A few days ago I went hiking alone on the Pine Ridge Trail in the Ute Valley, my favorite trail in Colorado. When I got to the top of the valley, I looked around me and thought to myself, what am I doing here? I feel so lost. That familiar wave of anguish started to well up inside me again as I sat there. Lately, it has been feeling good to cry.
But just then, I didn’t want to look inward. I wanted to look around me. Because for the past few weeks I’ve been on a quest. 9 months ago I lost my faith, and I didn’t want to find it. But time heals all wounds and I’ve decided that it is finally time to open my mind again to the opportunities life wants to offer me.
What is Faith?
People say “Have faith,” and “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” But what does faith really mean? What does it mean to have faith?
Have you ever played the free word association game with the word “faith?” I’m going to put a picture here so that you can stop reading and do it for yourself. See what words you come up with. Don’t think too hard. Any words that immediately come to mind are the right words for you. You can write them down or simply keep them in mind.
There’s lots of words that I feel embrace the spirit of faith. Gratitude. Brotherly love. Peace. But the first word that comes to my mind is surrender…and I think, of a kind of letting go.
To me, faith means that we believe in something greater than ourselves, outside of ourselves. It could be God. It could be gods. It could be a current of energy that connects every living thing in the world, or a collective consciousness.
Faith is Personal
Millennials have been pioneers in spirituality. We are the first generation to truly embrace that there is no one right way to have faith. It is the most individual thing on the planet. Even amongst those who share religions, the way you practice your faith could be very different from the way your neighbor does it. She might pray the rosary, but you write in your journal to talk to God. He might volunteer at the local soup kitchen, while you take care of your children at home. They might go to church, while you go to your garden and feel the glory of the sun.
In all the myriad ways there are to express and practice faith, there is one thing that binds them all together. Surrender.
At the top of the valley, surrounded by the divine in the beauty of nature, I thought, what would happen if I lived like this every day? If I could let go of my have to’s and to-do’s and just live…just wake up in the morning and do things that made me happy. What if I stopped caring about having a career, and making my own money? What would my life look like?
Instantly, I felt a heavy weight drop off my shoulders. I felt free in a way that made me question if I’d ever even really understood what freedom meant before. I looked around me again, and this time I saw the trees and the rocks and the bushes. I followed the birdsong and saw the birds. I realized then that I wasn’t really seeing them before.
And just like that, I was free.
Actually, I do know what would happen, because I’ve lived like that before.
I was happier than I’ve ever been in my life.
It was the winter of 2016 and my family and I had just spent 2 months living in the shittiest living conditions I’ve ever had to endure in my life, in an unfinished tiny house in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, aka the Wild Wild West. We had finally gotten out of there and moved back to our old house in Georgia. It didn’t feel like home, but for awhile, at least we felt safe.
Our biggest asset was time, so I decided to use it. I dedicated every waking moment to making my life better, for myself and my children. I quit smoking, stopped drinking for awhile, gave up gluten, joined a homeschool co-op, and exercised every day. Life got better.
I started meditating again, and exploring my spirituality, something I had lost in the dark of the desert.
The summer before, in 2015, I had just barely begun to scratch the surface. My husband had come home one day from an appointment and said to me, “This lady told me something today that really made me think. She said that spirituality should be a part of everyone’s life, and without it, there will always be something missing.”
We had never separated religion from spirituality before.
This was a new concept to us. We were excited about it. We started to explore together. We learned about the chakras, started studying reiki, collected crystals and stones, memorized their metaphysical properties, and bathed in the sun every morning.
Our relationship bloomed as if it had never even germinated before.
Now it was 2016 and I was delving in with a base of knowledge and a renewed curiosity. I joined a Sadhana, shaved my head, collected even more stones, got through more of my reiki course, celebrated Ostara with a pagan group, smudged sage and Palo Santo for the first time, and set off the smoke detector in my house.
It was a beautiful time in my life. I remember so many nights, sitting in front of my beloved altar on the windowsill, with all my stones and assorted teraphim, watching the moon behind dancing clouds, keeping tempo with the moonlight, and crying from happiness.
But those days faded backstage with the dancing clouds, when I closed the curtain and said goodnight. I felt as though for a short time I had been held in the safe bosom space of Mother Gaia’s lap, but suddenly I was graduating from get grounded high school and being thrown out into the real world where demon wolves barked from dark corners, “Wake up you need to make money!”
Faith is a Journey
It’s a very long story that I’m not going to detail now, but ultimately we needed emotional family support, so within one week I made an executive decision to stop trying to sell our house, rent it out, pack up everything we owned in a Uhaul trailer, hitch it to our Jeep, and move to New York. Which is exactly what we did.
We left Georgia on July 1, 2016. I still spent some time meditating and writing and dreaming during that long, homeless summer, but ultimately I slowly spiraled down into a deep, isolating depression, and wondered all too often if we would have been better off in Georgia.
But then, towards the end of the summer something started to happen. Something that made my weary hope perk her head up again. It was a calling from the universe, or so I thought of it, to open a healthy fast food restaurant that would irrevocably change the face of the industry forever.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a total megalomaniac. I was one almost my entire life. It started when I was a sophomore in high school. I was walking down the hall, lost in thought. Which was totally normal, I mean, I didn’t get the nickname “spacey Stacy” for nothing. We had been learning about the Holocaust in Social Studies and English class. I suddenly had a revelation that stopped me in my tracks.
To this day I don’t know where it came from, or why, but it was very real, and very life changing. Something told me that some day I was going to make an impact on the world as big as Hitler, and as big as Anne Frank. One had made a very bad impact, and one had made a very good one. The thing didn’t tell me what kind of impact I would make, but it told me assuredly that I would make a very, very big one. To my folly, I believed it.
When Faith Falters…
It might be that my food truck business’ demise last October was necessary to bring me down to earth. And maybe failing at real estate shortly thereafter was necessary to finish the job. There’s certainly nothing like a career in real estate to bring an ego down several notches.
So for the past 9 months I have felt nothing short of hopeless, graceless, and faithless. I didn’t feel good about what I was doing and I didn’t feel good about who I was. Everything about my life felt wrong. In fact I have never more strongly felt so out of alignment with my soul’s purpose. Unfortunately for my soul’s purpose, it doesn’t quite get that in the real world, we have to wake up and make money.
This is where there is a major disconnect for so many of us. We know that in reality we do have a choice, but we feel like we don’t have any goddamn choice. Trust me. I’ve gone down the road of owning the dream of my own business five times. It’s NOT what you think. It’s NEVER what you think. I’m never going to tell anyone “don’t do it,” but I will tell anyone that I will never do it again.
It’s really no surprise that after so much heartache, I lost my faith. But what did surprise me was that I would ever want to find it again.
After it had forsaken me time and time again, why on God’s green earth would I want to fucking trust it?
Why would I? Because there is a gaping hole in my heart, and a gaping hole in my life. And chasing after everything else in my life is never going to fix it. Nothing else in life can replace Faith. It’s not a best friend to confide in. It’s not me time. It’s not a party. It’s not rest. It’s not accomplishment. It’s not perfect health. It’s not a fulfilling career. It’s not your lover, or your children, or that thing you love to do.
It’s a thing we can’t hold, can’t understand, can’t stand, and can never run away from.
Faith isn’t about knowing that there is some kind of magical safety net on standby to catch us in case we fall.
It’s letting go of needing to know that. It’s letting go and believing that there will be a net if a net is meant to be there. No one is saying that everything’s gonna be ok. If there’s no net, there’s no net.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” This is empowering but it is also terrifying. Empowering to think that you have ultimate control over your life. Terrifying to think that you have ultimate control over your life.
Faith eases the fear because it allows us to give just a little bit of our power away.
We do this when we believe in a system where there is a one God or gods above us. We also do this when we believe in a system where all living beings share a collective consciousness and/or life force energy. Whether we pray or cast a spell, in whatever faith system we believe, we are giving some of our power away; we are believing that our power is shared, and so is our responsibility.
When we give part of our power away, we surrender.
I’m not expecting for there to be an “end.” I’m not going to wake up one day and realize that I’ve got it all figured out. Not in 50 years, and not in 50 lifetimes either. I believe that faith is not something we are meant to understand, and that is a big part of it’s beauty and necessity in our lives.
I believe that we need Faith because we need to surrender.
We need sometimes to feel in our waking lives as though we are asleep. We need the space to let go of our conscious minds and simply be. It is at once both grounding and liberating. It is why Buddhists chant, Christians sing, nuns pray, and monks meditate.
And it’s why we all need faith.
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you lost your faith, and found it again? Please share any thoughts with us in the comments. Let’s keep the conversation going! 🙂