Recently I re-listened to one of my favorite episodes from the Rob Bell podcast (The Robcast) entitled 900 Ligaments.  It was about how religion shows up for us in different ways. There’s Capital Letter Religion: Christianity, Buddhism, etc., and then there’s lower case religion, mantras like “family is everything,” or “love is everything” or “I just follow the facts.” Events such as being a fan at a Dallas Cowboys game or being an Apple tech-head at an Apple technology seminar, or holiday traditions or rituals, on and on… these are all a form of lower case religion.

He says, “Everyone is religious… everyone is constantly ligamenting.”

Ligamenting, meaning holding together our lives through, as he puts it, “stories, structures, systems, rituals, rhythms, routines, rules, beliefs, behaviors, belonging; we’ve been doing this for thousands of years, yeah, all of it, to essentially hold us together. Without anything to hold us together, we can easily find ourselves all over the place…”

The ways we hold ourselves together, with this ligamenting, is such a a big part of what I’ve worked through, and am continuing to work through, to understand my own life. My religious background, most of it left behind, my individuality, my divorce, my relationship with a man that instigated me leaving that marriage… it’s a profoundly weighty topic, the lower case “religions” that help me hold my life together.

Through my divorce and reconciliation, I’ve learned my prominent religion is being with my core family, which is my two boys and ex husband. I’ve learned that living in separate households, driving the boys back and forth every week between my house and their dad’s diminished enjoyment in life for all of us. We all crave stability, cherish our history together, and, most importantly, we’re in a supportive environment now, evolving as individuals under the same roof.

Don’t misunderstand— if there had been any element of abuse or addiction in the relationship, I would not have reconciled. Divorce is many times the right choice!

I’m only saying that, for me, I realized a lot of why I’d left in the first place was I’d believed my ex held me back from pursuing my dream of writing and publishing novels and becoming fully self-actualized in general. Then, after we split, I saw how much he had given to the family and to me, and I began to realize I’m the one fully responsible for working on my dreams and becoming fully self-actualized, not him or anyone else.

Were there times he could have been more supportive, before we split? Yes.

Were there times I could have taken initiative with my goals instead of handing over my power? Yes.

So now that we’re together again, the beauty of it is we’re religamenting: he’s more supportive. I’m much more self-empowered. The religamenting we’ve done in our relationship and family structure works for us as the people we are now!

“Ligaments work until they don’t. They hold you together until they don’t. Maybe it worked for awhile, maybe it was good, but things have changed. You aren’t who you were.” —Rob Bell

My dad died this summer. He was the patriarch of our Christian-centered family when we were growing up. I’m the youngest of the family, the only girl, with two older brothers. What I didn’t see coming, from my dad dying is, as a result, I’ve needed to deconstruct the nature of my connection to my brothers and mom. I’m no longer the “little sister.” And with my mom, I no longer care if she doesn’t agree with my “liberal” viewpoints. I’m no longer feeling bad in any way for believing in gay rights or woke movements. I believe we all need to live true to ourselves, whatever that looks like. It’s that simple. And I’ve religamented to that belief and fully embrace it.

I’ve always been open-minded this way, but I was not validated by my family, so I’d keep it in, and it wasn’t until my father passed, I realized my family’s unwillingness to validate me caused me to not truly validate myself. Now I’ve religamented to having my own back with my beliefs and resting in it. But it took the passing on of my father for me to somehow experience a complete freedom, a cutting of the cord, even though I loved him and always will. 

Listen to this episode, maybe it will shed light on possible ways your ligamenting no longer works for you, and you can find a new belief to help you religament and keep you growing into the person you truly are.

Rob Bell

The RobCast