I guess we don’t really expect our beliefs to change.
As a child, when I imagined my life, I certainly did not anticipate any alterations to my belief system, small or otherwise. As a young and especially faithful Catholic woman, when I imagined my future, I just pictured myself doubling-down on my religious practice. I imagined College Brooke getting connected to a local Catholic Church, Young Mother Brooke gently teaching her toddlers to cross their arms when we went up for communion, and Elderly Brooke spending pleasantly still and silent time praying in the Eucharistic Chapel. Of all my church peers, I was the most devoted to Catholicism. No one expected me to leave the Church – least of all myself.
But sometimes God, or the universe, or even our own brains, just have a different plan for us.
And, like most good stories, mine involved experiences I did not anticipate.
By the end of my first semester in college, my carefully crafted worldview was falling apart. I’d always asked some hard-hitting questions about my faith (“How isn’t this cannibalism?”), but this time I swam way to the bottom of the Safe Question Pool. I started wondering why so many bad things happened in the world and God didn’t do anything about it – and felt angry about the unfulfilling answers I received. I paused at descriptions of genocide in the Old Testament. I purchased a book about how the Gospel was historically inaccurate and my Dad said, “Please, just don’t read it during Christmas.”
It was a time characterized by the chaos of internal confusion. I would play “devil’s advocate” and passionately defend a different side (of any argument) each day. My closest friends shook their heads and called me inconsistent. The students in my first campus ministry politely turned away from my questions; budding friendships were cut off at the stalk. My dad would hopefully talk to me as a fellow Catholic, and I smiled absently as he called it “our faith.” I felt like I was betraying myself even as I did not know what Radically Honest Brooke would say instead.
I’ll be honest with you. I still don’t have full positions on everything, or even most things. Some Sundays I go to an Episcopalian Church, some days I’m sure I have found my home in the Methodist world, and still other days I long for the pew at my old Catholic Church.
Yet I’ve come to a place where I am okay with my uncertainty.
I have built a boat for me and God and all the love and goodwill I have for the world, and I’m letting it sail to wherever the winds want to take me. It’s been a rough journey. Sometimes still, the waves crash at the sides of my boat and I wonder if I am really going anywhere at all. But I continue. The boat sails. (And God provides fresh water when I’m too terribly famished.)
Here is my blessing for you, fellow traveler: May you not feel alone in this time. May you build your boat, and may it sustain you. May you be surrounded by friends who will wrap their support around you even on those days you disagree with them. May this confusing, ever-nonsensical world always appear bright to you. And, through it all, may you always know you are loved and continue to open-handedly offer that love to the world.
Illustration by mandy goodman