My journey through faith

I believe in God. I believe God is the ultimate designer. I believe we are each a concoction of his design, biology and evolution. The “beginning” of all of this isn’t what I care to grasp. May the argument be 7 days of creation, the big bang or ape ancestry, I find that my curiosity in Faith and Religion lies elsewhere. I also think all of these “beginnings” go beyond believable for me. This makes a lot of people in my life, on all sides very frustrated with me. That’s fine. So be it.

I believe we were all born and put here for a reason and that we have individual life paths to follow. I believe there is something much bigger than us and linear biology that is guiding us and watching over us. This belief for me is guttural, it is as much a part of me as my moles, squinty eyes and small feet. I can honestly say to you that I know there is a God watching over us all.

I grew up in the Church. I attended Youth Groups, Summer Bible Camps, Winter Bible Camps etc. I was once saving myself for marriage and trying to get all my friends to believe in God along with me. Then I pulled away from the Church and as per usual, not because of God or my faith but because of people.

First it was the Youth Group kids that treated me like an airhead. Then it was the female counselors at Bible Camp that singled me out based on my body type. I was small with a huge chest. I was told that I couldn’t wear the clothes I brought to Bible Camp one very hot week in August. I had shopped with my mother for Bible Camp appropriate clothes and swimwear and apparently, we had failed. At least we had failed to find clothes that looked modest and appropriate on me. I however, seemed to be the exception because literally every other kid in the cabin was allowed to wear my Summer gear and DID. At that time, I was a size 2 and wore a 32DD bra. If I wore a normal tank top in my size, my chest would take up a lot of the material and cling elsewhere. If I wore a larger sized tank top, you would have gotten a glimpse of my belly button when I leaned over. The counselors thought I was trying to “entice” the boy campers. Not at all. Really, not even a little bit. I was obsessed with the slumber party side of camp. I looked forward to it all year. This was the worst week of camp ever. I was a virgin, who had kissed two boys in my life and I was made to feel that my body was slutty. I cried at night in my bunk. I cried the week after camp. It really hurt me, it affected me. And for the first time I felt wildly disappointed in the Church and in the people who judged me for the shape of my body rather than my choices, actions or heart.

I pulled back and I did so because so many of the people I saw in this community were judgmental and acted in a way that felt exclusive rather than loving and inclusive. It didn’t sit well with me. I started making choices based on morals I had been raised with, based on love, respect, selflessness and kindness. I wanted to love people and to care for those I loved. It seemed like Bible 101 stuff, the core of what I considered to be the Christian faith. After awhile this perspective stopped aligning with the faith of my Christian peers and I stopped going to Church. In my opinion at the time, I figured that you go to Church primarily for Christian fellowship, not for God. I could love God on my own, in fact I felt I had to protect what little respect I had left for religion and faith and remove myself from the thing that most damaged my faith, people. I think it’s hard when part of your religion is to constantly observe your own choices to avoid looking to other people with the same expectations. I think a person seeking to make good moral choices has a hard time not judging themselves and an equally difficult time not judging others.

At that point I felt I had to let go, and decided that I should simply work on being the best person I can be and love the people that need it most. I was a Christian, a believer of God that prayed and loved. But I stopped going to Church.

In 2007 I became interested in what Barack Obama had to say. He was the first Politician who was saying things that I could get behind from Universal Healthcare to a National Train System. His ability to speak on equality, on behalf of women, men, whites, blacks, Mexicans, gays and straight people impressed me. He seemed to unite a whole lot of people from different places in life. I was a fan and let me just say…I couldn’t have cared less about Clinton or John Kerry.

Then to my surprise, Conservative Christians were furious about this particular democrat. I had never explored politics before but I didn’t realize that so many people felt that Christians could not be democrats. I couldn’t believe the things that were being said. And yet I felt associated with this group of Conservative Christians. I felt they were apart of me and I them, and I was ashamed. The fear, the hatred, the bigotry confused me. I remembered verses like fear not for I am with you and don’t take the spec of sawdust out of another’s eye until you take the plank out of your own. This reaction, this stance threatened my last thread of faith, my last desire to be called a Christian. Frankly, it shook me. I felt distant with my own very conservative family and the friends I grew up with.

After that Election season, I felt that religiously, I had lost my footing. And it wasn’t because of Obama. It was that I couldn’t relate to the people who I had grown up with or the family that had raised me and this was my first clue of that. It was hard. I honestly felt alone and I couldn’t relate. I was such a different person than they were. I had such a different perspective with entirely different interests.

Then I met this girl. She was actually my next door neighbor and I met her on the corner of our street at her adorable little yardsale. We became fast friends. She was a photographer and lover of design, cooking and beautiful meals. We were two little kindred spirits. At age 2, her Pastor father moved her and her family to Paris, where she lived out the rest of her childhood. This was kind of fascinating to me, to think that her dad left the midwest to Pastor in Paris. I love all things French.

She invited me to a 4th of July cookout in Wheaton IL at her parents best friend’s house. Her parents and close family friends were all there including a girl from Nigeria who was raised in Minnesota. It was beautiful, the pealing of potatoes, the marinating of chicken in butter and garlic. The cloth napkins, the lights, the candles, the deck with the series of connected tables. The kind hearted people. The air was full of a wholesome kind of love. Everyone there was Christian, I was informed of this before I went and to be honest I was a little nervous. I didn’t relate to the Christians I knew. I wanted to… but I didn’t.

These Christians were unlike any I had known before. Everyone sitting there marveled at how beautiful the spread was, how good it smelled and each person delighted in sharing their clever recipes. I felt right at home. Then the conversation turned to incredible countries to travel to or live. Then it was discovered that my new Nigerian friend spoke fluent Spanish but was working on French. Then I discovered that everyone else spoke French, of course my friend and her family did, but everyone? Yeah, her parents best friends and their kids were also part of Christian Missions in Paris. Then people started talking about politics… I got nervous, literally, inwardly I choked up. To my surprise, they all supported Obama and thought Palin was backwards. I was shocked. After this beautiful and interesting lunch, we sat in the living room for awhile talking. I confessed that I’d never known Christians like them before. They were interested in hearing what I meant, I explained and they were so gentle and loving in how they listened. Sidebar, I believe I was trying out this new thing where I wore a thin blouse and a dark bra beneath. I’m not sure why I chose to do that when meeting my friend’s Pastor parents, but I did and it made no difference. They saw me, they heard me. What I wore was a non issue.

I drove back to Chicago by myself and prayed a little prayer. I began to cry. I had chills straight through me. I cried because it was clear to me that God had placed this girl next door to me and led me to these people, these worldly, foodie, liberal Christians. I had only to think of my absence from the Church over the last 10 years and who I had grown into, what interests I’d attached myself to. It was the love of cooking, beautiful food, design/presentation, travel, various cultures, language (specifically French) and of course, my new love of progressively liberal politics. The voice I heard inside my own head was “I see you, I know you, I love you, you are still apart of me.” It was God’s way of reminding me that where I came from is still a part of who I am and showing me that I still have a place in his community.

I do not believe my God makes mistakes. I don’t believe my homosexual friends are “errors” that must change their ways to accommodate other people’s fear. I also don’t think any young girl should be made to feel ashamed of the curves of her body. I think he is watching over me, my choices, my path and though I’ve been carving out my life for years without fully acknowledging his role, I feel that he has put people into my life to leave a mark on me, both good and bad. It is the good people in my life that make me believe in god. The people who scooped me up at my lowest point and the man I just married being put into my life at the exact moment that I had given up on finding him. It is also the Christians I know that don’t talk about God or the bible 24/7 but those that live through his love. I don’t hate religion or the practice of it. I’ve known people of many different religions that are devoted to the practice of their faith in an incredibly beautiful and powerful way. I like faith. It’s judgement rooted in religion that I take issue with, as does history.

Love to you,

A

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7 comments

  1. Accepting others for who they are, even if they’re sinners…I guess that’s something I’ve learned from my Roman Catholic upbringing. Oh, and I don’t think perfection is something that we mortal humans can reach, but still, we should just do our best and have fun with life!

    Also, even if there are people who are judgmental of others regarding religion, or if they try to stick to the rules so much that they begin to burn down bridges and forget to practice virtues, I think we should still give them respect and be a good influence to them, because they can still change for the better. Hate the sin, not the sinner. Oh, and I do believe that God really loves all of us, sinner or not, Christian or not. He’s always reaching out, and I think He’ll be able to help us if we open up and choose to let Him help us.

  2. Thank you for writing. Yes, love. Christian or not. Most definitely. I think God, is the same guy in every faith practice. I believe he has different names and different stories within different cultures but that there is only one spirit bigger than all of us, from America to Italy to Pakistan to Israel, to India and China. I think the term sinner separates us sometimes from one another. We are all flawed and we should let those flaws be the thing that make us relate to one another on different levels.

  3. Anonymous

    Beautiful! I am currently on my own journey and am struggling a bit with the process. Your parents pointed me in the right direction 25 years ago but I got lost. It is as much about the journey as the end result.

  4. JaeHi Neill

    You are a good writer. I just discovered your blog and reading your articles. I love that through your trials your faith has hung on. Religion is hard because from it comes all the rules to beat people that has different beliefs. True God is one who can heal all your wounds and allows you to see glimpse of eternity. I love that you have hung on to God to hear him speak to you ,,,“I see you, I know you, I love you, you are still apart of me.” I have had many of those moments. I also had periods of running away. Ultimately it is His love that draws me to him. Here is my story of faith http://jaehi.blogspot.com/2007/01/wings-to-fly-index.html

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