What Faith Means To Me (Part 1)

In this past two years that I’ve had this blog, I have always sort of danced around the subject of religion and/or any kind of faith at all. If I’m able to reach that far back, I do know that I’ve mentioned God a few times in past entries, but never exactly to a large extent. 


Contrary to my not have mentioned it very much, I will say that I consider myself to have certain values and beliefs; yet there are times, especially right now, where I’m not quite sure what those beliefs and values are. 


I was raised Catholic for most of my childhood, but the closest I had ever felt to God was when I occasionally prayed at night, “God, if you do this or allow that to happen, I will be nice to my brother and sister for as long as I possibly can” (silly, but true). For a long time, God was just some invisible being that I went to when I wanted something. 


Then as I started my last year in middle school, I began attending a non-denominational church and youth group with my long-time neighbor (as well as oldest and one of my closest friends). If there’s word that I could use to not only describe that time in my life, it was freeing. No, life wasn’t exactly peachy; there was still a lot of baggage that I was carrying from the year before and it was tough trying to deal with it when I went back to school. But Tuesdays/Thursdays and Sundays were the days that I looked forward to the most; being surrounded by people that loved me exactly for who I was, and being in the presence of a God that loved me, was a safe haven of sorts. When I was there, I didn’t have to put on a brave face like I often did at home or at school; it gave me a sense of peace and the kind of nourishment that I wasn’t getting in either of those places. 


From eighth grade up until the end of my sophomore year in high school, I had a lot of beautiful, breath-taking experiences where I have felt overcome by the power of faith. Even today, I look back on it and wonder if I will ever experience those kinds of moments again. 


I did start going to a new church during the summer before my sophomore year, due to not feeling like I was really growing spiritually. I got involved with a weekly youth group and a Bible Study, and I thought the sermons were refreshing and uplifting. 


The following summer, I would have to walk through a storm where I really had no clue if God was even there. It left both me and the faith that I had grown in incredibly shaken, and in some ways was the catalyst  of me beginning to question what I believed in. That part will come later. 


It was a little bit after the fourth of July, and my best friend had pretty much disappeared. I wouldn’t realize until later that it wasn’t anything against me personally, but at time it was like a huge punch in the stomach. I can’t say that I was outright angry at God for what was going on, but none of it made any sense. I was just coming to terms with the fact that this person wouldn’t be a big part of my life for very much longer, and I wasn’t even given the opportunity to say goodbye. 


The election of 2008 came around later in November; in my high school religion class, we were told that voting for Obama was a mortal sin because of the way he viewed abortion, and that homosexuality was a disease that needed to be treated. On the other side of things, it seems as though almost everyone at my church was hyping on conservatism, one way or the other. 


Now let me just make one thing clear here: I cannot stand politics; I understand that they’re an important aspect of both national and global society, but I don’t think I’ll be able to fully grasp how it all works. Even more so, I hate that so many people tend to mix religion with politics now a days; that is definitely part of the reason why I haven’t really been active in a church for the last two years or so. 


In turn, it made me ask myself not what I believed in, but why. Did I hold specific values in my heart because I genuinely believed them to be right, or was it because I was being told to do so every Sunday morning?


Both of those things made me feel so incredibly distant from my church family; I really did want to talk to someone about it, but I was extremely afraid to do so; I didn’t want to hear that I was wrong in feeling the way I did, nor did I want to have Bible verses quoted at me in order to prove why I was wrong. 


I felt lost..


I did eventually tell my Mom, as well as confide in people outside of my church once I was comfortable enough with it. They were very patient about the whole thing. They listened. One girl who I used to be pretty close with at my old church (whom admittedly I miss very much) said to me “It’s not my place to tell you whether you’re right or wrong; we’re all on a different journey of faith here.” Her statement gave me peace and clarity; I no longer felt like a bad person for thinking the way I did. 


When I first got to college, I did put God and Christianity on the backburner; not in the sense that I was going out and living life a la Jersey Shore, but I was curious. Granted, thus far I have not done anything that has come with long-term consequences, but I did eventually hit a wall; it showed me that living that kind of life on a regular basis just doesn’t work. 


I recently started attending a Bible Study through the Intervarsity organization on campus; It’s a Christian group, but it also focuses on bringing together people of ethnic backgrounds, which I like. During one of the sessions, we began talking about the different ways that people viewed going to church. On one hand, going to church could be like standing in a court room, terrified out of your mind and feeling like you always have to defend yourself. On the other hand, it could feel like being in a hospital, where you go to be healed and you have people around you to love you and support you. 


I admit that for the longest time, I have viewed both God and church as being similar to a court room. 


I know deep down that I need God in my life; I’ve been through too much in my life to think that I can just exist and that’s the end of it. 


I’ve realized how important it is to have values, and to surround yourself with people that have values as well. When it comes to being in a relationship, I want to be with someone that isn’t constantly thinking about getting wasted on the weekends or sleeping around. If and when I do have a family of my own someday, I want to raise my children to know who God is and to wholeheartedly believe in Him. 


Yet right now, I can’t say that I know where my faith stands; I still have a lot of questions and things that I constantly wonder about, which I will save for part 2. 


But I do know that I want to walk by faith..not by sight.

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