Only recently have I been the type of person to pick a word or phrase to focus on for the upcoming year (as opposed to more concrete resolutions), but as I’ve thought ahead to what I want my 2021 to look like, my mind kept bringing up the word “faith.”
What do I mean when I say “faith?” I mean belief in God or a higher being, and trusting that God is actively working in my life, that things in my life are happening for a reason – and enjoying the peace that comes with that conviction.
For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been very mindful that my faith feels like it is lacking. It’s most noticeable when I am around someone who has strong faith – whose faith influences their daily decisions and isn’t just something they talk about in appropriate religious contexts.
Religion is something that has always been a part of my life – I grew up going to church every Sunday, and in general have always been a rule-follower and someone who is concerned with “doing the right thing” and being a “good person.” But religion and faith are very different.
Like many others who grew up being religious or going to church, there comes a point in your life when you start to wonder why your church/religion does things the way they do, and if you actually believe those are the right things to be doing in the first place. Depending on what conclusions you come to in answering those questions, this can be a pretty scary or even earth-shattering time of life.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely felt some cognitive dissonance between myself and the particular branch of church I have always grown up in, but I’ve never desired to totally give up my faith. Even at my very lowest point, when I was in the hospital for postpartum depression and psychosis, I still felt the faintest ember of faith glowing inside me. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was dead or alive, if I was in heaven or hell… and I was really confused because I couldn’t figure out where God was, I just didn’t feel Him at all – it was scary, like really f-ing scary. (I tried to think of a better word, but the expletive honestly feels most accurate to describe this!)
I remember how weird that time was – I had a hard time focusing on anything. I couldn’t focus enough to read a book. Dean had brought a few books to the hospital for me to read, and I literally could not focus enough to make sense of the words on the page. But another friend dropped off the book “Because Jesus” for me, and I found that I could look at it easily. This is due in part to the simplicity of the book’s layout – each page has one simple message written on it such as “God’s got your back” or “God loves you so much.” I could focus on these phrases one at a time. I don’t necessarily think this book was the reason I didn’t completely lose my faith, but I love that it’s part of my story – it at least feels symbolic.
Looking back on that time, I can now confidently say that God was there with me, even though I didn’t feel Him. And I definitely feel like there has been great purpose and meaning added to my life since going through that terrible experience (not that I wish for myself or anyone to have to go through something like that!)
It’s so much easier to look back on hard times and eventually find purpose and meaning in them. In the moment, it’s easy to want to give up, and to doubt that there will ever be a light at the end of the tunnel.
For the year 2021, I want to be the kind of person who finds purpose and meaning in the hard times as I’m going through them, not just after they’ve passed. I want the kind of faith that allows me to have inner peace about life, no matter what is happening to me. When my plans for life fall through, I want to be able to imagine another scenario that could be just as good or better.
It’s still scary though. Faith requires belief in things we don’t have full control of, and in things that sometimes don’t make a lot of sense. As I thought about it, I realized this kind of faith would take a lot of courage.
That’s why I’m changing my focus word from just “faith” to “spiritual bravery.” Bravery is defined as having “mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty” – and I want to be brave in all aspects of my life. (Spiritual bravery sounds cooler, too, to be honest!)
Is spiritual bravery something you experience in your life at this point and time? Do you desire greater faith or spiritual connections? Let me know why or why not in the comments!