• Ellen Fiedler


To say that I’m feeling lost is an understatement.

I engage with the topic of religion and spirituality nearly every day, whether it be through my interreligious studies classes, my internship at the Truitt Center, or personal conversations with friends and family. I get paid to talk to people who are convicted in their faiths and plan festivals surrounding holidays for religious traditions that I am both familiar and unfamiliar with. I have the amazing opportunity to be on the planning team for our annual Ripple Interfaith Conference, a weekend which encourages people to make connections with other traditions & worldviews while exploring their own. I’m surrounded by inspiring friends and mentors who speak openly about their thoughts on religion and spirituality, or lack thereof.

Basically, I’m really lucky.

But it’s also disorienting.

Growing up Catholic-Christian, my faith was less of a journey and more of a script to follow. Go to Mass and receive the Eucharist every Sunday, pray every morning and every night, go to Confession every year, get married in the Church, raise my kids in the faith, and go to Heaven after living a full life of following these rules. I threw that script away when I started at Elon, but continued to hold the Catholic Church close to my heart (and the Catholic guilt is still so real). When I first arrived on campus, I knew I wanted faith to be a big part of my life. But the long list of ministries & student organizations that all sounded the same made me feel more confused than convicted. I felt lost.

My big act of rebellion during my freshman year was my decision to be a Protestant. I found a community on campus of folks with a familiar longing for a deep connection with Jesus. Worship night was the highlight of every week, and I drove my roommate mad with the Christian pop songs I listened to constantly. But after a falling out with this community, I was lost once again.

Progressive Christianity was my next adventure, and one that I look back on fondly. It was a magnificent period of questioning everything I had learned about God and Jesus and the Universe and what it meant to be Human. I listened to podcasts, watched YouTube videos, read books- the whole nine yards. I founded a Christian group with one of my dearest friends that focused on inclusivity and allowing students to share their thoughts on faith. It had a good run. But I fell out of love with ministry just as quickly as I fell in, and I had to accept that it wasn’t meant to be. I wandered aimlessly after that, occasionally going to the services and meetings other progressive groups offered, but ultimately got very little out of it. I was...you guessed it! Lost.

Labeling is a funny thing. There isn’t a single human being who practices their faith or spirituality the exact same way as another, yet we lump ourselves into groups. We judge people who aren’t in our group, maybe even hate them, despite the fact that the person standing right next to us in the pew probably has very different thoughts on who God is and why he or she or they put us here. There’s great value in the community that comes with that label, but I’m not sure I can give myself to a community when I don’t even know what I believe.

All of this is to say that I’m still lost. Not just “took a wrong turn” lost, but “not sure I was ever on the path” lost. But, like I said, I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have people in my life who welcome my lost spirit with open arms and don't try to point me towards any specific path, but rather walk with me as I try to find my way.

During these turbulent years of learning and unlearning and learning again, one thing has grounded me. I found the song Saturn by Sleeping at Last a long time ago, but I’ve only recently felt the weight these lyrics carry for me.

You taught me the courage of stars before you left

How light carries on endlessly, even after death

With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite

How rare and beautiful it is to even exist

I couldn’t help but ask

For you to say it all again

I tried to write it down

But I could never find a pen

I’d give anything to hear

You say it one more time

That the universe was made

Just to be seen by my eyes

With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite

How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist

All I can say about this song is that when people used to ask me about my faith, I would quote Bible verses. I would recall stories about Jesus and prayers I used to pray. But now, whenever someone speaks with me about spirituality, the first thing that comes to my mind is this: how rare and beautiful it is to even exist.

That is my gospel. That is my spirituality, my light in the darkness, my way back to the path.

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