I’ve been having a lot of conversations with God lately. No, no no no, don’t stop reading just because I brought up the only thing that terrifies our generation more than anything. I know many of us grew up in religious households (I did). From the time I was 4 till the time I was 7 I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, a region where going to church oftentimes isn’t optional. It actually didn’t even matter what kind of church you belonged to, as long as you went. I have vivid memories of Sunday mornings getting ready for church as my mother played gospel music in the background (for all of 1996 it was The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack, which, yes, I still know by heart) brushing my hair and helping me pull on tights. I was also in the churches Girl Scout Troop and part of the children’s choir. My mom (who was the age I am now, sheesh) grounded us in the church, and it was undeniably a huge part in my development as a child.
Once we moved back home to California we attended church regularly, though not every week. When I was old enough to stay home by myself and sleep in on Sunday mornings I rarely went — except for holidays and special occasions. By the time I was sixteen I almost never made an appearance; though because of my family’s involvement in the church, church people became my family and we saw each other outside of church often growing into one big extended group. It was a community of people who often talked about spirituality, God, faith and all the things in-between. Perhaps this group is why I shied away from talking about religion with friends from school — especially considering that most of the girls who talked about religion at school (all two of them ) had the (perhaps unintended) effect of making one feel less than.
After leaving for college I ran into a lot of people like me, people who grew up in church but had gravitated away from it in their teen years. Some that I met didn’t believe in God at all, or questioned the existence of a God (or Gods) without ever actually pursuing the answer all that forcefully. I didn’t mind saying I was spiritual and leaving it at that, seeing as how I just wasn’t interested in sharing my religious beliefs because I just wasn’t that interested in religion period.
Which brings me back to my conversations with God. As I have gone through this past year of my life I find myself falling back on practices and values that I had no idea were still there. I made a bold decision to try a new church for Easter without any prompting from either of my parents. I started to want to talk about religion withs friends, exploring different things about different religions and feeling a pull towards believing in the deeper meaning behind faith and purpose and community. Things that felt like challenges started making sense in the bigger picture in my life and for once, I believed that there was something bigger than me at work.
I know, wild right? But I don’t believe we’re the generation that doesn’t have experiences like that, with God; I just believe we’re the generation that doesn’t talk about it, that laughs it off, that finds conversations about our own beliefs hard and or controversial. We’ve forgotten the commonality to in all religions, which is to answer questions to things that have no answer – isn’t that exactly what we’re all looking for?
I was looking for it. I’m not afraid to say that in a year where I struggled in a lot of areas in my life I turned to God, a lot. I turned to God when I needed to see the good in bad situations, when I was stressed or worried, or scared of all the unknowns in front of me and all of the well knowns behind. I let my faith be the backbone when things were bad AND when things were good and it nourished me in ways I hadn’t felt before.
At first it was hard and I didn’t know what to do – how to connect with God. I kind of got the gist of how to pray and to some extent meditate, so I did those first. I looked up podcast online about all sorts of things from faith, to love, to the power of positivity; from Christianity the Catholicism, Judaism, and everything in between for things that made sense and felt right to me. I let go of the idea that connecting with God only looked like going to church and listening to someone talk to you – I appreciated that type of connection but it wasn’t for me all the time. I connected to God by dancing, by running, by writing and staying still and enjoying the sunlight or the birds chirping or the way it feels to simple be happy.
We are all looking for something, searching for validation and connection in so many things that can’t bring us happiness. We want the answers to all of life’s questions to be answered in the form of a top ten list and we don’t want to talk about the idea that maybe something out of our control is orchestrating all of it. We are all #blessed without even really understanding what the f**k that even means. Can you imagine what the response most people would have if after complaining about all the things wrong in their life and asking your advice you just answer with a simple, “I’ll pray for you.”? Sure, we’ll go to church and maybe even bow our heads with family, on holidays, when no one is looking, but can we practice this at home, with friends and have an honest conversation about how God fits into our lives?
Do you know people actually call us the “Godless Generation?” and yet we wonder why ours is the most confused generation of all? We all need to open ourselves up to the possibility that religion isn’t this horrible thing that has connotations of judgement and politics. God isn’t exclusive to one set of beliefs or another — God is whatever, and wherever you want Him to be. You don’t have to talk about it to people if you don’t want to, but I think that starting an honest, possibly uncomfortable conversation about our beliefs and the things that ground us when sh*t gets hard is an important step in the right direction. How else are we going to get through all the curve balls and missteps and chaos that is life? How else are we going to learn about ourselves, find love, and nurture that love? All you have to do is start a conversation and watch to see what happens after you do. All you have to say is, are you there God, it’s me…