Because Molly is mine. She wrote this post and it is ME! So pretend I wrote it and just read:
How does a person know that he/she is walking in truth? I was considering this today, considering the various “truths” I once held versus those beliefs from the past that are actually still with me today. What is a key difference between the not-actually-truths and the things that turned out, as far as I can tell, to be just as true now as they were then? I remembered the words of Christ about truth, and nodded my head. Truth and freedom really do go together.
One common denominator in my experience in fundamentalism/legalism was the shrinking down of the world, the tightening of the borders, the closing in of the box. Sure, there were a lot of vocabulary words that indicated freedom, but in actual practice, it was a lot more like hiding behind a little wall, fearful, shaking, waiting for this world to be over with already. Choices? Questions? Not okay, except for those that fit into the prescribed grid. Have others had a different experience in fundamentalist/legalist/conservative circles? Probably so. But this was mine.
One common denominator in my (forced? chosen?) exodus from that tight safe-feeling place has been the sense of liberation, the feeling of stepping into a wide world, a world full of options, full of choices, a world full of opportunities.
I recently heard someone (Where? Anyone else here this and remember who said it?) quote a new study revealing that human beings, if forced to choose between pain or the unknown, will almost always choose pain. With pain, at least we know what to expect. With the unknown, that’s just the point—we don’t. So, according to the research, if you’ll give me the choice between pain and the unknown, you can know ahead of time which one I’ll pick: let me have the pain I know. Is this the reason so many stay? Is this the reason that leaving what we know is so hard, because leaving the known pain means facing the unknown?
These last four or five years have had two huge paradigm-shifting crashes for me. The first was my spiritual world. That was a slow but steady turning over of everything, until critical mass was reached and I realized I no longer fit within the walls of the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist world. There was not a lot of joy in that crash. I remember much fear, pain, panic. ”Where will I go from here? Where is here, to begin with?”
So when it came crashing down, helped by painful circumstances that were a little more painful than the paradigm was capable of bearing, it was a blow I wasn’t sure I could recover from.
And as I was still scratching my head and figuring out which way was up, slowly trying to make sense of the big wide new world I found myself in, the second crash began, born of the earlier mentioned painful circumstances that helped, in part, to cause the first one.
The first crash was mostly philosophical/theological. The second was very practical, very earthy. It involved losing a part of my most precious possession in all the world: my hopes and dreams, family-wise, for my wacky wiggly beyond-loved children. When the vision of what-might-be finally gasped its last, no doubt kept alive for so long only by my valiant and often humiliating attempts to Make It Work (It Has To Work!), it was no different from a death. It felt no different from a death. In many ways, I think it always will.
So two huge life-changing things happened, like a huge steam roller crushing its way along The Way Things Are, and that is why I nodded my head when I heard the research that says we prefer pain over the unknown. The pain of what I know is something that I might not like, sure, but at least I know how to survive it (and, besides, it might stop soon, right?). The unknown is something else entirely. I had to, pretty much, be forced out into it.
I am not really sure I am up for anymore paradigm shifts. I think I’ve maxed out. Stepping into freedom has been one of the most beautiful and horrifying things I’ve experienced. Many of you who read and comment here, each in your own unique way, know exactly what I’m talking about.
But some what I found in the unknown was a beautiful Unknown… and I continue to find Him. And what with all the bright light, it was a lot easier to see things, to gain clarity, to get new perspectives on things that I’d only read about before in a textbook, never actually seen with my own eyes. Much of what I observed was that some of my precious old “truths” had been nothing more than planks in a little box, nailed shut. There was a lot to rejoice about. It didn’t make the mourning any easier. There is no such thing as an easy paradigm shift. These things only come with the hard pains of transition-stage labor and blood and afterbirth.
But, still, there it was. Freedom.
I still don’t know which end is up, on so many fronts. Personally, I hold tight to the Nicene and the Apostles Creeds, but beyond that, what? I don’t know. But I do know that I have grown to not only love this sense of freedom, but to look for it, to nurture it, to enjoy those things that encourage its growth. And like an ex-con going back into prison, the sight of the thick jail house door is enough to make me sweat.
I hope this means I may now have an instinctual sense for recognizing the confines of the old way, because I didn’t have that before, and I think it would be valuable. But when instinct fails to reveal truth, there are always carefully observed ways of determining what a thing is, what it isn’t. This is why one of my new questions is, “Does it bring freedom?”
Not, “Does it promise freedom,” because there are all sorts of things and people and organizations that will promise all sorts of things. No, I’m talking about standing back and observing and watching what actually happens. Where there are captives being set free, chances are pretty high that something Good is afoot.