There was a period in my life where I spent countless hours in my backyard staring into my firepit, listening to podcasts, watching videos, reading articles and books, gazing into the vast night sky, lost in existential wonderings. What started as casual inquiry became an internal quest for the following few years.
I’ve told much of the story in previous posts, so I’m not here to rehash all the details. Moreso, I’m thinking these days more about the catalyst. At any given time, most of us would probably say we are aware of our intentions—here’s why I did this, here’s why that happened. At the time, I think “a passionate pursuit of what’s true” would have been my answer.
In hindsight, though, I see another aspect I couldn’t have seen at the time. Emotion, pain, frustration, disappointment, anger—they can cloud our vision, convince us of false motives, make us blind to what’s really controlling us.
Circumstances have a way of unlocking aspects of ourselves that otherwise would have laid dormant for most of our lives. I don’t need to be a warrior unless an enemy invades. Prior to someone breaking into my home and threatening my family, “violence” may have never crossed my mind. The capacity was there, though.
In a similar sense, until you’ve had something tug at the foundations of your world, it can be very easy to maintain a sense of certainty, particularly when it comes to concepts about God, goodness, our faith, relationships, etc.
In any scenario, put something or someone under pressure and it will be forced to adapt, change, react, defend. Watch carbon become diamonds, see the peppered moth become darker, witness a human reshape their paradigm about the world and God.
For me, it was the beginning of an era of time in my life where sources of stability, security, unity, happiness, and fulfillment were fracturing. Somehow I was able to view my “deconstructing” as separate from the circumstances of my life, and so my skepticism, my critical nature, created doubt and doubt became more despair.
I revisit this story now, because I think it serves as a fair warning to see your own adaptations, changes, reactions in a truer light. What’s actually motivating you? What’s the real thing behind the thing? It may literally be impossible to see, and that’s why I encourage you to never walk a journey, particularly an existential one, alone.
I don’t regret or resent that phase of life at all. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m actually most grateful for. I would have never moved forward into the next stage of my spiritual journey without it.
I wouldn’t have moved to the “second-half” of life. I just see it now for what it was. There are things that force us to go down, so that we can come back up renewed, stronger, more capable of bringing others through it. As Julian of Norwich put it, “First there is the fall, and then there is the recovery from the fall. But both are the mercy of God.”