Relig-ish: My Spiritual Hybrid with Jennifer McGuiggan

One Q Interview iconIt’s officially summertime and we’re taking this opportunity to explore right-fit spiritual practices. Throughout the summer we’ll be hearing from guest bloggers about their spiritual hybrids and right-fit spiritual practices. Today behind the mic we have Jennifer McGuiggan from The Word Cellar.

Step right up Jennifer!

Jennifer (Jenna) McGuiggan is a writer, editor, and writing coach who works with creative souls and organizations with heart. To celebrate women in creative community, she published Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories. She also teaches Alchemy, a series of online writing workshops. Visit Jenna in The Word Cellar.

The Awkward Phase
by Jennifer McGuiggan

My husband recently compared my current state of spirituality to a haircut.

“You’re in that awkward ‘growing-out’ phase,” he said.

He’s right. My spiritual-hybrid is unruly, neither fully one thing nor another. I’ve left behind the close-cropped, predictable style that I adopted as a teenager. My theology, once so neatly defined by evangelical Christian doctrine, has grown looser. Those tendrils of doubt that I used to tuck behind my ear or pin up securely with a barrette have now worked their way out of confinement. They blow in the breeze and tickle my face. I can’t choose between letting my hair fly wild in the wind and pulling it back into a ponytail. The first approach feels daring – and dangerous. The second feels stifling – which is its own kind of danger.

I used to believe a lot of very specific things about God and salvation. Now I only know one thing: I still believe in God. Other than that, I live in the questions. I’ve been in this “growing-out” phase for several years now. In the beginning, I really thought there was a resolution to be found. I thought I would find a new concrete theology to replace my old one. If only I could think or pray hard enough, I I would find an answer. But now I’m beginning to suspect that there is no “there” there, as the saying goes. Maybe there is no destination when it comes to belief, only the journey.

I have to say: I’m not very comfortable with that idea. And yet, I sense a sort of freedom in it. If I don’t have to “figure it all out” and can just live…well, wouldn’t that be a beautiful journey?

So I wander through this land of questions. What first felt like a desert is now rich with signs of life.

To find my way, I pray. I write. I breathe in the scent of freshly mown grass or the salt brine of the sea and feel blessed. I practice kindness, honor beauty, and believe in a loving Creator even if I don’t know what to call that Being. I seek. I question. I wonder.

In the best moments, when the questions and the journey and the fly-away strands are enough, I feel less like I’m growing-out, and more like I’m growing-into something.

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Ready to pay it forward? Jennifer supports Girls Write Now, an organization that provides mentoring for young female writers.  As a thank you for her post today, Magpie Girl has donated $25 in her honor. Did this post help you? Consider donating.

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What about you Magpies? What is your spiritual hybrid?  What questions do you live in? Tell us in the comments below.

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Relig-ish is a new series at Flock dedicated to exploring a new kind of faith — one that suites Y.O.U. Come along with us as we help each other find a spirituality that fits. Click here to read all the Relig-ish posts.

Thanks for being here today.
Much Warmth, Rachelle

Spiritual but not religious? Recovering Evangelical? Jill of all faiths? You might be relig-ish. Browse the posts to learn more, or click here to watch a video about our relig-ish community.
Want to hear more from soulful creative and religious hybrids? Click here to see who else has stepped behind the mic.

Renae C August 17, 2011 at 6:43 am

Love the analogy, so appropriate. I resonate so much with every word you wrote, having come from the same sort of place and being in the midst of the same sort of process. I *think* I want to choose hair blowing freely, whipping and curling in the warm wet wind. But somehow I often feel I *ought* to choose the more refined look of the ponytail. These amazing women who write out their souls – Rachelle and Ronna and Julie and Alana and Elissa and Lindsey and others – they are my encouragement to go ahead and let down my hair. Guess I need to add you to that list!

Keep on journeying – the journey is our only home.

Diana Rajchel August 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

I love this. I was raised liberal-ish Christian in that my mother was far less liberal than the churches she took me to. I came to the conclusion my senior year that “I believe in God. I just don’t know what I believe ABOUT God.” On some level, I take comfort in that flexibility – if God changes, I can go with it, and I don’t think there is some static, absolutist guy with a beard that was ashamed of me before I was born.

I have an active, not static spiritual identification now, and I think that embracing the changes it brings is the point of a spiritual path. The journey is never supposed to end.

Jenna/The Word Cellar August 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Thanks, Renae! I love the phrase “warm wet wind,” — makes me want to let me hair blow freely, too.

Jenna/The Word Cellar August 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Diana: I like the idea of an active spiritual identification. Well said.

GailNHB August 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Jenna, what a beautiful piece you have written. An excellent description of where you are right now on your journey. And sooooooo similar to where I am these days.

Two things resonate deeply with me: 1- the “growing out and growing into” idea. That both can happen. That both are okay. That both are, in fact, an integral part of this journey of our spiritual lives. 2- the thought that a new and concrete theology would replace the old one… and realizing that this faith journey doesn’t necessarily include such assurances in the ways that it used to. The notion that I wasn’t praying or studying or working hard enough was HUGE for me when these questions began to surge. It feels so good to read this post and know that I’m not alone in the way I’ve been experiencing the shift in my own mindset.

Thanks for sharing your story here and for giving me more to ponder as I walk this journey I’m on.

Traveling mercies to you, dear Jenna. And peace.

Jennifer August 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

This is where I am, too. And it is both liberating and difficult. Nice to know I’m not alone!

Jenna/The Word Cellar August 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Gail: It’s so nice to know that this post resonates with you. Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. As Rachelle often says, “There’s nowhere to go but together.” Traveling mercies and peace to you, as well.

Jenna/The Word Cellar August 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Gail: It’s so nice to know that this post resonates with you. Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. As Rachelle often says, “There’s nowhere to go but together.” Traveling mercies and peace to you, as well.

Jennifer: It definitely helps to know we’re not alone. I hold onto that as a life persever some days.

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