Remember how not that long ago I had a Major Meltdown? Followed by a refresher crash course in Shutting Up My Inner Bully and Letting People Help? So part of that help was a friend who wanted to pay my grad school application fee. With significant anxiety and a refusal to have any hope of success I did the best I could and turned in an application. Then I prepared to wait in limbo indefinitely.
I checked my email Sunday night and started sobbing-laughing-Oh-My-Godding. (“Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!” is so a perfectly acceptable prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.) Guess who beat those long odds and got accepted?
And I’m really, really excited. I’m brain-turned-to-mush excited. And now, now reality sets in and I realize that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do now. What’s proper protocol for responding to the email? Do I just wait for that paper letter and information packet to come? Can I really do this? (That nasty old bully in my brain is sure that I’m going to fuck this up somehow.) What to I am I supposed to do now?
It’s a big change, a challenge. And I thrive on challenge and change and even a little chaos. But change is just as scary at 3.5 decades as it is at 3.5 years.
I literally learned to swim unsupervised in water over my head. The story of my life is jumping in and swimming. But it’s never a graceful endeavor. No, it always starts with floundering around and coughing up water and being the ugly duckling. Really, there’s nothing to fear here.
But I’m scared. The excited butterflies in my belly have turned into writhing snakes. I’m paralyzed with uncertainty and insecurity.
My faith took a major knock last summer. I don’t want to go into all the brutal, personal details. Maybe someday. But someday isn’t now. I’ve talked with a few trusted women about it, it’s not a secret or some nasty shame thing. I hand-wrote a 300+ page “letter” as therapy. And these things helped, a lot. But severings never grow back together. And this one cut my faith. I now know who I am without God. And it hasn’t been fun. It’s been depressing and ugly and brutal in every way possible.
Without faith I’m filled with fear and fury.
And there’s this paradox of trusting that this, too, is a thing I need to learn.
Without God I am nothing. No one.
It’s humility on steroids. It’s discovering just how much pride and ego I had left to smash.
But that’s the truth of the matter, the deeper issue of the issue. I can’t fake it. I’m Godless.
I know, I know. How ironic. I have no faith yet I’m trusting that being relieved of my faith is an act of God. It drips paradox like spilled molasses. I have no faith yet I remain faithful to faith.
One person told me Allah granted my prayer to go back to school because I have a pure heart. Maybe he can see something in me I don’t see. I see the writhing snakes and the fear that catches in the back of my throat and the insecurity and ignorance of having my ego solidly smashed. I don’t know about the pure heart thing. Jesus had some words about that. (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8). But then, who really knows what seeing God means? For all I know the whole ego-smashing experience is part of getting there. Maybe this is another of those character defects I needed relieved off and didn’t even know it.
I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. (Is there some kind of an etiquette book that covers “how to respond to acceptance emails?” I feel like I’m supposed to do something and to know what to do.) But then, this is a person I trust, and I’ve learned that any kind of real faith is a community deal. The whole “individual relationship religion” thing has some serious limitations. There’s a reason communal prayer and worship is important, a reason why we all need good people to help us along the way. A reason I keep needing to be perpetually re-socialized. A reason I need people in my life who tell me stuff like this. And people who tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do now. And people who put cash in my hand and tell me it’s to pay an application fee.
I’m pretty much lost and done for, helpless and powerless, on my own. I don’t know how this world works. I don’t know what I do next. I don’t even know if I believe in God anymore.
But then, faith doesn’t have much to do with thinking the right thoughts or giving assent to the right creeds or believing the right thinks (that started as a typo but then I decided it was appropriate and would let it stay). Faith is about trust and action. It doesn’t have much to do with my head or my heart. Faith is in the hands and feet. Faith is the courage to admit I’m a coward and I’m scared and I feel like I’m in over my head again.
So there you have it. I have great news. I’m thrilled and awed and humbled to be here, writing this, making this little announcement. And I’m nervous and frightened and asking for guidance and words of wisdom from anyone who has any to share. (Not about the faithlessness thing, about the school thing. The faith thing, well, that is in God’s hands.)
Someday I’ll be in a place where I will tell the whole story of just what dunked me under last summer, just how I came to find myself faithless and hopeless and helpless. It is quite the story. But for now I wanted to share that bit by bit I’m being sewn back together, that I have good news, that there’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. And I feel better already just writing about my anxiety and uncertainty. I feel better but I’d still love to hear any useful tips on this next step.