Speaking of Turning Points

Speaking of turning points, this is going to be my last post at jlsanborn.wordpress.com. I am moving my online home to jessicasanborn.com.

During the last few years, this blog has been on the quiet side as I’ve concentrated on being a student in Sacred Ground’s spiritual direction and formation training program.

The classroom portion of this program ended a few weeks ago. Before the last class, our teachers told us: “You guys are ready to start building your practice.”

I received that news wide-eyed and with trepidation. I like the security and safety of being a student. It’s comfortable.

But trepidation is giving way to excitement. I’m looking forward to seeing how this journey unfolds.

I am claiming my role as a spiritual director. And I am claiming my name for my writing.

My new website will be a place for both of these pieces of me.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Thank you for showing up and reading my words. It means so much to me. I hope that you’ll join me at https://jessicasanborn.com/blog.  You’ll find the words from this space over in that space. Hopefully, some new words will be joining those in the near future.

With love & gratitude,

Jess

 

 

 

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When Leaving is Just the Beginning

“What are the major turning points of your life?”

A friend asked me this question about a month ago. I knew without hesitation that leaving church and leaving my career in short succession was a major turning point in my life. Everything changed after that. Everything. I know that I’ve told pieces of this story before, but every time I look back, I understand its significance in a new way.

Today, I’m sharing a bit more of my story over at the Mudroom Blog. I hope that you’ll join me there.

 

Wilderness

Words that Made a Difference for This Doubter

Hello! I’m blowing the dust off of this blog today in order to send some words out into the world. Thanks for being here.

A few years ago, I had a complete faith breakdown. I was frightened, anxious, and lonely. My sense of belonging, which had always been securely anchored in my church and beliefs, had vanished. My questions outweighed my faith by a lot. I thought that this meant that I was losing faith or had lost it entirely. I wanted God to be real. I just couldn’t pretend that what I learned about God still made sense. During a time like this, words we receive from others can either be a tremendous gift or can send us into a tailspin.

Recently, I read a tweet that elicited an out-loud “Wow!” It wasn’t a presidential tweet this time, but one from those earnest folks over at Desiring God telling us that “Doubt is slander against God…” Five or six years ago, seeing something like this would have had me reaching for my anxiety medication. Today, I can just shake my head. I can’t imagine any circumstance where hearing such a phrase is going to be helpful or transformative.

Sometimes, people just don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling with doubt. I received this well-meaning reminder once: “If you know the truth and reject the truth, you are going to pay the consequences.” Like the consequence of hell. Uffda. Thankfully, at that point, I was confident enough that God could handle my questions and maybe even welcomed them. I also knew that the person speaking loved me and was probably afraid for me. I didn’t take those words to heart.

Fear speaks the language of conformity, not transformation or life.

Even a sincere and loving, “All you have to do is believe . . .” is most unhelpful. That’s precisely the problem when your faith breaks down. What does belief even mean? The Sunday I heard that at church, I went home and cried for hours.

However, I want to talk about the gifts that I received from others: words that offered me hope and helped me find my way forward and through this faith breakdown. I don’t know where I would be without these conversations and questions. Maybe you’re wondering what to say to someone whose faith appears to be in shambles. Maybe you’re the one in the middle of your own dark night of the soul. Maybe these gifts that helped me will be of use to someone else.

Doubt is not the end of faith

  1. “My friend has questions like that too. She would love to talk to you.”

This is absolutely the best thing that I heard. The connections made through this conversation led to hope and to a connect-the-dot adventure of friendships and ultimately to new experiences and understandings of God. I wouldn’t be who I am today without this conversation. Finding people with similar questions was so important. But finding people who had journeyed with and through Doubt into a meaningful faith gave me hope. What I needed most at that time was hope and connection.

  1. “Ooh. You ask good questions. Your questions are good.”

Any reassurance that we are not lost or sinning because of our questions is helpful. To find people who are not shocked or frightened by our questions is necessary. To find people who are excited by our questions is a gift. It lets us believe that God is also not shocked or disappointed by our questions. When you think about it, what is at the heart of these questions? Isn’t it a longing to know–to really know deep in your bones that something is true? Not just to believe because someone else told you to? How could God be disappointed in your longing to truly know God?

  1. “You know Jacob wrestled with God and was given the name Israel. Israel means ‘he who struggles with God.”

Let that sink in. Maybe God still invites us to wrestle? What if faith is wrestling?

  1. “Did you know that this place of doubt, of losing faith, is in the middle of adult maps of spiritual development?”

Finding books like Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich’s The Critical Journey and Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward was a gift. It helps to know that this apparent loss of faith fits a pattern. Doubt may be an invitation to move from a head-based faith to your heart. It might be an invitation to shed a second-hand, hand-me-down faith and experience your own first-hand encounter with God. Doubt is an invitation to More. Doubt wasn’t the end of my faith; it was an invitation to a new beginning.

  1. “Do you need to know all of the answers to all of your questions right now?”

This question was such a gift. I may have been able to throw away my anxiety meds shortly after this question made its way into my bones. First: This question alone suggested that I don’t need to know the answers right exactly now. The woman who asked it of me wasn’t afraid that I might go to hell if I died in a car crash on my way home because I didn’t know what to believe about Jesus anymore. It suggested that maybe it’s actually okay to let go of that scary image of God that would make me afraid of that scenario.

Second: At a point where I felt like I was drowning in questions, this question gave me permission to rest. I felt like I scooped up all of those questions, captured them in a glass jar, and set them on a shelf in the back of my mind. I still had the questions, but they were no longer all-consuming. This helped mightily with the anxiety I was struggling with at the time.

  1. “What is your one question that you need today?”

This question helped move me from an answer-based faith to a question-based faith. I learned to find my questions, to ask them, to wait and listen and live the questions. My questions lead me to my next steps. I’ve learned to love my questions.

  1. “You might want to try asking these questions: “Who are you God?” “What have you made me for?” “What is my next step?”

Asking God questions like these was a novel idea to me, and it changed my life. Would God even answer? There was only one way to find out. It didn’t hurt to try.

 What about you? Are there questions or conversations that you can point to that helped you find your way through doubt? Are there questions or conversations that helped you find connection or hope? Please share. Maybe someone else needs your question too.

Good Words

I love good words. I love sharing good words. I thought I would share some good words with you today.

Hildegard’s words are some of my favorites.

Good People

My friend Jo, shared some really good words this week about learning to embrace and love who you are.

I really liked Sarah Bessey’s words about finding time to write–or to do any creative practice really. I especially appreciated the way she described self-comfort v. self care. That is giving me something to think about.

I always appreciate Shawn Smucker’s words, including his post: My Ramadan Meal, and Finding Peace in Unexpected Places.

Have you stumbled across any good words lately? Please share!

Why I always begin again (and again)

apple blossom

“The sun comes up and we start again. The sun comes up and we start again… Be here now.” Mason Jennings sang me to wake this morning with words that I needed to hear and carry with me today.

They echo words from St. Benedict that I have tucked into my heart: “always we begin again.”

And Rumi offers a similar invitation: 

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

Every day I start again. Every moment I can start again. It’s not too late.

It’s been almost a week since I sat down to write. In between subbing, a baseball tournament, devouring a Louise Penny mystery book on Saturday, and sick kiddos at home yesterday and today, I didn’t find much time to string together my own words. When it’s been a long time, it sometimes feels awkward to start again. I can paralyze myself with guilt or shame for not making time to do something I really want to do, feel compelled to do even. Or I can begin again.

It’s been over a month since I wrote something for this blog. I’m hoping this space is more like that conversation you have with a friend where whether you see each other once a week or once a year, your conversation picks right up where it left off–deep and good-for-your soul. It doesn’t need to be awkward because “always we begin again.”

I’ve been trying to practice centering prayer daily for 20 minutes. Yesterday, I made it to 15; the day before that it was five minutes. But I don’t need to keep track of that. I start again today. While I’m practicing centering prayer, I usually need to begin again about 20 times, or even more. My brain wanders about flitting from what I should make for supper to composing a letter to my representative about all of the things that are making me angry in our political circus. Then I surface again. What was I supposed to be doing? Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m supposed to be here now. I begin again.

I snapped at my daughter. I breathe. I tell her I’m sorry. I hug her. I begin again.

I forgot to floss Sunday night. (I’m sorry Lezlie.) I begin again Monday.

Every day is an invitation: to pay attention; to open my heart wide; to receive love; to be love. Some days my head fills with fog, and I forget to notice the way that God is loving me through this day. I stop. I breathe. I start again. I pray for open eyes and an open heart. Whether it’s calling a friend, walking the dog (and myself), or taking the next step toward making a dream reality, every day I start again. Even if it’s been a few days, or a few months, I start again.

Starting again every morning, keeps me from getting and staying stuck. It helps me to be gentle with myself and with others.

If I forgot to show up yesterday, I show up today. I begin again. And that is always enough.