“… the time when the things you thought you knew about the spiritual life turn out not to suffice for the life you are actually living.”
– Lauren F Winner Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
I like to read. All kinds of things, from fiction (Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Berg, Maeve Binchy, Anne Rivers Siddens), to mystery (JD Robb, Robert B. Parker), to science fiction (Sharon Shinn – I flat out adore everything she’s ever written). I also love any kind of history book, books on religion, cooking, parenting… you name it, I’ve probably at least skimmed a book about it. Thanks the beauty of the Worcester Public Library, I can go once or twice a week and take home whatever little books strike my fancy. This week, among others, I picked up a book on religion. The title intrigued me – mid-faith. That’s an interesting time, because it’s not the beginning – where you’re learning, and it’s not the end, when you’re accepting. It’s the middle. It’s when you’re living the faith. The belief system.
I think religion isn’t so much about rules that you follow and deities that you worship. Not for me, anyway. Religion is a community, and place to raise your children. It’s about a foundation from which your children can grow. It’s not an exaggeration that I only became interested in organized religion after my children were born. Spirituality? That interested me. I LOVED it.
I’ve always been spiritually inclined. I enjoy theological discussions, I like reading about religion and spirituality, and for a very long time, I was happily pagan. I had my tarot cards, I had my crystals and my broomsticks. I loved every little bit that I discovered about that spiritual path. I believed in white lights, that you get back what you put out, and that the first rule was to harm none. I believed that everything happened for a reason, that you didn’t get challenges in your life you couldn’t handle, and that if you held something true in your heart and in your mind, it would be true in your life as well.
And that worked for me for a long time. I felt… cherished. I felt a part of the universe on a level that other people didn’t seem to feel. I felt… connected, for lack of a better term. I had a relatively easy life. There were circumstances of my life that weren’t ideal, of course. But overall, I was pretty damn lucky. I was healthy, my mother loved me, I had wonderful friends, a roof over my head and a job I loved.
But then I met a guy, the guy, and got pregnant. I wasn’t planning on a pregnancy, in fact, I’ve never been as shocked as I was when I did the math and figured out that I was late. And from the beginning – oh my God, I loved that baby. I felt like if the baby managed to be conceived on such an odd set of circumstances, it literally happened the one time we didn’t use protection, it was meant to be. I felt this bond that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. This was MY baby, the baby that chose me and fought to be conceived. And when I started miscarrying, I didn’t have any place to turn. I didn’t have a spiritual place where what was happening could be explained. When the doctor explained that it was twins, and that I had lost one, I grasped at that. This baby, the one I still had, this one I could keep. Maybe I needed to lose one to keep the other. I did everything right – I held it true in my heart, true in my head. I surrounded it with light and love. And I miscarried that baby a week later.
That was the time when the things I thought I knew about the spiritual life turned out not to suffice for the life I was actually living. Is it any wonder I turned to Judaism? I wonder sometimes if it was Judaism or just Marc that I turned to – because for a very long time afterwards, Marc was the only person that made any sense to me. Only with him did I feel safe, only with him did I feel like there was the possibility that I might heal. His faith isn’t that strong, in the end. He’s more culturally Jewish, he’s not certain of anything spiritually and is okay with that. Spiritually, I think I’ve got a stronger sense of something being out there. But his religion gave him strength. His religion gave him rules and guidelines and a path to follow. A way of being – and that was incredibly appealing to me.
So I’m Jewish today, and as it turns out, I’m kind of a Republican as well. Or a Libertarian, I guess. But either way, I’ve traveled far from my original path as a liberal, pro-choice, anti anything that sounded at all conservative, pagan Witch. And I feel connected. I feel cherished by a universe that loves me. I don’t claim to understand it anymore. I don’t claim to be able to control parts of it. But I’m at peace with it, and I’m content with my spirituality.
I’ve posted before on my conversion to Judaism, and I’m not going to rehash it all again. I know it was the right choice, for a whole bunch of reasons, but I also know that my spirituality is constantly growing and changing. My political identity is the same. I’m not having a mid-faith crisis – but there was a time in my life when the things I thought I knew about the spiritual life turned out not to suffice for the life I am actually living.
And even now, when things are hard – there are some things I know to be true. I know that sometimes crappy, crappy things happen and it’s not because of anything you did on a spiritual plane to ask for it. I know that wishing reality was different doesn’t really do anything other than make the reality harder to deal with. I know that this life may not be all that we have, but it’s all we have now, and that perception counts. That we can’t change the reality, but we can change the way we view it, and sometimes, changing your view is enough to make it easier to handle. I know that Judaism gives me ways to feel grateful for all that I have, and a way to handle it when I don’t feel grateful. It gives me a roadmap for handling the hard things, and I like that. I need that.
In the end, or in the middle, because that’s where I am, what it comes down to is not that I’m having a mid-faith crisis. But rather, I’m acknowledging the ways in which I’ve grown, the lessons I’ve learned and the spirituality I’ve discovered. I don’t have all the answers yet, I don’t think anyone does, but I do think I’m making progress on figuring them out as I go.