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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