I realized something the other day that I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on since this whole journey, or whatever you’d like to call it, began. See, one of the things that genuinely surprised me about walking away from my faith was how much more positive I became about people and what my beliefs shifted towards. I was always taught that God was what gave life meaning and that if you didn’t have God in your life you were stumbling around wishing you were lucky enough to have that meaning thing. Maybe you didn’t know that’s what you were doing but you totally were. You could tell because of the sex and the drugs and the drinking and porn and… I don’t know. Insert whatever vice you like into that category. So I was kind-of surprised to find that it wasn’t like that at all. That actually I found a great deal more meaning in my life when I became not at all sure that there was supposed to be any greater purpose, when I became increasingly convinced that it was at least possible we were making our own meaning as we went along. I was surprised to find that that thought did not depress me, in fact it gave me a whole new sense of joy. But there was something more than that.
As I’ve at least implied in passing before, I have found that contrary to everything I was ever taught, I believe in the basic goodness of humanity. More than that I believe in an almost limitless, dizzying capacity for change. Partly, though I worry this sounds arrogant, I believe in this because of myself. I have seen myself go through more somersaults and crazy experiences in the last ten years than I can possibly explain. The person I am today is not at all who I thought I would grow up to be. I literally look around sometimes and cannot believe that it is possible that I could have found my way to this place. What it has convinced me of, on a core level, is that people are capable of change that they never see coming and also that you just never know what’s going to matter in the moment. Little things have huge ripple effects, you just can’t tell at the time. But what I realized was more than that too.
One of the things about Christianity, in the way I was raised with it at least, is that what you’re really taught is that there’s only one way to be happy. I have pretty much always believed that if Christianity was actually going to be worth something it couldn’t just be about an afterlife. Any faith that’s worth anything has to be about the life we’re living now. So it couldn’t just teach that someday if you do it right there’s a heaven and you get away from whatever terrible things may be in this life (although sadly there are people who preach that too). It had to be a message that life, life right now, with God was a fundamentally better life than the alternative. And for the most part, that’s what I was taught. I was told repeatedly that no one could ever be truly content, truly joyful, truly satisfied in their life unless they found Jesus. That was it. And not believing that anymore is one of the most freeing, wonderful things I’ve ever come to. That’s what I hadn’t been able to put my finger on. I couldn’t figure out why it was so great, why this ability to change and grow was so wonderful and the other night talking to a friend I finally figured it out. It’s because you have so many ways to grow. It’s because there are so many directions for people to take where they can be working towards a better life, working towards happiness, contentment, joy. It’s not just for this one tiny group of people who gets to have all of the things (and frankly doesn’t seem all that happy about it most of the time). I don’t have to just hand people the One True Answer now, I can just meet them where they’re at and hear their story and learn from it. And maybe they learn from me. And maybe together we figure out a bit more. That’s pretty beautiful, if you really think about it. There’s more than one way to be happy. There may in fact be infinite ways to be happy. People, in their truly wonderful and beautiful complexity neither need nor benefit from a single solution. We can evolve and find roads we never expected. That gives me more hope than almost any other single thought. Here’s to change. Happy New Year.