Fearfully & Wonderfully Made
When personal faith comes up in conversation, I have a habit of inserting this canned response: That I am a "born and raised, baptized and confirmed Evangelical Lutheran."
What does this mean exactly?
Nothing really, other than demonstrating that I'm bonafide, certified church girl. Although I must admit, this was not always the case...
When I graduated from high school and entered college, I -- like many people -- unintentionally embarked upon a spiritual journey.
While I loved the people I grew up with in church, at some point I had come to dislike the prayers that felt rote and order of service that felt dogmatic.
It was the same thing every. single. Sunday.
Not exaggerating. That’s just part of being Lutheran. Liturgy plays a central role in each service. I could say the prayers in my sleep.
Not only that, I could count on my fingers and toes the number of times I witnessed the mere mention of change turn the sanctuary into a battleground. We didn’t have a history of being open to trying new things... It was sure to lead to factions and fallout.
And shouting or speaking in tongues... YIKES! Both were silently deemed unnecessary and uncivilized. (Today, I don't have an opinion either way. Do you, for all I care.)
So, by 18, I wasn't really feeling church as I knew it even though my church family meant everything.
For the first time I confronted my own beliefs, or rather my indoctrinated beliefs.
Over the course of nearly 10 years, I tried a lot of things without a clear direction.
It was more like free-form exploration.
I had coffee and conversations with the pastors of Evangelical Lutheran churches that were affiliated with the universities I attended. I asked questions that plagued me, like "why do bad things happen to good people," and "with all of the really mean Christians out here, do I actually have to try to convert nice, genuine people of other faiths, or no religion at all, into followers of Jesus?"
Some of the answers satisfied me. Others did not.
During undergrad, I got really heavy into belly dancing (of all activities 😂). I think I started taking it as a class at the rec on my college's campus. I don't really remember. However it began, I was soon traveling with my instructor from Cleveland to Pittsburgh just to meet various troop leaders and take their classes. It was something about the deep connection between music and movement that made me feel revived and uplifted. There was a story. It brought joy to my soul. It was reflective and inviting. I looked up to the creative leaders. No one was judgmental. It was freeing -- the complete opposite of church, and I liked it.
That spurt lasted about a year and a half. It was a great time!
Around my junior year of college, something drew me back to (semi-) regular church attendance, but since I was still at odds with my Lutheran upbringing, I didn't want anything to do with a denomination.
I started going to a non-denominational mega church that had ministries galore and an awesome choir. The pastor's intellectual-style of preaching spoke to me. He cited scripture and a plethora of theological scholars. I felt comfortable knowing that he was really researching his theories and beliefs. At the end of the day though, I felt consumed by the size of the church and resolved that it was not the right fit for me.
Thousands of people worshiping on Sunday and I left knowing only a few people’s names... No thanks.
Fast-forward to graduate school...
A friend of my then-boyfriend invited me to a yoga class. The teacher's soothing tone, compassionate instructions and guided meditations felt like church! Class was held on Sundays, too! Mannnn... I was hooked. It was the only thing I consistently did off-campus besides working during law school.
I was blessed to be introduced to yoga by women who looked like me. They reminded me of my friends from college and family back home. We shared similar philosophies. We had goals. We were ambitious.
These women supported me through my unplanned blessing (my pregnancy). They introduced me to other young professionals and mentors. Their helpful nature inspired and encouraged me. I am still friends with the core members to this day. It was one of my early experiences with intentional self-care and its direct link to spirituality.
As life would have it, I came back to my home state, and as a full-fledged mother by this time -- my spiritual wandering didn't feel appropriate anymore.
This was when I pulled together the lessons I explored through my years of emotional unpacking and coming into my own.
Parenting entails many quandaries like this. Even though you know that life is going to play out however it is going to play out, many still feel called to lay the foundation for some kind of make-shift spiritual path.
Just what was mine going to be?
First, I processed my own new-found spirituality, which I now think of more broadly as spiritual wellness. In the end, I reconciled that it simply does the soul good and benefits everyone around us to foster a connection with a higher purpose.
To me, spiritual wellness means...
Being humbled by the fact that life isn't all about me, but at the same time, knowing that my existence is essential and that I have a purpose on this planet.
As an intellectual at heart, I constantly need to have texts and quotes on-hand that can help me bridge these dichotomous truths.
Full circle, this is where the Bible and the church of my youth came back into the fold.
I started attending my home Lutheran church again largely because of relationships. I wanted my son to have a close knit church family, too.
The Bible made its way into my life as a go-to resource.
When I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV ("But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."), any self-imposed expectations of perfection fall away. I am reminded that it's not all on me and it's not all about me.
Then when I read Psalm 139:13-14 NIV ("For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."), I am comforted in knowing that I matter.
From the first verse, I gain strength and embrace that:
- My questions are ok
- My wandering and exploration were necessary
- I should not be ashamed of my shortcomings
- Resilience and fortitude are mine to claim
From the second verse, I gain confidence and believe that:
- I am here on purpose
- I was designed for a purpose
- My gifts and skills were nurtured in me before birth
- My praise and optimal use of my gifts are means of demonstrating gratitude
Overall: I AM fearfully and wonderfully made.
So is my son.
So are you.
There are many paths that lead to this simple revelation. In my verrryyy humble opinion, how each of us gets there doesn't matter as much as how we live out the understanding once it is attained.
Undeniably, spiritual wellness entails grace, kindness, encouragement, validation and respect. It also involves experimentation and freedom to shift and grow (if we allow it to shape our paths).
Stop, breath and recognize today where you are on your journey:
- Are you wandering aimlessly?
- Are you exploring intentionally?
- Are you starting over from scratch?
- Are you repairing and mending?
- Are you taking a break and just existing right now?
- Are you reveling in your spirituality and seeking to love, share your light and grow?
Wherever you are, it is important to be aware of your state of spiritual well-being and strive to find value in heightening your spirituality.
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