All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost; — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
There was a time where your beliefs worked, where you toed the party line, where the answers to the existential questions – who am I?, where are we from? what is the arc of the universe? – made sense. You felt confident and comfortable because you had answers that worked.
Until they didn’t.
You didn’t choose this path. Like Frodo leaving the Shire, you didn’t go looking for an adventure. You were happy in your warm hobbit-hole. But the journey showed up on your doorstep and invited you out into the world; a world of trolls, dragons, dense forests, heroes, villains and great loves.
And now you can’t go back. (And, most of the time, you wouldn’t choose to even if you could.) You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, you can’t un-taste what you’ve tasted. You’ve awoken to a new way of understanding the world, and now the old answers don’t satisfy like they once did.
But now you may feel alone. The people who were once “your people” still live in the Shire. They don’t feel the dissonance you feel, they don’t long for something new, the journey hasn’t called to them (at least not yet). Or, maybe it has, but they’ve chosen to shut the door, because let’s face it, this isn’t a safe, predictable journey for the faint of heart.
There was a time where I was a good, Baptist boy, earning A’s in my Bible classes in a conservative Baptist college. And I remember the exact day when the journey first came knocking on my door. I was sitting in a theology class in my senior year, weeks from graduation, and someone asked our professor to explain dispensational theology to us. And while his answer to the question probably gave most people in the class a solid framework for their beliefs, it created a chasm in me. I remember thinking, “this feels so arbitrary, and artificial and just does NOT resonate with me.” It was the first tremor that indicated an earthquake was coming.
Fast forward a couple years. I’m sitting in my office in my first post-seminary job as a youth pastor. I had just finished Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian (which it seems like I read in one sitting), and I felt breathless, excited and not alone. It felt like confirmation that there are others who think like me. (I also remember thinking, “This book, these ideas will be perceived as dangerous to some.” But even that idea was exhilarating to me.)
Since then there have been more books, more conversations, more experiences that keep pushing me onward.
Today, I continue to grow, continue to expand, continue to ask questions of myself, about God and about the nature of the universe. I can’t stop asking these questions. I’m compelled to keep walking down the road. But the thing is, I didn’t choose this path. Rather, this feels like the path I have to walk. There are moments when I wish I wasn’t so contrarian, that the Baptist answers would have worked, that my theology didn’t scare people, that I was more predictable. But I’m not, and most of the time, I wouldn’t change my journey.
You know this feeling too, don’t you? Your own journey of questioning, doubting, growing, waking up to new understandings of yourself and the universe – you didn’t choose these, but instead are just walking the path that’s in front of you.
What I want to say to you (and to myself) is simple: just keep walking. Keep responding to the invitations that come your way. When ideas and answers don’t satisfy anymore, look for new ones, look for new “my people” to travel with, read new-to-you authors. Maybe that person or idea that used to scare you will become your spiritual guide for this stage of your journey.
Just keep walking.If you liked this post, please share it!