Religion And Spiritualism: Learning To Surrender

Religion And Spiritualism: Learning To Surrender

I don't believe the world and its circumstances make much sense, even when they seem to. Some things are unexplainable, and my conversion to Christianity was in part a means of being at peace with those unexplainable things.

As a new member of the Christian faith, there are certain values related to its spirituality that I loved and would have preached to myself even if I was atheist. I value logical explanations to worldly phenomena much less than I used to, because I do not believe everything can be explained logically. Many things in life don't make sense; that's just the way it is. I still believe in evolution. I still have questions over many of the events in Genesis and whether they happened.

However, those questions are not that important to me, and have taken a backburner to the values that have become especially important to me. Vulnerability, grace, hope, love, peace, and justice are among those values, which I have written extensively about in many articles.

But one part of the Christian faith, and many religious faiths that has been on my mind lately is surrendering. A fundamental part of religion and spirituality is that you are not in control of your life; a higher power is in control. You don't have all the answers, and maybe you never will. In spiritualism and faith, you find love, freedom, and happiness not through trying to control everything. You find those things by surrendering.

I initially intended to write this article about the role of spiritualism and religion in recovery. Whether it is from a trauma, addiction, or tragedy, spiritual faith seems to play a role when circumstances make absolutely no sense, in times when the world seems so evil that a loving God does not to exist.

In writing this article, I think no further than Alissa Parker, the mother of Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old victim in the Sandy Hook Massacre. She wrote a book title An Unseen Angel, a story of her faith-filled, spiritual path to coping and healing from the death of Emilie. The book is not about the event and massacre in itself. "I prefer not to look at it that way. Although it contains tragedy, my story is ultimately not tragic...It is a story of how God's love and protection surrounded me during my darkest hour." Alissa Parker goes on to note that her daughter's life was not one of joy, and her hope in sharing her story of faith and spiritualism following her daughter's death is so "others who find themselves in dark places can discover the unseen angels in their lives helping them turn to the light."

I'm reminded of Dr. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who wrote Man's Search For Meaning. In one part of his famous book, Frankl explores the question of transcendent experiences amidst extreme suffering, and uses an anecdote from his own time in a concentration camp, wondering whether his wife was still alive. In this moment, he saw what he describes as a truth known to many poets, and a "final wisdom." That truth was that "love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire." In the moment, Frankl has a conversation with an image of his beloved wife: "I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered."

Although he still had a conversation with the image of his wife, he still didn't know whether she was alive. What he did know, in that moment, was that "love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved." It isn't important whether the physical person is actually present; the spiritual being of the person, their inner self, is much more important. "I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out...but at that moment it ceased to matter."

Later, Frankl argues that despite circumstance, people can be free in spirit, that we are not wholly defined by our environments and circumstances. "Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress." He references men in the concentration camps who comforted others and gave away the last of their bread, even when they were about to die. Even though circumstances such as extreme sleep deprivation and extreme hunger and thirst afflicted many prisoners, in the final analysis "the prisoner was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone." Spiritually and mentally, we are free. We always have choices, and in the words of Frankl, reminded by the martyrs in the camps, "the last inner freedom cannot be lost... the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom - which cannot be taken away - that makes life meaningful and purposeful."

By surrendering to spiritual higher powers, it's clear, to Frankl, that the way we handle our sufferings, the way in which we "take up our cross," are the ways we add deep meaning to our lives. And these situations and martyrs of very high moral character are not found in only concentration camps; "everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering." Frankl once knew a boy in a hospital who had an incurable illness. He would not live very long. He wrote to Frankl of a film he'd seen in which a man waited for death in a courageous and dignified way, and this was the boy's chance, too, to confront death in a similar matter. "Now...fate was offering him a similar chance."

What strikes out to me in the stories of Alissa Parker, Victor Frankl, and the boy in the hospital is this indescribably deep joy, much more so than I have achieved. Paradoxically, they seem to have so much control over their freedom, despite having surrendered to their spiritual lives. There are many ways to find joy after and even amidst tragedy, and religion and spiritualism are not the only ones. Many people find joy through political action and making sure actions so horrific can never happen again.

But I don't believe the world and its circumstances make much sense, even when they seem to. Some things are unexplainable, and my conversion to Christianity was in part a means of being at peace with those unexplainable things. So many parts in the Bible don't make much logical sense, and yet I, too, want to surrender to God. There's a lot going on in my life, a whole lot of pain, that I, one day, want to be worthy of having suffered.

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11 Things Psychology Majors Hear That Drive Them Crazy

No pun intended.

We've all been there. You're talking to a new acquaintance, or a friend of your parents, or whoever. And then, you get the dreaded question.

"So what are you studying in school?"

Cue the instant regret of picking Psychology as your major, solely for the fact that you are 99.9% likely to receive one of the slightly comical, slightly cliche, slightly annoying phrases listed below. Don't worry though, I've included some responses for you to use next time this comes up in conversation. Because it will.

Quick side note, these are all real-life remarks that I've gotten when I told people I was a psych major.

Here we go.

1. So are you, like, analyzing me right now?

Well, I wasn't. But yeah. Now I am.

2. Ugh so jealous! You picked the easy major.

"Lol" is all I have to say to this one. I'm gonna go write my 15-page paper on cognitive impairment. You have fun with your five college algebra problems, though!

3. So can you tell me what you think is wrong with me? *Shares entire life story*

Don't get me wrong; I love listening and helping people get through hard times. But we can save the story about how one time that one friend said that one slightly rude comment to you for later.

4. Well, s**t, I have to be careful what I say around you.

Relax, pal. I couldn't diagnose and/or institutionalize you even if I wanted to.

5. OMG! I have the perfect first client for you! *Proceeds to vent about ex-boyfriend or girlfriend*

Possible good response: simply nod your head the entire time, while actually secretly thinking about the Ben and Jerry's carton you're going to go home and demolish after this conversation ends.

6. So you must kind of be like, secretly insane or something to be into Psychology.

Option one: try and hide that you're offended. Option two: just go with it, throw a full-blown tantrum, and scare off this individual, thereby ending this painful conversation.

7. Oh. So you want to be a shrink?

First off, please. Stop. Calling. Therapists. Shrinks. Second, that's not a psych major's one and only job option.

8. You know you have to go to grad school if you ever want a job in Psychology.

Not completely true, for the record. But I am fully aware that I may have to spend up to seven more years of my life in school. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

9. So you... want to work with like... psychopaths?

Let's get serious and completely not-sarcastic for a second. First off, I take personal offense to this one. Having a mental illness does not classify you as a psycho, or not normal, or not deserving of being treated just like anyone else on the planet. Please stop using a handful of umbrella terms to label millions of wonderful individuals. It's not cool and not appreciated.

10. So can you, like, read my mind?

It actually might be fun to say yes to this one. Try it out and see what happens. Get back to me.

11. You must be a really emotional person to want to work in Psychology.

Psychology is more than about feeling happy, or sad, or angry. Psychology is about understanding the most complex thing to ever happen to us: our brain. How it works the way it does, why it works the way it does, and how we can better understand and communicate with this incredibly mysterious, incredibly vast organ in our tiny little skull. That's what psychology is.

So keep your head up, psychology majors, and don't let anyone discourage you about choosing, what is in my opinion, the coolest career field out there. The world needs more people like us.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Why Hannah B. Was An AWFUL Choice To Be The Next Bachelorette

Let's face the facts, shall we?


Out of all 30 women, they decided to pick Hannah B. Why?

1. There are no reasons. She is an amazing choice!

Hannah (Beast) Brown first stole the hearts of bachelor nation with her awkward, yet sweet first one-on-one date with Colton Underwood. From that moment on, I was hooked. The reason why is because she was REAL. She showed that she was a real person. You would think that since she came from the pageant world, she would be well-trained in talking points, but she opened up to Colton how that world actually ruined her self esteem.

We need a bachelorette who is real and has awkward moments from time to time because guess what, that is NORMAL.

So here is to Hannah and her journey to find her true love!

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