I’m going to tell you a shocking and little-know fact about me. And then things are going to get weird.
I am a Leisure Professional (gasp). But, I am not the Leisure Professional that you are thinking of (Where is your mind?!). I have an Outdoor Recreation Management degree. My passion and area of expertise is wilderness survival. I am a tall, skinny, bubbly blond who wears makeup and gold hoop earrings. I bet you never saw that combination coming! I seem to embody the definition of oxymoron. I am a walking combination of opposite things existing simultaneously.
Ironically, it was another oxymoron that threw me off of a cliff a few months ago. I landed so hard at the bottom of that cliff that I realized I needed trauma therapy.
You see, I had lived my life being certain of the miracles that I have seen. In many of my worst moments I experienced supernatural and unexplained intervention. The bible tells us that faith means being CERTAIN of what is unseen. I did what I thought a good Christian SHOULD do and be certain of the supernatural intervention. I never stopped to consider that trauma and miracles can exist simultaneously. That doesn’t sound very holy, so I ignored trauma and embraced the solidarity of faith in the miraculous…until I couldn’t anymore.
I am very comfortable in the physical wilderness. I wrote an entire curriculum on physical wilderness survival. I know how to survive in the physical wilderness because I have spent much time there. It is no longer threatening, but familiar. Interestingly, I am in a metaphorical wilderness that has no survival curriculum. What jerk traversed the land of Uncertainty and didn’t write a survival guide for the rest of us?
A couple of months ago I found myself at the border of the land of Uncertainty. My backpack was overloaded with the weight of childhood trauma, questions, fear, doubt, shame, and disappointment. Why disappointment? I had incorrectly assumed that the Evangelical church would provide a Sherpa. You know, to help me navigate tough terrain and maybe carry my load for awhile when I couldn’t stand under its weight. My only tools were my default optimism, and the kind of blind faith that I was taught to cling to growing up in the church. That is pretty much the equivalent of a dull pocket knife and a couple of wet matches.
I took my first shaky steps onto the scorched land of Uncertainty. I picked up the phone and made an appointment with a Trauma Therapist. I then set up camp a few feet in to my new territory. You know, not far enough in that I couldn’t just hike back out if pioneering this new land was a poor choice.
I then unzipped my backpack and pulled out fear and shame. I soon learned that they were poor traveling companions. They sat by the campfire with perfectly good marshmallows. Yet they ignored the marshmallows and began roasting ME.
“You are going to deconstruct your faith in this wilderness.”
“You are on a slippery slope of backsliding into Atheism.”
“You will lose all credibility as a Christian speaker and writer if your audience finds out you camped in the land of Uncertainty.”
I listened in agreement. That is what I have been taught to do. Be the peace maker. Don’t cause conflict. So I passively slipped away to my tent to hide. I pulled out a pen and a piece of paper and began drawing a realistic smile. I then placed the smile on the outside of my tent to confuse fear and shame into thinking that I was happy, not hiding. Once my fake smile was firmly affixed to the door of my tent, I felt safe to think for myself.
I thought about how sad I felt to not have an Evangelical Sherpa. Even if I did, they most likely wouldn’t have a map for territories like abuse, mental health, and trauma. I thought about how insecure I felt embracing the land of Uncertainty, and all of the questions that came with it.
“How much of who I am is merely an adaptation made to survive trauma?”
“What should I take from times when I experienced trauma and divine intervention simultaneously?”
“Is the God that I know the ACTUAL God, or one that I have constructed based on indoctrination and trauma?”
“Is faith ONLY defined as certainty?”
Suddenly everything seemed so unclear. It was like thick, rolling fog had descended into my camp and concentrated in my tent. I fumbled around my tent until at last I again found my pen and paper. So much was uncertain in the land of Uncertainty. I needed to work up the courage to pioneer ahead. So I decided to write down a list of things that are unquestionably true. Surely there was SOMETHING certain in my life.
- I am certain that I am not 12.
- I am also certain that I am not yet 100.
- Im certain that my name is not Ruby.
- I am certain that I am not in the NBA.
- I am certain that I do not have my pilots license.
- I am certain that I cannot see without assistance.
- I am certain that the scar on my abdomen did not come from a shark attack.
- I am certain that I can kill aloe.
- I am certain that gravity exists, possibly just to mock me.
- I am certain that my list of uncertainties now outnumbers my list of certainties.
- I am certain that I do not like the worlds hottest hot sauce.
- I am certain that muffins are breakfast cupcakes.
- I am certain that I do not know my favorite color.
- I am certain that I want my children to experience less trauma and more joy than I did.
- I am certain that I do not want to grow old.
- I am certain that I have never been able to find my Chapstick when I need it.
- I am certain that I hate wearing underwear.
- I am certain that I feel most confident in gold hoop earrings, heels, and lipstick.
- I am certain that I am a disappointment to my younger self.
- I am also certain that my younger self set the bar way too high.
- I am certain that I have never known where my keys, phone, and wallet are simultaneously.
- I am certain that squid is not actually a food. Neither are snails.
- I am certain that not everybody knows that the left lane is for faster moving traffic.
- I am certain that all lists should not end on a number that makes sense.
I got to the end of my list and suddenly remembered a fellow sojourner I had met along the way. Anne Lamott’s brave words swept out enough fog for me to find my sleeping bag and pillow. I crawled inside my sleeping bag, zipped it up over my head, and fell peacefully asleep with her voice in my head.
“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Certainty is missing the point entirely.”