Dear Dr. Norquist:
I guess I’m having what some might call a crisis of faith. I’ve never been super religious, but my parents always brought us to church when I was growing up, and I just accepted whatever I was taught there as the truth.
Now I have my own daughter (she’s 4 years old), and I don’t know what to do. I’d like to raise her with Sunday visits to the church. My daughter would probably enjoy playing with the other kids in Sunday school, and my husband would go along (sometimes anyway), but I’m no longer sure that I can believe everything the church teaches.
I don’t know why I’m writing to you about it, but I’ve read your column for a while now, and I trust your opinion, and I know you sometimes write about spiritual stuff. In the past, I would have just gone to church (mostly for my daughter) and not thought much about whether I believed all of it or not. For some reason I feel differently now.
Dr. Norquist responds:
A spiritual crisis is often a manifestation of an inner drive towards growth. Your physical body is not the only part of you that has growth spurts! Our spiritual life also has developmental stages. It looks like your sense of responsibility as the mothering one for your daughter has pushed you to a new level of awareness with regard to your own spiritual needs. It is no longer OK for you to just simply agree with what the church says is the truth. You can no longer just play the part of following church protocol. You are feeling a need for your actions to be congruent with your beliefs. This leads you quite naturally to question what you believe, what you experience as true, and what you can base your faith upon.
In a sense, you are on the threshold of embarking on a spiritual quest. As you probably know, this is a quest that you must engage in for yourself. Although the progress you make is based on your own efforts, you will always have allies, or guidance available. Allies come in the form of teachers (others who have traversed the path – some of the church and some not), wisdom in written form, inner knowing, and unexpected experiences or dawning’s in awareness. Just ask for guidance, and keep an open mind. Always test any new knowledge with your inner sense of what rings true for you.
Trust that life itself will take you to the next phase of your journey if you but listen for the sign posts. Just as with our physical growth, our spiritual growth is not haphazard. It is a process. Be patient and accepting of this cycle of “not-knowing”. Enjoy the quest!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2018 Chaitanya Counseling Services