Giving up the Guardrails
I am generally the type of person who does what they should because they should. I like to improve and reach goals, and I find comfort in consistency (...I sound really fun, I know). So, I have never really minded guardrails. Previous religious affiliations have been great at providing a set of guardrails — I knew what to do and what constituted “having faith” and “having a relationship with God.” I knew (or thought I knew) the steps it would take to reach said goal of having a relationship with God or reaching that whatever internal expectation I had set for myself. However, over the past few years, with some shifts in my life, I started to be less sure. I felt empty. And the said process to reach my goal of “good enough” faith was feeling more futile than anything.
So, I checked out. This feeling grew as lots of big changes were happening in my life. I felt alone and stuck, like I was basically just wandering around in a space that was dismal and foggy. (Admittedly, on more than one occasion I had Stacie Orrico’s “There’s Gotta Be More To Life” stuck in my head).
I started going to Imago last October looking for a change that would provide me direction or at least a change of pace - something that felt less like “going through the motions” and more like forward direction. At Imago, I saw something about a Formation Community and was drawn to it. So I spoke with Dustin. It seemed great, but also very out of my comfort zone. I didn't feel like I had an admissible reason to be there other than that I wanted to try. But, he was way too excited about it for me to say I wasn't going to do it, so I tried it. It was different and I was definitely the youngest person there, which made me feel out of place. I hadn't had the life experiences or let-downs in a comparable way to make it concedable for me to be there (my mind’s thoughts). But I still felt drawn to continue. So I did, learning about the diversity of spiritual growth practices that were out there and available, used for years before and by many different faith practices.
It has been eye opening. I can’t say any one of the practices we learned about have been the perfect fit (or honestly that I tried them all), but they all contributed to little shifts of value within my faith. I had no idea that, as great as the guardrails seemed to be for me at that time of life, they were creating an environment for me to focus on me and what I could get done. Leaving the question of “Okay, great Grace. Congrats, you read your bible for 15 minutes without getting distracted...So where is God in that?” Through all the practices, I have learned to be still and that there doesn't have to be an answer. And it’s more than any black or white answer that could be given (that I honestly crave). A relationship with him isn’t about whether or not a word was spoken to you because you have enough faith because you read the bible for 20 minutes every day. God got so, so much bigger than any boxed set of rules could have planned for.
The formation practices helped identify more than one way to connect to God. Maybe God created us and gave us bodies and emotions and opinions and reactions to attempt to encompass all that he is. We are all so different and react to the world differently, so why would there be a sole way to form faith? It could be prayer, or when you are silent, or maybe with a close friend, or when you are running, or when you are terrified because you happen to be driving South on 55 when a historical amount of tornadoes are touching down in Central Illinois. It’s amazing and beautiful. Definitely, still scared and uncertain, but my viewpoint is that I am learning I can be certain that God is bigger and my faith isn't defined by a set of rules to follow.
Grace is an oncology dietitian at Illinois CancerCare. She loves to eat tasty food, be active, and really enjoys a solid dad joke.