Finding (and Un-Defining) a Faith for Me

Coming from a ruthless, unforgiving Southern Baptist background in the heart of the infamous Bible belt – once my mom was old enough to leave the church, she went as fast as she could in her early 80′s up-do and pumps.

Wanting to find a religion that would not only suit the words she read, but the spirituality she craved, she tried all sorts of different options as a 20-something. She dipped her toes into all of the waters her past congregation would have found unholy, and submerged herself into learning what she could about what other people believe and why it means so much to them. By the time she met my father, she was active at the Unity Center of Christianity – where they would eventually marry – and a few years later, when I made my grand entrance into the world, she wanted to place some structure on my faith. And so, like she always had before, she prayed for a sign from God about where to go to find that open-minded, yet not too liberal, mindset she craved.

As the heavens always seem to do, they delivered an unspoken guidance to my family.

And so, I was raised in a tiny-church-that-could on the winding back roads of Western North Carolina. My mother swears the first time we went to look at what would be our home, she drove past this hidden chapel and her bones told her this was the place to give her blue-eyed little girl a proper upbringing. Or as proper as one can get with my low-key parents, anyways.

This Methodist church taught me the basic fundamentals of good and bad, guided me through adolescence, and hosted my piano recitals during my childhood. It was there that I met my very first best friend, became a Girl Scout, learned how to make (and appropriately destroy) sloppy Joe sandwiches, and how to jump rope. The backyard of this church, along with the basketball ring I never grew tall enough to touch, is as familiar to me as the address I still write on my tax returns.

Once I passed my driver’s test, my mom stopped forcing me to attend church. She encouraged me to seek out my own beliefs, figure out who (or what) I wanted to worship, and what morality I wanted to base my life upon. Trusting I was mature enough to handle the exposure of diverse religions and ideologies, she suggested a few different places to give a shot. She even offered me gas money.

And so I started on a pilgrimage to find an undefined faith that fit me.

I attended a Catholic mass, where I learned the art of rising and standing (over and over) and how to respectfully decline communion because I was not confirmed. I tried out a Pentecostal church, where though they seemed incredibly passionate about their faith, I found myself a little frightened by the use of a language I couldn’t understand (and wasn’t convinced they could as well). I visited a Synagogue, where while beliefs are slightly different, they have a certain majesty to the depth of commitment and tradition that other fundamentals do not have (or at least express). I took a shot at meditation in my mother’s meditation room and my youthful, easily-distracted nature kept me from falling into any realm of anything. Unless Ancy Land counts, that is.

Now quite some years later, I find myself unsure about religion. I’m not Catholic. I’m not setting snakes free, unafraid of their poison. I did not convert to Judaism. I have yet to figure out how to meditate, even at the yogi-endorsed locations of the Lower East Side. I am still, technically, a member of the Methodist community- but I do not go to church regularly. Sometimes I feel like I should and I love hearing the bells on my walk to the gym Sunday mornings. At some point, I will attend one of those Gospel services around my Harlem neighborhood  -the fire eluding from them is simply intoxicating, not to mention they gave me free cake last summer.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I consider myself. I hear people toss around words like “spiritual” and “religious” over cocktails and o’dourves constantly, without giving it a second thought. Maybe a byproduct of my mother’s curiosity, but I’ve read countless books and asked people the ideas behind their belief systems and as adults who are not forced into stockings, socks-with-bows, and Sunday-best dresses, how we decide about a being above.

This blog is not about religion. But it is about love. I’m not a theologian, I’m not ordained by any church, or accredited by a university – but if there is one central theme I discovered in my quest to find my own ideology, it is love. The name of their savior or where or how its followers practice their rituals shouldn’t be a question, but rather if they are leading a life that’s based on a belief of an unconditional love. If they have a dedication, an honor, a profound respect, and continuous committment to a love they trust will never turn its back on them. That even when relationships fail, wars are declared -in our homes or around the world, when jobs are lost, when money is tight, when disasters strike that we can’t understand, we can trust in a higher power to be present.

When no one else will listen, when no one else is around, when no one else proves dependable, when no other sentence can ease our troubled mind – something we can’t see, but we can somehow hear and feel, appears.

I do believe in God. But I’m probably not the best devotee and I certainty don’t visit his blog everyday. I feel awkward praying and usually end up writing instead of speaking. I’ve always been more loyal before a test, when I’m scared, or when I anticipate the departure of someone or something I’d like to stay. But on days like today, where I commence in the rules of Lent, regardless of the lack of my Catholic-ness, I can’t help but feel a sense of connectivity. In an odd way I’ll explain at a later date, I think he/she (not sure which gender I’d like to assign to God, if any at all) has a gentle way of guiding my life -through things I stumble upon, from pennies that seem to fall from the blue abyss, and by giving me who I need, when I need them. I’ve felt alone, I’ve been depressed, I’ve wanted to find a man to give me love – but I’ve never felt abandoned  by a power beyond myself.

I’m not sure it is a relationship I can define or one where I give more than I take, yet it soothes me when other efforts do not. I believe that something, more dynamic than a human, and in a place away from this planet, has my best interest at heart. And while I don’t always get those things or those people who I want, I am challenged with accepting the simplicity of my needs that always find themselves met. And the strength I derive from a silent plea or praise in the middle of a busy New York train that lets me know I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m safe.

My sacrifices for Lent – no more Diet Pepsi and cutting back on the makeup – have the intention of making me a better, healthier person in the spirit of Christian traditions. And while I can never be guaranteed the way I lead my life, the decisions I make, or the company I keep will grant me a happy afterlife or an upgrade in my second life – I’m at least going to do this act of love. Not only in the honor of the holy-whomever, but in the name of the better me it is helping me to become.

PS: Jennifer from Cincinnati, OH completed Love Addict’s survey and won a fabulous glass from Lolita and perfume set fromPacifica. Love Addict will be doing another giveaway soon, so make sure to take the survey for your chance to win! Congrats Jen and thanks for reading!

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11 thoughts on “Finding (and Un-Defining) a Faith for Me

  1. Lindsay:

    Two authors for you. Marcus J. Borg and Emmanuel Swedenborg. One wrote big books a long time ago. One writes small powerful ones now.

    And Francis Collins’, The Language of God, is a wonderful book, and add Talking With God: The Healing Power of Prayer, by Gwynne Dresser Mack.

  2. I love this entry. It’s so honest, and I feel like more people need to be honest. Especially in this area. :)

    I am a Christian… which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now. LOL. If you want to be specific I’m a Lutheran, but I feel like Jesus is more important that a specific denomination. So basically…. I love Jesus.

    I feel as though it’s good to do some searching in the area of faith. I hate it when people just take whatever their parents believed or what their pastors or friends did and just follow blindly. If you end up having the same faith as them, that’s great! But you have to figure it out on your own and not just because someone told you to. So I’m glad you have searched and continue to search!

    The thing that I wish more Christians (and to be totally honest, I need work in this area as well) is to emphasize what you are talking about. Love. When faith becomes a set of “rules” you need to follow and if you break a rule you’re going to hell… it kind of ruins the point. Jesus came BECAUSE we break rules. He still loved us. That’s what it was about. He says “You broke rules? Yeah, everyone does. I still love you.” (I actually just wrote a blog post about how Jesus loves the bad guys.)

    Also, I feel as though every faith has some element of truth to it. I’m not saying I agree with every religion… but if each one didn’t have SOME sort of truth in it SOMEWHERE then people wouldn’t follow it. I may not agree with Muslims, but I can learn about devotion and prayer from them. I may not agree with Eastern religions like Hinduism, but I can learn about peace of mind from them.

    So I say, keep searching, Keep questioning. And don’t let people judge you. If you ever have questions or want to hear a “Christian” opinion, feel free to email/tweet/comment on my blog. And I love hearing about other people’s journeys and discoveries that they make. :)

  3. I’d like to echo what Emily said. I grew up Catholic and hated it (I dont hate Catholics, just my preference to not like it). But at the same time, anyone who wasn’t Catholic seemed crazy to me. I finally resigned myself to a life where I was going to define my own faith, though based on God/Jesus. Eventually, I meant other people who understood this and it really felt like I was at home. What Ive realized is that at the end of the day, we have to become adults, own we are, make changes where we see fit, and take responsibility for our actions and perspectives and realize that not everyone’s going to like it.

    Do I still think that there are the crazies out there? Sure, but few things in life are all good or all bad. Everyone has something to give that we can learn from. I try to keep an open mind and take from it the good and get rid of anything that’s bad.

    For me, the turning point came when I was really frustrated with area of my life because of all the choices available. I just wanted there to be an instruction manual. Then, I thought of the Bible. I had had one since entering Catholic high school (I went to catholic school till college), but only read it for class (and even that was sparse — another story for another time). I picked it up one day and began to read the newtestament, for myself this time and not just listening to someone else doing it, and it changed me. I didnt speak in tongues or anything like that. I just began to feel different. It didnt happen overnight, but it was a process.

    I found by reading, that a lot of the crazy stuff that “Christians” did I found was NOT in the Bible at all. In fact, much of it was frowned upon in there. Or, I would see cases where one verse might be interpreted as something and then people form whole denominations out of it. As a scientist, I thought this was nuts.

    So, I decided to go my own way but base it on the Bible and I’ve been doing it ever since. I began to go to a bible study (I know, crazy right?) and whatnot. I still think we don’t know much but what we do know revolves around love. I try not to spend much time figuring out the stuff I dont know and focusing on the stuff I do know. There are places where I think the Bible is scientifically wrong (i dont agree with the genealogy in Matthew — Adam was not the first human, we evolved), but for, me I dont think its a scientific book. (The notion of accuracy we have today, I believe wasn’t really established until the scientific method was formalized which was in the last 500 years).

    All that said, there are thousands of pages to the Bible. I can really only think of about 2 dozen items that people quibble over. If each items takes up 10 pages, theres still a lot of book let with something else to say!

    I really don’t think that any God that makes Him hard to follow is worth following. In fact, I would say that the hardest part of Christianity for me is letting it be easy on myself. I think tend to be harder on me than what’s necessary.

  4. Sometimes I feel like I should and I love hearing the bells on my walk to the on gym Sunday mornings.

    Take out the second on. :)

    I like your blog a lot. I find myself attracted to those of us who are not sure what the truth really is about God. Those women who are neither ultra religious nor atheist. I don’t know what it is, but I like people who know they don’t know everything.

    I’ve dated a Muslim, fellow Hindus, Christians (mostly agnostic who never went to church.)

  5. I was reborn in the backseat of the family car… and I was baptist as a baby and I probably won’t be baptist again, I don’t feel the need to. I think this says something about my faith. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that it can be anywhere and everywhere and you don’t have to do things that is “law” to show what you believe.

    I have actually kinda touched on this in my blog. I personally don’t think you have to define your religion. What you believe is what you believe and what you believe is part of you. I think that’s the true religion. You are being honest with yourself and with God, whoever this big fellow may be. I believe in God and Jesus and if you really want me to put a label on myself, I’d say Christian. However, if you were to ask me what I really think. I saying what my grandfather says, “God and I have a friendship. He knows I don’t really believe in the Bible, read his word, or even go to church. I talk to him in my times of need, before something happens, after something happens, when I have questions, when I demand answers, when I want my purpose of life to be answers, I scream at him, I curse at him, he has been a constant in my head and the “person” I talk to. He has been my unfailing, even when I failed myself.”

  6. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this post. I too am trying to figure out how religion fits into my life and I think your comments about unconditional love sum up my beliefs perfectly as well. I hope you might update in the future if you should happen to find where you fit.

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