I've never been religious, but I've always had a keen interest in the purpose of life and the various philosophies that we humans employ to make sense of our universe and our place within it. I read the Bible as a teen, along with the Qur'an, books about Jewish faith (our ethnic heritage on my mothers side), Wicca, New Age religions, Native American traditions, Agnosticism, Athiesm and Buddhism. I always manage to find something useful and inspiring in the studies I've made into various spiritual paths.
But I've never been an absolutist. Let me rephrase that: I am definitley capable of absolutism, but I am very fickle within that mindset. I have a tendecy to vaccilate between absolute belief and outright disbelief. I don't think this is neccesarily a bad thing. I've always had the ability to see things from many different sides and question my perception. As I get older this trait becomes stronger, as I accept how much I really don't know about anything.
We weren't raised in any one religion. My father came from a Christian background, while my mother was raised in the beliefs of reincarnation, karma and meditation. I went to church on sundays with my grandmother and remember my mom teaching my brothers and I how to relax into a meditative state.
For most of my adult life, I have called myself an "open minded, hopeful atheist". Or maybe Agnostic. I have always believed that there is something beyond our physical plane, some higher purpose for our daily struggles. And it has always been apparent to me that the major religions all have similar tenets regarding birth, death, sacrifice and afterlife.
In the hardest moments of my life, I have unfailingly turned to God. What or who that God is, I was and still am not completely certain. And I'm ok with that. But there has always been a part of my soul that, fundamentally, believes in God and destiny and fate and the purpose of suffering and sacrifice to advance toward enlightenment.
Some time after Jason died, I began to have odd little moments of peace and understanding. I began to see that even though one of my greatest fears became a reality, that I was not completely alone. I began to pray more often, oftentimes feeling silly. But it helps. It isn't always pleasant... there are many angry thoughts and feelings that surface, times that I have to just ask "Why?". In my darkest moments, it is the loving presence of grace and mercy that have given me the strength to sob and rail and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have no real explanation for it. I still question whether it is real or simply a feeling my brain manifests in order to protect me from myself.
After the very real moments of feeling the presence of something so much bigger than myself, I realized one night that it is ok for me to have faith. That it is required for me to continue on, to make myself happy, to raise my kids to become strong, independent people with a moral compass and compassion for themselves and others. That fellowship and worship and reaching out to God doesn't make me weak or silly or wrong in any way. That sometimes, you just have to go with your gut. I did just that when I married a man who I had only known for 5 months and the reward was a love that shaped me into who I am today. I've done just that everytime I've stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on a new challenge that has made me stronger and happier or at the very least a little wiser.
I am human and I will make mistakes. I have the right to change my mind, I have the right to follow my instincts and listen to my heart. I have the right, no... the responsibility to continue seeking a higher power to guide me and reveal to me my true purpose in this life.
I go to church now (not often, but I don't believe that church is the only way to connect with God... for me, it feels more important to incorporate a love for God in my everyday, mundane life) and a few months ago I my son and I were baptized together. That doesn't mean I will ever be religious. But I DO have faith. I have learned to quiet my soul and reach out for a power that no earthly thing can give me. I've developed a relationship with God that feels just intrinsically RIGHT. I absolutely feel a connection with the teachings of Christ, Buddha and the solidification of a spiritual journey that lifts me above the pain and heartache of the everyday.
I fully admit that at times, I have been embarrassed by my change of heart. I have feared the judgement and derision of the people in my life that do not share those beliefs, but it is something I have to let go of. Because my journey is mine alone. I would never, ever belittle someone else for their beliefs or seek to change thier minds. If I am asked, I will freely share what God has done in my life, but I absolutley understand that everyone is different. I also don't ever want to feel that I am better than anyone else because of my beliefs. I truly believe that a life well lived, with compassion and love and kindness toward others is the only requirement for being a good person. I don't agree with many many of the fundamentalist laws of the Christian religion (that a loving sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage is a sin, that loving someone of the same sex is a sin, that there is only one true path for salvation)... and I realize that some people will not see me as a moral human for those beliefs.
But I really don't have a problem with that.
God gave me the mind & soul that I was blessed with and I truly believe that acceptance, love and compassion for ones fellow man and generosity of spirit carry far more weight than strict adherence to rules written by man millenia ago. I believe that following Jesus's example of service to all mankind and boundless love and sacrifice are the most important lessons that one can learn and seek to emulate.
This new-found faith is helping me to heal and accept. Life will always be hard, we will always have struggle. But accepting and moving on from our setbacks, our mistakes, our own little tragedies... there is where we can show our strength. In the hard moments, that is where we can seek to be more than the sum of our circumstances. Faith bolsters me to accept and perhaps even welcome the hard stuff, knowing that I then have an opportunity to learn another lesson, to become stronger and appreciate all the blessings that I have been given. Amen!!