It is very difficult to describe the changes that have happened in me over the last few years. It is definitely a story for more than one blog post. (That’s why I’m writing a book.) But I do want to bring you along on part of that journey. My worldview is both dramatically different and very much the same. Another way to say that is that I feel much more true to what has always been in my heart, but the container that fits in has changed. I believe in the power of Trivial Circumstances now more than ever, but I have a much more nuanced perspective on why they matter.
While so much of my faith that was formed within the Christian paradigm still holds true, the paradigm itself broke every time I tried to use it to convey that truth to you. That’s why my blogging has been so erratic–it has been hard to find my voice when I’m using words that don’t quite fit. Enough of that. I still see the same truth I’ve been writing about for the last few years, but I am no longer believe it is specifically Christian.
That’s a warning and a promise. A warning to those who may not like my new direction: I’m not here to debate with you, I’m just speaking my truth. I’m being up front about my new direction. If it’s not for you, feel free to unsubscribe. A promise for the rest of you: I will not compromise what I have to say to make it fit into a paradigm that no longer serves me.
Here’s a story to illustrate some aspects of my journey. Thanks for reading.
Every Moment Has Meaning: A Love Story
For most of my years on this earth so far, I thought that meaning came from outside of me. Outside of my experience, outside of the world I could observe with my senses. Meaning was transcendant. Meaning was not something we could find in the here and now. Meaning was something being written into my life by Someone else. I might someday be blessed with insight into the Divine plan, once I had let go of it all and passed into eternity. Heaven would be eternally perfected hindsight.
Meaning came from fitting into that Great Story. The more you fit in, the more meaning there was in your life story. Prophets and patriarchs—people God made part of the Great Story to pave the way to redemption—talked and wrestled with angels. They were given insight into their place in the Story so that the Story would work in their lives unhindered by their faults and foibles. The Great Story was a golden thread of meaning weaved through their lives, making the tapestry of their faults and humanness a parable to teach us all. We picked their life stories apart, thread by thread, until there was nothing left to see but that Golden Thread.
I had embraced this. I, too, looked forward to looking back on my life with untainted eyes to see the Golden Thread of meaning. I, too, found the shadow patterns of Meaning by shaping my life after the Great People of Faith, learning lessons from their stories, striving to do better myself, always by Grace.
My search for the meaning of the Great Story for myself took my soul on a quest far outside of my life, to long-ago desert wanderings, and to an unknowable future eternal future. My soul roamed the mountaintops of meaning outside of my lived experience while my heart beat quietly and alone in my body. My heart was, after all, desperately wicked and full of deceit. Not a good traveling companion as my soul searched the heights and depths for meaning.
My heart —unfed, uncared for, unloved—withered inside me until I couldn’t help but do something. My soul was far away but knew it could not live without my heart. It returned. My soul sat next to my heart’s sickbed and heard its longings. It told my heart parts of the Great Story. My heart told my soul of its deepest longings, for love, for everyday joy. My soul thought that, when my heart healed, it would be ready for more important and fulfilling things. But in the meantime, it sat by and listened patiently.
But then my heart’s longings began to show in the world around us. The most trivial longings manifested in the actual physical world. My heart leapt with longing for red boots, and the one pair in the store in my size turned from black to red. I began to write about my heart’s longings, about the things my heart had learned from whales in unusual places, and whales immediately reappeared in those unusual places like they’d been called or conjured.
My soul was shocked, then delighted. What if the miracles of meaning that it knew from the Great Story were available to everyone? What if the meaning it had roamed far and wide to seek was right here all along. What if my life was a parable, too? Just like Abraham and Moses and Mary. What if the Great Story was written just as meaningfully on all of our lives? I put off my return to my wandering search and began to mine the meaning of my own life for glimmers of the Great Story, when eternal light shone through the fabric of my life in little glimmering stars, constellations of meaning for my place in the eternal plan. I started this blog and named it for those Trivial Circumstances. I emblazoned the blog with a quote from C.S. Lewis, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some to see.”
Every moment has meaning.
There was meaning and there was love that my soul hadn’t found in its ramblings. My heart lept at these moments and my soul reveled in the meaning of them. Together, they followed those moments where they seemed to lead, expecting the Great Story around every turn, behind each tree. Except the Great Story never appeared. Divine Plan never materialized. The moments were simply what they were—moments that made my heart warm and my soul tremble with resonance with the world around it.
Had my heart led me astray? No…by this point, my soul trusted my heart with the trust of a close companion. The trust was just there, a fact, not an aspiration. My soul was more joyful than it had been in years. My heart… well, it realized it hadn’t been lonely for a romantic partner, it had been lonely for my soul. My heart blossemed, my soul rested, and they began to heal each other.
Hand in hand, they began to enjoy those moments of meaning in their own right. They didn’t have to show a path to glimmer and shine—jewel moments in the hours of my day. My heart noticed they came more often when it was open to joy instead of remembering its lonely days. My soul observed that gratitude for the actual things—the deep velvet blue of the nightfall, the giddiness of my dog over some silly thing, a lover’s breath—was so much simpler and more natural than gratitude for the lesson of the Great Story in them.
Every moment did have meaning, but the meaning I’d found wasn’t connecting me to Transcendance or eternity. It was connecting my heart to my soul. It was connecting me to my life, here and now. It wasn’t making me more other-worldly, it was simply making more more awake.
My life matters because all life matters. Full stop. I no longer feel compelled to match my life to some cosmic pattern or some Great Story for it to have transcendant meaning.
Every moment has meaning because every moment has an opportunity to love, to connect my heart and soul to the breath-taking and breath-giving splendor of every minute detail. My desires matter because all matter desires, because hope and life and meaning are all the same. My gratitude warms to the natural beauty of the world around me. Vulnerable beauty, yes, but no more dangerous to my soul than my heart is. And certainly not tainted.
And so it was that my heart helped my soul let go of its quest for religious validation and meaning. And so it was that my soul helped heal my heart with its presence. And what about the meaning I might find in eternity? I honestly don’t know, but I also don’t wait in expectation. If there is more meaning beyond, I will be much better equipped to find it there if I spend the rest of my time uncovering it in the life and love that are right in front of me.