This week, I’ve been busy working on my forthcoming book, Your Turn: Ways to Celebrate Life through Storytelling, and the topic of the chapter is spirituality. Contemplating this subject can feel uncomfortable, given that each of us comes to understand and define spirituality in our own way.
So, I’ll share my own perspective based on a lifetime trying to understand the “still, small voice” that helps guide my behavior. For me, spirituality manifests when I become aware of that inner voice, tugging at my heart in circumstances in which I face a moral choice. The minute I feel myself even contemplating going down a wrong path, I feel physically anxious or even get a lump in my throat at the prospect of taking actions that might be hurtful to another.
I believe this is my spirituality helping to guide my soul along life’s convoluted path. This internal voice instills a sense of serenity, peace and courage in me, helping me navigate like a compass. It has taught me to take on life’s challenges head on. And, I’ve also learned that, in circumstances where I find I cannot change something about another person or myself, I must accept things as they are. They just are.
In the case of such a controversial topic as spirituality, we first look back to our experience with religion; the dos and don’ts and the church rituals that were often so imbedded in our childhood years.
My family was Southern Baptist and we attended the First Baptist Church in our hometown. My mother taught Sunday school classes, making sure we attended them, as well as church on Sunday mornings and Training Union on Sunday night. My favorite Sundays were when I talked Mother into letting me stay home with Daddy on days he needed to rest. He had heart disease and often needed a reprieve.
Some of my favorite summertime memories are of attending Vacation Bible School and Training Union. In Training Union, we’d play games to learn the bible verses. My competitive nature shone through and I’d always learn the verses, so I would win the games. Memorizing the verses and reciting them was where I first learned to speak with confidence in front of a group.
One of my favorite biblical passages from that era was the tale of Moses. I loved the drama of the Pharaoh’s daughter discovering him floating as a baby in a basket hidden among the bulrushes and then choosing to adopt him as her own. Moses’ older sister, Miriam, observed the encounter and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby, which turned out to be his own mother. It was all part of an elaborate and clever ruse on the part of his parents to save his life following an edict from Pharaoh ordering the killing of all newborn male Hebrew children.
Many years later, Moses went on to deliver the Israelites out of bondage into the promised land.
When I was an unwed teenage mother, I also made the decision to give up my baby to another family. I chose not to see or hold my daughter after the birth because I was afraid I would change my mind and it would be too hard to give her up. Over my life, I mourned her loss and felt guilty that I’d abandoned her, but I found solace in the story of Moses and how his family had given him up to save his life. I prayed to God that, like Moses, my baby girl would be loved and special. I still think of her and am comforted that I did the right thing for her and for me.
Over the years, I’ve lived in many different communities, meeting and working with people of diverse faiths and religious traditions. What has always amazed me is at the core, most of us tend to share very similar beliefs. To me, storytelling is at the heart of all religions and it is what bonds us together, through a shared humanity. Storytelling reminds us of our common struggles, fears and aspirations, and connects us through our mutual experiences.
Throughout my life, I’ve always encouraged others to share their stories and, especially, to write them, as a means for healing. Writing has been one of the ways that I’ve been able to strengthen my connection with myself and with others.
What religion do you practice? What are your beliefs about spirituality? I’d love to hear more about the stories of your traditions or spiritual beliefs that resonate with you.
© Tyra Manning 2018