In almost 18 years of my childhood religion, I never hear the phrase Spiritual Awakening.  I suppose that’s because my church believed I had been born into the true faith, so I didn’t need to be awakened.  That’s unfortunate … although some seem to be comfortable believing what they were taught for life, some of us crave a Spiritual Awakening of our own.  I suppose it’s the nature of many religions that they’d rather risk no Spiritual Awakening than one that leads to something else.

I first heard the phrase when, after 30 years of searching in vain for something to cling to, events in my life led me to begin working the 12 Steps.  At the bottom of the page … Step 12 …were the words, Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.  I hadn’t a clue what a Spiritual Awakening looked like but I was desperate, so I did as my sponsor suggested and began with Step 1.  If I Google Spiritual Awakening, I find definitions (a realization or opening to a sacred dimension of reality) and descriptions from every spiritual and religious perspective, including this one offering 51 symptoms of a Spiritual Awakening.  I suppose that people who find Jesus or are Born Again see that as a spiritual awakening.   In my entire life, I’ve never had a spiritual this-is-it moment, so I don’t know what that would feel like.  In the Big Book of AA, Bill W., one of the founders, stated that his Spiritual Awakening was a blinding light alongside an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace that he experienced while in rehab.  I’ve had the impression that Bill W. was a grandiose man so maybe that’s why he had a grandiose Spiritual Awakening.  In 19 years of meetings, I’ve probably heard people share on Spiritual Awakening hundreds of times.  I came to the conclusion that most people have enough trouble describing their own awakenings … they’re unlikely to tell me what mine would be like.  I just hoped I’d know it when I saw it.

I’ve always been protective … in fact, defensive … of my faith.  It seemed fragile, tempered as it was by doubts and as vague as my beliefs were in comparison to those of others.   When people talked to me about their own beliefs, I heard criticism whether they intended it or not.  As so often happens, the next spiritual step required a spiritual crisis.  The details are personal but the essence is that several friends did question my faith and told me I needed more.  For weeks I was angry.  I didn’t share at meetings.  Then, almost without noticing, I found myself at peace.  I still can’t articulate exactly what I believe beyond this: I believe in a God that guides our lives in mysterious ways.  But I believe it with no doubts and I’m no longer defensive.  There was no blinding light, burning bush or sudden revelation.   It was an awakening like opening my eyes on a sunny Sunday morning when there’s nothing that has to be done.  The sky is blue in our bedroom window and all is well.  More may be revealed for me spiritually but whether or not that happens, It’s good.

Zen masters say that enlightenment requires Great Doubt, Great Effort, Great Faith.   I would add Great Patience.

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12 Comments on “Awakening”

  1. Love what you had to say… I think we “awaken” often, to new ways of thinking, feeling, loving and believing. You’re right… It’s Good! 🙂

  2. Cheryl P. Says:

    While I always enjoy your posts, even on those that I don’t have additional comments for, I esp. like your posts related to your faith and those devoted to your love of Muri.

    I, too, hold my faith close to my chest. “Faith” is a wavering entity with me. As a kid I was bounced around from family to family and was inducted (or they at least tried) to teach me whatever the religion of the household was….Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ…among the many. At one point the Roman Catholic church took pity on me and gave me a place to live on the church grounds. I found great peace in the structure and rituals of that religion. The Southern Baptist had me fairly convinced there is no way to grace as I haven’t felt the actual enlightening event that leads to being born again. Or perhaps, I had it and didn’t recognize it for what is was.

    Today, I am leaving for a 7 hour drive to the funeral of my Grandmother. At 100 she was resolute in her faith. I hope by the time I get to 100 (if that is even in the cards), I can say the same. In the mean time, I continue to search for my way to grace.

  3. My Merlin in the novel I am writing through my older eyes is an atheist who has rejected by his father’s Jewish faith and his mother’s pagan ways. He comes by the end of the novel to an agnostic position of there are things that we cannot explain but can only wonder at. Reading your post helped me deepen my thoughts about him.

    If at all interested I have started a blog called Merlin and Me and you can read a bit more about my Merlin there. Here is my most recent post, but I am also giving readers some pages every day as a marketing effort.

    Hope your grandmother was happy in her faith. My mother in law is 105, resolute in her faith but a miserable person. Sad.

    Stay strong, I am doing my best.

  4. Absolutely beautiful post, Bud. I have been one of little faith for many years – although now that I am getting older that seems to be changing a lot.

  5. I don’t know if an awakening happens all at once. For some, I suppose it does, but for me it seems I’ve been awakening to things in a process that has taken years and will likely continue. Now, I suppose the term “awaken” is debatable, since I won’t know whether I’m “right” until my dying day. But the continual dawning of understanding, the continual realization of what brings my soul peace and sits well with me, has been a fascinating journey that has not required me to sacrifice anything I felt sorry to give up. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    • oldereyes Says:

      I think what happened with me is that I reached a point where I was comfortable being right about very small spiritual aspects instead of some complete picture. I seem to be able to manage that.

  6. Having been baptized, confirmed and for the 50 plus years since my confirmation, a member of a Lutheran church, my son and I have had numerous discussions about faith and churches/religion, etc. I did go through a very brief period -reiterating here, VERY Brief -of considerating converting to Roman Catholic but aside from that, I’d stayed with the Lutherans. My son -not so much -as he sees no need for “organized religion” and I find my church as comforting -a solace often which gives me the feeling of having put on a warm, cozy shawl when my mind, heart, life in general, get a chill to it. I’ve also been a very strong advocate of the 12-Step Program via Al-Anon for almost 36 years now and that program plus my religious beliefs via my church -the combination of the two -have been what has kept me afloat. They both provide me a sense of being at peace within myself most of the time and a haven for when I falter now and then or sometimes even frequently!`

  7. territerri Says:

    So often you seem to touch on things that my brain is trying to process. This is one of them. I’ve been struggling with my faith for several years, and mainly, I think, because I was raised not to question it. And as an adult, I think I should have the right to question it and even find other things and other ways to believe. But in my family, that is bad.

    Last week I had a conversation with a coworker who I very much respect. He is very educated and holds a degree in theology. During our conversation, he revealed that while he studied theology, he found himself on the road to disbelief and is now an atheist. I don’t know why, but that shook me up some and I found myself wondering if he was right.

    Years ago, I sponsored a friend in our church’s RCIA program. I attended classes with her and studied for months. On the night of her Confirmation, I fully expected to experience some sort of transformation or awakening. I wanted to feel the Holy Spirit, tangibly and profoundly. But I didn’t. Life went back to normal afterwards and I was extraordinarily disappointed. I thought about all of this as I contemplated my coworker’s beliefs. I felt bad about having doubts.

    Reading about your experience reassures me. It’s not the same for everyone. We’re not all going to be “born again.” But we can find ways to see God in our lives. I had an experience this week that I think was meant to simply reassure me. That helped. Your post helped more. Thank you.

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