A Spiritual Stretch – Beyond the Backyard
When I was a young child growing up with my two brothers in Colorado, my parents set many boundaries to keep us safe. One such boundary was that when we were little, we were to play in our own backyard. I am sure they had removed everything obviously dangerous from the yard and they had it fenced to keep us from wandering beyond this haven of safety. I can remember being very content playing on the 1960’s metal swing set, digging in the sandbox and jumping on an old tractor inner tube that my father brought home for us. We were safe, as safe as could be.
However, I wasn’t too old before I wanted to go play at my friend’s house, or roller skate around the block, or ride my bicycle down the sidewalk. There was a whole world out there to explore! So, my parents renegotiated the boundary over and over throughout my growing up years. Pretty soon, I could go down the street on my bike, walk to school by myself, and play in a vacant lot nearby. One of my childhood friends and I recently reminisced about traipsing around the entire downtown area of our small town all by ourselves – sitting on all of the sofas at a furniture store and riding the only elevator in town up and down repeatedly. It was a gradual process, but eventually, I was physically free of the backyard. I could roam and explore.
Like most parents, mine never gave me permission to leave our own SPIRITUAL backyard. They truly believed that I was safer to stay inside the religion that they introduced to me, and expected me to stay within the spiritual boundaries they had selected. They may have encouraged me to be brave and meet my friend down the street for a walk, but they never encouraged me to explore other churches or religions to see if something different might fit me better. Of upmost concern was my salvation, and they believed that our fundamental religion was the only ticket to the heaven of their belief. I think my experience in this aspect of growing up was typical.
Several years ago, I was working with a coaching client who was intensely attracted to a meditation center she drove by on her normal commute. She would slow down and read the signs on the building. She felt very drawn by the possibilities within those walls, however she never stopped. When we discussed her background, she explained her religious upbringing, but said that years ago she stopped attending any church. She said that she missed a relationship with God, but couldn’t bear the thought of going to church and shared about the meditation center of her longings. When I encouraged her to try it, she balked. “My father would never understand or approve!” she explained. She was trapped in her own spiritual backyard.
Over several sessions, we explored the reality that her father loved her deeply and only wanted the best for her. His religion served him well, so he had shared it with her out of love. He too wanted her to be “saved”, and his religious beliefs provided for that. He had not explored beyond the religion that his parents had given to him, and he expected the same of her. That was just the way this family worked and she felt that he would tolerate her not going to church at all easier than accepting her trying something new. Other religions were portrayed as scary or sinful, so she was terrified to explore.
One aspect of fully growing up is discovering and choosing your own spiritual path, your own relationship with a Higher Power or God. You may return to your own backyard and find that it is perfectly beautiful and sustaining, or you may look back on it with fondness and find that there is an entire world out there to explore spiritually. You may decide that the prayers that you recited as a child still serve your needs as an adult, or you may find other words to express your communication with the Divine are more fluid and fitting now.
Stretching and growing is just as vital to thriving in our spiritual being as it is to our physical being. Run and play and explore!
God is everywhere!