I loved when you used to read to us as children: exhilarating tales of a magical wardrobe and a fiercely gentle lion, of the ring of power and a journey of two friends through seemingly-insurmountable odds. These fantastical stories invited me into a world of imagination and adventure, and I clung to every word, on every page and in each stage of the journey. I felt curiosity in discovering the problem of the inciting incident. Trepidation in the starting out – as the heroes would take those first steps into the unknown. Fear in the rising action, battling the forces of evil and fighting for the cause of righteousness. Anxiousness in the perils and setbacks, the twists and turns, and the dramatic climax. And finally, the overwhelming relief and joy in the resolution of the story, where goodness was restored and justice prevailed. I was somehow not just a listener – but a part of the story, participating in every step of the adventure and feeling the ups and downs in the journeys of my favorite characters.
Once upon a time, you told me another story. This was a tale of your own faith journey and how at one point, you took a turn away from the narrow path you had originally set out on. You told me that through a dark season of questioning, you solidified your beliefs and were then able to come back to your faith foundation with more resilience and strength to fight against your doubts. It was as if you had faced a setback, battled the evil forces, gone through a season of wandering, and then you came back to the original path; the right path. You had faced your setback, battled your evil, found your resolution.
I know you are waiting for the same for me.
You are pleading with God for restoration and resolution.
You believe that this season of my life is merely a setback, that I am facing my own perils and fighting evil, but you anticipate and assume that one day I will return to the original path.
You see me as one who has been led astray, and you are waiting for your prodigal daughter to return.
It is true that my journey has led me into a wild and untamed wilderness of faith and spirituality. I, too, initially took this turn off the road with the mindset that this was merely a minor mishap – a short detour that would allow me to come back to the original direction with greater strength and dedication to my life’s path. But in an unexpected departure from the story structure of the tales of my youth, this journey does not end in a return and a resolution – at least, not in the way you are expecting.
Because once I entered the wilderness, I discovered that this was not a detour, but a completely new path for my life. What I found out in the wilderness was not goblins or evil forces that I needed to battle. Instead, what I found was incredible beauty and new worlds revealed. I have found a community; my people are here in the wild. I am experiencing peace and freedom, for the first time in over 30 years.
I never would have dreamed that I would be here, writing this to you. I never could have imagined this deviation from my original trajectory. It was scary at first, but I’ve determined that this is the most amazing and beautiful chapter in my life thus far. I invite you to see this chapter of my life through my lens, through my experience, through my words and my expression. But in order to do so, I’m afraid you will need to let go of your hopes and your expectations of how my story will end. I invite you to seek the beauty, the love, and the goodness that is right here, right now, in the midst of my journey. I ask you to wonder what it might look like for you to acknowledge that this is not a diversion from the right path, but instead, to accept that this is the right path for my life.
I am not lost. I am not alone. I am not in the midst of a battle with evil, at least not in the way you may be imagining. I am making my home in the wilderness. It is beautiful. It is life-giving. And it is good.
I know this is a scary outcome for you to accept.
I understand that you will probably never cease in praying that I will return to the path I had originally started on.
But I have found a new path.
And so, my dear father, let me be clear: I am not coming back.
The path I am forging for myself does not include a return to the faith of my childhood.
I love you so much…
But I am not your prodigal daughter.