I received a voicemail last week that contained something new for me.
“I did some research into Pilates and heard about something called the mind-body connection. I’m a Christian and that doesn’t match with what I believe, so I need to cancel our sessions at this time.”
Most importantly, I’m very glad this person knows what she believes and was comfortable telling me. I would never ask anyone to do anything they didn’t believe in or felt uncomfortable with from a moral standpoint, and I’m glad her and I were able to communicate about this and move in our separate directions with no hard feelings.
Despite this, I just keep thinking about this message. I’m not sure exactly why, except that it hits unexpectedly close to home for me. It’s a topic I have very strong feelings about but I don’t write that often about.
I want to share what I’ve been thinking and feeling over the past week today in the hopes that it might encourage someone else out there who has had the same feelings or past or questions I’ve had in my life. If you feel like skipping this post, I completely understand. It might be too touchy feely and will most likely be kind of long, because I talk a lot. You can find some great workouts here and catch me again next week :).
For those of you who have found yourself at some point in your life wondering what you believe, why you believe it, if others approve of what you believe and/or possibly feeling lost, read on, my friends. I’m right there with you.
My faith is one of the most important things in my life, but it has taken some work and questioning and brokenness to get to where I am today. It’s definitely not the normal path, to say the least.
I was not raised in a religious household. We went to church on Christmas Eve every year, and my favorite part was usually the singing (or the part where we could finally go home). Then, in high school I was invited to a Young Life meeting. I rushed home and spent an hour telling my parents all about it. They probably worried I was joining a cult, but they were supportive and encouraging nonetheless.
Young Life made God cool. We sang amazing songs, went on cool trips, and worked at camps in the summer. Everyone from the jocks to the drama kids went. My closest friendships were formed with these kids and some of them remain my most cherished relationships to this day. Young Life gave me something that I had been missing in my life and made me feel like I belonged. I will forever be grateful for that.
Things became a little harder for me in college. I was no longer around these friends from high school, but longed for the same kind of connections. I found a group with a similar mission, but unfortunately it didn’t speak directly to me. Instead of being confident enough in myself and my faith to step away, I felt I had to stay with the group because it’s what was EXPECTED of me. I thought I would be less faithful if I didn’t go. I felt a constant battle in my life between who my heart wanted me to be and who this group was telling me I should be.
That is where I was first told that the God I had fallen in love with maybe wasn’t the real God. Maybe the real God was disciplining, rule making, boring and, worst of all for me and my personality, disappointed in me.
I left college with a degree, some lifelong friends and a very confused and damaging view of a God I was trying my best to love and make happy.
I went through some very hard times the next few years. Most of this was my own doing and stemmed from me not being confident in who I was. It ended with my newer “Christian” friends and mentors telling me that I was disappointing God and was to blame for most things and that they couldn’t be my friends anymore.
You know how there are things in life that you will never forget? You remember what you were wearing, the way the sky looked, the song that was playing and, most of all, the visceral feeling you had when it occurred.
One of those moments for me was when one of my closest friends at the time told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because I was going against God’s wishes in the direction I was taking my life.
Another, and much more important, moment occurred the second I finally found peace and my true self.
I literally felt like I had been in a prison for years. A cell of my own making. I was trying constantly to please other people, to be someone else, to get the highest grades, to get the lead role, to never make a mistake, to check everything off the “perfect” life list. All the while, my heart was not happy because I felt I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – be the real me.
Not everyone has or needs a “freedom” moment. Most people can live their lives as themselves every day and are probably shaking their head at me right now. I have no idea why I went through so much turmoil surrounding this issue, and there are times I want to go back and shake that girl I was and tell her to get her act together.
I would have saved myself and some of my loved ones a lot of pain if I had.
I also would have missed out on one of the greatest gifts and lessons in my life.
I call it my “freedom” moment because that’s what I feel happened. I was finally released from the prison I had created of expectation, people pleasing, perfection and apologizing for who I am.
When I walked out of that cell, I found love and acceptance. I found a realization that I’m not perfect and THAT IS OK. I found I could stop trying so darn hard at making everyone happy because I’m not responsible for their happiness.
I found peace.
During all the questioning and searching and crying and pleading, I found a relationship with God that is now unmovable.
I believe in God. I believe in Buddha and Jesus. I believe in the power of our minds and thoughts. I believe in the power of the Universe. I believe that power also resides in me, and you, and every one of us. I believe we are all meant to live incredible and abundant lives.
I believe in ME.
I believe in YOU.
I believe in LOVE.
While I still like the idea of church, I personally could no longer find my personal passion and peace and God in a religious building. I love that people can and I completely understand when they do, but I had to accept it’s just not for me.
Instead, I created my own church.
At the ocean. On a hike. In music. In the emails I receive from clients thanking me. In journaling. Reading. Writing. Meditating. Praying. Listening. In my daughter’s laugh and my husband’s hugs.
And on my mat.
My mat is a sacred space for me. It’s one of the places I connect most deeply to the God I love. I have shed tears of joy and pain there. I have felt my baby kick inside of me there. I have let go of fear and guilt and anger there. I have felt the hands of my friends, protecting and loving me. I have heard inner whispers of guidance that I wouldn’t have heard in the outside, busy world.
I have connected with God.
This is just my story. You may have a different place you connect to the energy of the world, and you may have very different beliefs than me. That is ok. The universe and the power available to us is bigger than our differences.
Love is bigger.
Decide for yourself what brings you closer to that power and love and do it. Like my client, maybe that means not doing Pilates, and that’s great. Maybe it means doing it more, and that’s great. Maybe it means putting on Saturday Night Live and sitting on the couch with your spouse and a glass of wine because you need to connect and laugh tonight.
That’s great, too.
Wherever you are in your journey, please know you are enough. There is love for all of us.
I’m sending mine out to you today. If you’ve read through all of this you deserve a gold star :). Thanks for being here and listening.