My faith has always been strong, but the way I believe and the way I show my faith has really changed over my lifetime. When I was a little girl I prayed to Jesus every night to keep my family safe and keep me healthy. I was afraid to do anything that would be a sin, for fear that something bad would happen to me. I was afraid to swear or lie or cheat or do anything wrong. As I grew older I continued those fears, and added to my prayers every night a plea to God to protect me from the things that I was afraid of. I feared that if I did anything wrong or said anything wrong I would be subjected to those fears, and tortured with them. I continued to think that faith was going to Church regularly and believing in God and Jesus. In middle school and high school I started hearing people talk about "having a relationship with God". I didn't know how to do that. I said my prayers. I went to Church. I participated in youth group. But i did not understand this relationship that I was supposed to have. I wondered if I was really safe from Hell since I didn't really feel I had this relationship. In high school I went to Mexico to build houses for the poor. I did this twice and those experiences brought me closer to God and the deepest into Christianity and the Church than I had every been before. I started to feel like I had this relationship, or at least a better understanding of what God wanted me to do, and be like. But I still held on to the fears I had had as a child. I started going to Church more regularly on Sundays, and continued to go to youth group and be involved with the Church. Once I got to College things slowed down a bit. I was shocked into this new life on my own. I was supposed to be an adult and was out of my comfort zone. i was scared and I was sick. I went to a few Campus Crusade for Christ meetings and felt the familiar good feelings I had felt in my hometown youth group. But something stopped me from going regularly. I was having such a hard time away from home, and I didn't have any friends. I was too quiet to try and make new friends in the group. So I didn't keep going and I ended up up leaving the university after a quarter beause I was sick. I felt like I had failed at being an adult, at being on my own. From this point I entered into the hardest period of my life. I struggled with my health, with my relationship with my parents, with my own identity, and with my life in general. I went through many medical diagnoses from hypoglycemia to mononucleosis, none of which turned out to be correct. I was put on antianxiety meds and antidepressants, harnessing any last bit of my true self. It was a fight, a struggle, but I finally got through it, discovering my true condition, celiac disease, and started a path to healing. I tried during this period to go back to Chuch, but never quite suceeded. It wasnt fitting with my lifestyle, and something still felt like it was missing.
In the back of my head, as a child, there was always something wrong with what I was being taught. We were told in Church that "God" was the only real God, and that Christianity was the only real and true and right religion. That never made sense to me. Why, then, were there so many religions in the world? Why did so many people believe in so many different forms of God? How could the God I was taught about, the one who loves every person in the world like they are his own child, send all these people to hell because they believe the wrong thing? The God I believed in just couldn't do that. So I always had some question in the back of my head about religion. I still believed in God, and followed what I was taught, but there was this doubt in the back of my mind. I felt like that doubt was bad, like I would be punished for it, like it was a sin, so I tried to push it away.
Once I had resolved my health problems, gone back to school, made new friends, and started my relationship with Ryan, I went through a period where I was preoccupied, and sort of shut religious activities out of my life for awhile. I stopped going to church, and hardly prayed anymore. I still believed, but was so confused that I didn't know what I believed, so I just didn't think about it much. I went through a period of about 5 years of dating, traveling, going to school, working, looking for who I was and what I wanted out of life. I graduated from college, got a real job, and got married. At this point is where I started thinking about religion again. But this time, it had a new name - spirituality.
Being spiritual made more sense to me. I felt as though I'd always been a spiritual person. Rather than believing there was only one way to believe, this opened up my eyes and made the world make more sense. I new my answers were hiding somewhere in the definition of spirituality. I bought an audio recording of Dr Wayne Dyer speaking on his book, "There is a spiritual solution to every problem", and as I listened to it, I was amazed. It made sense of every question, every doubt, every bit of confusion I'd ever had about my religion, and I realized I had been believing the wrong thing for 25 years. I was believing in a story book Jesus, a fairy tale religion. I was now able to admit to myself, without feeling guilty, like I was sinning, that I could believe what I feel in my heart.
So, where am I now? I am a student of God, a student of spirituality. I listen to the teachings of Jesus, of Buddha, of any spiritual leaders that have touched humanity, and I take what makes sense to me. I believe in heaven and hell in a whole different way than I did as a child. I know in my heart that if I am a good person, that nourishes my spiritual self, and gives to humanity, makes a difference in the lives of others, and is loving, open, and true to myself, that I will be in this world, in a good place, for a very long time. i won't be in this body forever, but I will always be me. And when I do leave this body, I will be capable of experiencing and seeing, and loving, and being more than I ever could while walking on earth. I know I will be with those who love me, and I will be there for those that I love as well.
I am finally at peace with my beliefs. I no longer feel guilty for not going to church every sunday. I don't think it's wrong to be inspired by the teachings of Buddah. I want to teach my son about the good inside people, and the good of God in this world. I want him to know God not as a fairy tale, and not in fear, but in love and all the beauty that can come from it.