In seminary, I took a class called "Spiritual or Religious?" with the ever-fabulous Lisa Kimball. We discussed sociological trends away from organized religion, but also how spirituality and religion is not going away, either. In this class, we talked a lot about what a mature faith looks like in a world increasingly comfortable with no religious affiliation at all.
One of the big take-aways I had from this class was the cyclical role of spiritual crisis for people of faith in and outside of organized religion: faith is tested and honed through life events and questioning. Only by moving through a crisis, by moving through all of the despair and anger and hopelessness can we come to love more deeply, understand more fully, and become adults in our own spirituality. Of course, there's not just one crisis; throughout life a journey of faith is continually a cycle of pain, growth, joy, and lying fallow. Always we begin again, but from a new place.
For the next few weeks (and hopefully longer) the Washington Post will be running a series of columns about this very topic by Laura Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist. Through a series of interviews with people from all over the Washington area and all walks of life, she'll be presenting a series of Studs Terkel-like articles exploring how the secular intersects with the spiritual, how crises large and small shape a life, and how life becomes infused with meaning, religious or otherwise.
Over the last few weeks, it's been my sincere pleasure to talk with Laura about these topics out of the experiences of my own life. I've found her to be a wonderful listener, funny, and very wise about very many things. Above all, I discovered in our conversations that I was learning quite a bit about myself and my own cycles of faith, which has been sheer gift to me. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who found that to be true.
The first article, about the spiritual path of a tailor on U Street, appeared on Saturday. I hope that you'll read this series and make some time to think about the cycles and turning points in your own life. It will be well worth your time.