influenced my path and are still with me today.
My faith is unique.
And I’ve learned that it’s ok for faith to evolve and to not always know how to describe it.
Even then, it’s still there and still intrinsic.
Has something left a void in your life? What have you done to fill that void?
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