Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
(Defying Gravity, from the musical Wicked)
When my beliefs, those long-held religious and doctrinal tenets I’d known since a child, started niggling at me, changing, and frankly, just stopped working, it felt as though the very ground beneath me was slipping away.
The image that often came to mind was of some brave soul crossing a rickety wooden bridge. It swings dangerously over a deep, cavernous space, sparsely protecting her from what’s below. As she gets closer to the other side, she realizes the just-traveled planks are disintegrating beneath her feet. She runs, scrambles, claws and then leaps (at the last possible moment) to the security and safety of firm ground. And simultaneously, what was left of the bridge, her previously-trusted stability, falls into oblivion. She sits winded and stunned on the other side, aware that her fate hung in an incredibly precarious balance – and she survived.
More than once I have been suspended over seemingly impossible situations that have caused me to grasp frantically for any solid ground. Singleness. Infertility. Years of therapy and family of origin issues. Being a pastor’s wife. Becoming the ex-wife of a pastor. Leaving the church. Being laid off. Struggling to pay a mortgage and support my daughters as a single mom. There is more, of course. This is enough.
My circumstances were/are not, in any way, more difficult than anyone else’s. And, like many others in such places I turned to my beliefs – certain that “all things work together for good.” But the bridge felt wobbly. I felt shaky, unstable, and ambivalent. And when push came to shove, literally, the firm foundation of my faith completely fell apart.
Right then and there I had to choose: return to a life of unquestioning, uncomfortable silence or leap into the unknown.
I leapt. And, in so doing, survived.
I also found faith.
In my religious tradition, faith is understood as a system of beliefs upon which one can (must) stand – firmly, resolutely, without question or doubt. It is something within which I (must) place my confidence and trust; something that resides outside of me and usually presides in authority (God, a pastor, a man).
What I needed, however, was confidence and trust in something within; frankly, I needed to have faith in myself. I had to make the leap. There was no other choice.
I’m not the only one who has stood in such places. Do you feel the ground beneath you starting to shift? Do your beliefs no longer provide you the sure footing they promised? Do you know how to cross the gaping chasm between significant life/belief questions and answers that no longer satisfy? When circumstances occur in life that defy the staid, safe tenets of religious dogma, do you know who and how you will be?
Frankly, there are no easy answers to these questions. The scrambling ensues. And ultimately, all you can do is leap.
To let go of seemingly rock-solid answers in search of more meaningful questions is not an abandoning of our beliefs; it is faith.
To adventure bravely across treacherous waters, confident that your own strength will carry you is faith.
To trust that old stories can have new meanings, assumed truths can be queried, and that you can remain standing in the midst is faith.
To leap when everything in (and everyone around) you tells you that gravity is irrefutable is faith.
And faith will not let you down.
I took the risk, stepped onto that swaying bridge, ran like hell, and didn’t look back. And I continue to stand strongly in my doubts, knowing that they are the very things that enable my beliefs. I am endlessly letting go of more and more that I’ve held sacred, dear, or sacrosanct. And I am forever leaping – trusting that when I land I will step forward, confident and empowered, defying gravity time and again.
This risking, doubting, letting go, and leaping is endless. Solid ground is a myth; but the endless, soaring flight of faith offers a stabilizing loft that sustains, emboldens, and yes, defies gravity over and over again.
Go ahead: make the leap. Have faith. I’ll be waiting for you on the other side. Here, take my hand…
It’s time to try
I think I’ll try
And you can’t pull me down!