The past few years of my life have been an evolution; and like any full on evolution, it has been challenging, mysterious and gradual. Even today, four years in, I’m not one hundred percent sure of how to define who I have evolved into. But I am much surer now, than I was when the process began.
I have been spiritual since I was a little girl. I remember being eight years old, taking a blanket, my favorite stuffed animal and Bible out to the trampoline to study and pray. As I got older, this continued; nearly every Sunday I would lie on our worn in trampoline and write letters to God until I eventually fell asleep under the late September sky. I have been told that in high school I was a goody-goody with a complete obsession with my church and God. Looking back, that was true. But I did not care; I lived it and believed it with ever fiber in me. My junior year of high school I transferred to the small Christian school affiliated with my church. To this day I am still amazed at how that miracle unfolded, I wanted to be a part of the school so badly and when I finally got to go, it was my dream come true. My church infiltrated every aspect of my life—I worked there, went to school there and socialized there. I have never felt so at home; it is a place of excellence; filled with people who love God and others. I’m not just saying that to be nice, I’m saying that because it is true and anyone who is around some of these wonderful people would witness it. I was one of them too—everything seemed to work, I was visibly happy. I had a purpose, a passion and a place to call home.
After graduating from high school I chose to go to a Christian University in Tulsa. At this school I would be able to cheerlead, get the college experience and stay close to the place that was my home. In addition, I would be surrounded by more like minded individuals who loved God in the way I did. That was perfect! But later into my freshman year, everything started to fall apart. On the outside, everything was the same, I was still super involved with church, I was a division one cheerleader and I had made good friends at my new school. But on the inside, I started asking myself questions that I never thought I would have. Questions like, What if I am believing something that isn’t real? Is this even what I believe? Well sure Christianity may be true, but is everyone else REALLY wrong? My beliefs had been my life, so asking these questions felt like losing a limb—my entire world was being changed. I remember the early days of my questioning. I shunned anything that would not affirm my beliefs and desperately looked for comfort in my mentors, explaining my questions and begging for answers. Despite the hours of prayers and words of wisdom I was given nothing would shake the foreign questions I had been asking. For two years, I lived a complete lie—confident-girl-who-loves-God-and-wasn’t-afraid-to-tell-you on the outside and terrified, lost and helplessly confused girl on the inside.
I lived in denial for so long because I knew, if I were to open up about my questions and confusion, my entire world would change. If were to be vocal about the beliefs forming inside of me like, maybe there isn’t a hell or maybe Buddha isn’t such a bad guy after all, I knew my days as a church volunteer were over, my employment would be questioned and I may lose some dear friends.
I was tormented by the double life I was living, one night I was telling kids I undoubtedly knew the way to salvation and the next day I was having an existential crisis wondering if everything I believed was a bunch of crap. Each Sunday, I continued to lie on my trampoline and pray—but prayers that were once filled with gratitude became desperate pleas to God, begging him to make it easy and take my questions away. I just wanted to forget my conflicting views and continue on the familiar path I had followed all my life, the one that worked… the one that was home. Well God did not take them away; if anything the conflict grew stronger. The questions got so loud I couldn’t ignore them, I couldn’t sleep, I felt like a fraud and the genuine joy I always had became just as fake as the rest of my life. Finally, I shared my conflict with my Mom. With tears cascading down my face, I told her, “If I follow this, EVERYTHING will change! My entire life will be different!”
“You’re right, it will”, she replied with empathy—she had once been there.
The following week, financial aid at the University fell through and I knew I was supposed to stop the façade and ask my questions. Not through the filter of Christian literature and well versed teachers, but through all means available. I told myself, “If the truth is true, it will find me wherever I am.” With this in mind, I took one of the most terrifying actions I can remember; I resigned from my volunteer position at the church and left my job. I opened up about my questions to anyone who was relatively close to me, not because I wanted to be controversial, but because I wanted to be real. As I expected, I lost friends. Nothing hurts like hearing through the grapevine that you’ve “really gone off the deep end”. I found that some of the people who I thought were there for me only wanted drama— dressed up as concern. I would hear from my best friends that so and so made a huge production by asking, “So is Katie saved yet or is she like worshiping the devil still?” in front of a groups of mutual friends. Those things hurt, but it was too late to turn back, I had my questions as my constant companion and my defenses as my body guard. During this time, I snapped at innocent people because I was so tired of getting backlash. Someone would genuinely ask how I was doing and I’d snap back with an ‘I’m fine! I don’t need your theology crap, I can do it all by myself’ or I’d lie and say ‘OMG I’m doing so great! Who needs any of that stuff? I’m better without it’.
The truth was, I was not fine, I was desperately searching for my new home; a purpose and passion independent from my former church. For months I zealously researched other religions, other beliefs and cultures. Nothing fit; although I liked the principles of Buddhism and Humanism on paper, none of them caused me to feel connected to something greater than myself—ya, know, to God. So after months of feeling disconnected; I quit looking. I was fed up with God, theology, religious dogma and all it’s nonsense. I thought: people live life without God everyday day, so I can too. This decision led to what I call the “flop years”—two years where I flipped and flopped to whatever I thought could give me purpose and fulfillment. I was too scared to pick up anything like a drug or alcohol addiction, but I was addicted to harmful substances of my own—the need for outside approval, relationships, and fame. I became a chameleon, morphing into whatever I thought the guy of the moment would like. I acted like I had it all together and like no guy could hurt me, but the truth was I was so fragile that every time one of my romantic flings ended, I felt more broken. I found someone else as quickly as possible so I didn’t have to admit how empty I felt. The feeling of emptiness led me to pursue every career I thought would bring me fame and validation. I became the coffee shop guitar girl, the high fashion sales person, and the aspiring entrepreneur. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy these activities, but deep down I knew my motive for doing them was not because I was called to them, but because I felt I needed them to be important. There were moments throughout the flop years when friends would ask me for advice, I would feel such a sense of fulfillment from making them happier and more at peace, but when the thought you should be a counselor crossed my mind I rejected it because I didn’t see how it could make me famous or rich. I was so caught up in filling my emptiness that I was depriving my own soul of what it truly wanted—to communicate, inspire and heal.
During the flop years I became very depressed, although no one ever would have guessed. I put on the same smile I been wearing for years and hid my brokenness with super sized dreams and romantic illusions, but in my heart I was once again, desperate for something more sustaining than designer fashion and empty dreams. After a while of flopping, I started to wonder if I had missed it. I went from being so happy and fulfilled to being miserable and discontented. What if I messed it all up? I wondered, hoping I hadn’t made the biggest mistake of my life. That night, I returned to the weather-beaten trampoline and prayed for the first time in awhile, “God, I messed up, I can’t do this on my own; please help me!”
This is the part of the story where I wish I could say, “As soon as I prayed God sent down answers to my questions, my dream career, a new place to call home and a brand new puppy!” But he didn’t. I went to church that Sunday, and although it was great to see everyone, I knew I had changed and despite my sincerest desires, feeling at home wasn’t something I could force. But my prayer had reignited the spark within me to once again seek God. I continued to pray on the old trampoline, not every Sunday, but whenever I felt particularly lost, and it helped.
Phase two of the search felt less desperate. I’m not sure I would call it hopeful, but I was too tired to be desperate and so by default it was more surrendered. Over time I began to receive guidance and reassurance from the most random places—some related to my Christian upbringing and others completely foreign but undeniably pivotal. At one point in this stage of the journey I went with my Mom to a spiritual event in Tulsa; I didn’t really believe in this stuff either, I was just tired and willing to try anything. While I was there I met a young psychic who spoke with me, she spoke truths about what I was dealing with as though we had spoken a million times before. I will always remember how the conversation began, “I feel like there is somewhere you really want to be, but you can’t be there right now… don’t worry, you will be there sooner than you think”. (This was three weeks after I tried to move to NYC last year and failed miserably) I burst into tears knowing that message was for me; her words were so precise and filled with compassion, I knew this was a form of divine guidance. Since that day, and even before, I have received countless serendipitous moments of guidance that have all added up to assure me there is something watching out for me and guiding my steps.
It was not an overnight occurrence, which is why I call it my evolution—it’s taken time.
Today, I am miles ahead in my spiritual evolution. I have questioned everything and dabbled in paths that I knew nothing about. Although not all of them have contributed to the formation of my current beliefs, I’m relieved that none of them were evil like I once believed; they were all just different. I have touched every step on this spiritual staircase starting with a very conservative view of God, moving to completely denying his existence, coming back to where I started and lastly looking for somewhere in between. The hardest part of the whole process has been differentiating between what I’ve been taught and what I truly believe; who I am and who people expect me to be. I haven’t shared much of this part of my journey because it is by far the most intimate part of my life and parts of this story are painful for me to talk about. But I share it because I know I am not alone in my questioning.
I still don’t have all the answers to the questions I started asking four years ago, but I can honestly say, I have found my new home—it’s within myself, something that can never be taken away. Trust me, my home is still quite the fixer-upper! But it is home, nonetheless. I believe that my questions are God given and that the guidance I have received along the way, in all forms, have been blessings pointing me in the direction of who I am. It’s hard for our ego’s to accept that we really are just us and that we are not the careers we have, the clothes we wear or the groups we belong too. I’m not defined by the things that used to define me. I am not the cheerleader or the goody-goody. I’m not the Christian girl in biology class and I’m not ‘that guys girlfriend’. I am something so much more; I am a child of God. The same God who loves the Christian, the Islam, the Hindu and the Atheist. The God who will use you whether you are gay, straight, or unsure. I am powerful not because of what I do but because of whose I am. I am a piece of the divine which is nothing but love; pure love that is bigger than dogma, rules and fear. The kind of love that changes things for the better. I’m filled with questions, but that’s okay, because getting to the answer isn’t nearly as important as asking the question. I am strong. I am powerful. I am inspired and creative. I am a manifestation of God just like every person I see. I am Katie Hoffman.