I have a memory of belonging, of feeling at home.
It is a cold winter day, and I’m in that old, long brown coat with the orange hat. We’re in the middle of Cappadocia with our staff team, and one of the Turkish staff is leading a hike through a valley. On either side of the narrow gorge, waves of soft limestone make it seem like we’re surrounded by sand. We are Albanians, Koreans, Kiwis, Americans, and Turks, and someone is singing. Ayda probably. Her voice reverberates against the rock walls.
When we arrive at our destination, Reşit, the smallest among us, scales the wall first, disappearing into a hole about eight feet off the ground. One by one, we join him inside an ancient chapel discreetly carved out of the soft limestone. The ceiling is vaulted and a light beam floods the narthex. The walls are covered in intricate patterns of faded red paint. Someone has brought a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine, and someone else has a red clay goblet common to the region. Ayda starts us off, and we worship in Turkish, then English, and then we all pray out loud in the way the Koreans taught us. Reşit breaks the bread and then fills the goblet.
It is sacred and holy and ancient. A small taste of heaven on earth, and I feel simultaneously caught up in an epic story and also deeply rooted in the eclectic family standing around me. A settledness floods me: I am home.
Memory is both beautiful and heart-wrenching because ever since that cave church I’ve searched in vain to so effortlessly belong to a faith community. One that’s distilled to the basics: the Spirit in me recognizes and loves the Spirit in you. When varying fluency in a second language looms between you, unity is pure and simple.
Instead, these days I feel spiritually homeless, orphaned by the expression of faith I’ve known and not yet adopted by any other. More people than not seem to resonate. You too? We Westerners were already an estranged family when COVID hit, and now there are even more spiritual orphans among us. If you’re like me, you are weary of looking and wondering if you’ll ever feel that sense of home again.
When I picture the spaces in which I felt God’s movement this year, I am not in an official church service but holding a glass of wine with friends in the living room. I am at the Red Tent Confessional offering curiosity. I am at Starbucks dreaming with a friend. I am in the realm of the sacred, reading the holy text of our lives as it flows forth from our stories, sitting on the couch with our feet tucked up under us.
And though I have experienced His presence in the most banal places, I still long for a frescoed echo chamber, a hallowed encounter.
The rest of my long list of what I want and don’t want is besides the point. Does it even matter when I feel unmoored? Untethered to a framework that unites people? Hopeful I’ll find something a little less anemic, but not sure where to start.
It used to feel lonely, until I started meeting other spiritually homeless people everywhere. Literally, everywhere. What is it that we all actually long for and why does the longing feel acute? The collective overwhelming dissatisfaction with the way we do faith is growing, quickly.
But I remember Ayda’s voice. And I remember the Korean team members’ prayers. And I can still see Reşit holding up the red clay goblet and giving thanks, with the beam of light at his feet and the red painted Byzantine designs on the wall behind him. I’m sure we had a framework that we all mostly adhered to, but I don’t remember knowing or caring much. We loved Jesus and we loved each other and we loved Turkey. And it tethered me. It was enough. For so long, it was enough.
And I miss it.
Beth Bruno lives in Colorado where she and her husband lead a team of ReStory™ experts at Restoration Counseling Center. Additionally, as a podcaster, author, and content strategist, Beth guides women to raise fierce and lovely teen girls. When she’s not creating something new, she and her family enjoy the mountains, traveling, and good food.