Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

Unsettled Opportunities

Have you ever held up a deck of playing cards and asked a friend to identify the cards as you quickly held them up one at a time?  Doesn’t seem that hard, does it?  Try it, not with a regular deck, but a doctored deck, where the normally red hearts are black, and the black diamonds are red.  Every time I try it, I tell myself that I know the deck is doctored – of course I can correctly identify what I see!  And every time I try it, I am humbled, because no matter what I tell myself, my brain sees the hearts as red, and the diamonds as black. 

Our brains have an amazing ability to “correct” or “fill in” what is missing or wrong when we see something quickly.  Our brain searches through it’s memory banks to find the deck of cards, and even though in real life the colors are reversed, our brain knows hearts are red and diamonds are black, so it “corrects” what our eyes see to conform to what our brain knows, from experience, to be true.

What does this have to do with the spiritual life?  Well, we all have an internal system that helps us make sense of the world – it fills in the “blanks,” the things we miss, the things that don’t immediately make sense, and makes sense of them.  I know mine is at work when a friend says something, I don’t immediately catch what they say, so I ask them to repeat it, but by the time they repeat it, my brain has made sense of the gibberish I heard and sure enough – they said what my brain had already figured out.  Most of the time.

Every once in a while, something comes along that my brain can’t make sense of – something is out of place.  Dr. Esther Sternberg, in her book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, says that

When we look at a scene, we not only hunt for such object clues but we also search for narrative, for a story that connects the objects together.  If there is something in the scene that doesn’t fit, the scene will feel unsettling or magical.

Often those things in the scene that don’t fit are doorways into our inner spirituality – pieces of our soul rising up asking for attention, such as in dreams.  Sometimes, I suppose, a dream is just a dream, whatever that means, but more often than not, our inner wisdom speaks to us through our dreams and tries to get our attention, granted, often in rather creative ways.  Think about your last dream – was there something in the dream that surprised you, or seemed out of place, or did not fit with the flow of the narrative?  Perhaps that “something” would be worth reflecting on.

Or perhaps there is something in your life that doesn’t fit, that you find unsettling, or that doesn’t make sense within your belief system.  Perhaps it is something you have seen or experienced that challenges what you have always believed to be right, or wrong.  Perhaps you witnessed or experienced something that challenges a too-narrow or too-wide definition of love or justice.  Whatever it is – if it doesn’t easily fit within your belief system, or your beliefs can’t easily make sense of it, if it unsettles you, maybe that is something to be looked at, and wrestled with.

So, when were you last unsettled?  Perhaps it is an invitation to explore.

May you much peace, much unsettledness, and much growth.

Sue Coller

~Rooted in God
~Open to Grace
~Filled with Joy
~Embracing the Heart of the Healer

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