Un-becoming and other dark nights of the soul

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Sometimes in order to become, to move to the next stage, to emerge as what we were truly intended to be, an unraveling, an un-becoming, a dark night of the soul perhaps is needed for growth to occur.

I recently saw a statistic that millenials are the first generation who don’t count themselves majority Christian in America. That’s right, the number has fallen to 49% of that generation identifying as “Christian” when asked. A few folks online posted this statistic with mournful comments, but a few different things immediately popped into my head upon seeing this.

The first is, why do some who call themselves Christians like to set up an “us vs. the world” persecution complex when Christians have literally had the majority in this country for, well, all the way since colonization. And no, I don’t need you to remind me that some of those same Christians don’t count Roman Catholics, or Orthodox, or heck, even us radical Episcopalians as “true Christians” but when more than half the population technically shares the same label, then it’s hard to say that this so-called persecution is a thing.

The second thing that popped into my head was just “good.” Good, let it unravel. Good, let the un-becoming commence. We may have to collectively experience a dark night of the soul to get to the next stage of our life together in community, but that’s okay, that can be a good thing.

Perhaps the caterpillar to butterfly analogy is way over done, but it still holds here. A caterpillar has to become literal mush, liquifying itself on the way to becoming a butterfly. And if one doesn’t trust the process, I can see how that would be terrifying, but I believe that a period of everything slowly becoming mush is just what’s called for right about now.

Why can I say this? Well, let’s just say, I’ve been doing this on a personal level for a while now, this dark night of the soul, this un-becoming, this questioning, and I don’t see wings yet, but I’m starting to get the sense that there’s a whole new way of being waiting on the other side of this cocoon.

Optimistic? Only because I’ve started to see the daylight after much darkness, and I’m not being unsympathetic to anyone’s personal or collective dark nights. They are painful, and messy, and absolutely no fun. But I’ve yet to find an alternative to working through them. What I’ve gotten out of them so far was a sense that God wasn’t letting go of me, no matter how angry I was at God, or the church, or my fellow humans who call themselves Christians. Sometimes that was the only thing I felt like I knew, except for the emerging realization that God can handle our questions, our anger, our doubt, and everything else. It’s generally other people that get uncomfortable when we express these types of sentiments.

But we need to get more comfortable with holding space for our own doubt as well as the doubt of those around us. A belief that cannot be questioned is not a belief worth holding, and from what I’ve seen the questions lead to growth.

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