There comes a point in nearly all our lives where we begin to question our upbringing, our prior knowledge, the meaning of life, and the universe. Although we can find many answers to our burning questions through science, there are always portions of the human experience that can’t be comprehended, that don’t add up, or cannot be understood within the confines of this world. So, we look to the divine for answers, something outside of this world: We look to the idea of religion.
We aren’t alone in creating a sort of blind faith in the otherworldly to find our answers: There are over 4,000 religious belief systems throughout this planet. Many people find comfort in having a belief system, a community of others who subscribe to the same ideals, a way to feel connected to the universe and know there is more than just the daily grind to life. However, sometimes we find ourselves lacking in faith, or feeling that the religion we were born into is not the answers we believe as we grow into our own unique being. Personally, I place myself in the category of a lost sheep.
I have a relationship with God, but it’s complicated at best. I don’t blame my Catholic upbringing (though maybe I should) or living in the Bible Belt. I don’t blame my mother’s interest in chakras or the book I read about reincarnation. The complicated nature of my relationship with God comes from one person: me.
I used to feel very connected to God; I used to think that the concept of religion, and Catholicism, in particular, made complete sense. I was never a hardcore evangelist, but I was very involved in my church and always felt comfortable talking about Catholicism and my personal relationship with God in my youth. As I blossomed into an awkward teen and had some harsh realities thrown my way about the wickedness of people, though, I found myself in a place I had never been before, a foreign land that I didn’t know how to navigate: I found myself in total darkness, questioning not only the existence of God but the concept of religion as a whole.
I began to feel that I was tainted, that I bore my own scarlet letter, that I was no longer pure or worthy. The moments of quiet kneeling connection through prayer that used to ground me suddenly began to eat away at my soul. Although the initial causation for my feelings of impurity were not my own choice, the harmful choices I made after were done with my own hands. My fallout with faith (along with other horrible events) led me to fall into a very deep, dark depression for nearly all my teenage years. The climax of my alienation with God came at the height of my struggle to cope with teenage depression on a night I will never forget. I decided to pray for something disturbingly selfish; I begged for my own death.
Since that night, over 15 years ago, I have not made a single attempt at prayer for myself (though I’ve fervently prayed for others in need). Originally, I had decided that my prayer was not granted on that dreadful evening because I was undeserving, because I was a horrible being full of sin and failure. I am not sure that I still believe that now, but I do know that I’ve never been able to recapture the feelings of my younger days, I’ve never rekindled that connection to God. As I said, my relationship with God is complicated, and here’s why: though I still firmly believe that there is a higher being and I firmly believe in the divine intervention in our lives, I do not feel that I am worthy of being a part of a community of faith. I believe that God has given up on me and that I cannot be forgiven.
Many people will say that “God loves all his children,” or feel that the experience of religion is open to all…but what about a child like me? I’m a soiled dove, I strayed the path, I am a wicked being full of sin and monstrosity. So how can I be deserving of anything good, pure, or divine? I have spent years in silent contentment with my less than ideal relationship with God. I’ve accepted that I am unworthy of love and forgiveness, so I don’t ask for it, I simply accept my fate as being alone in the world.
My most recent struggles over the last 18 months have brought His existence and my severed ties with him back into the light, though. I’ve been spending significant amounts of my time researching, trying to find a religion that fits me. I’ve been working on forms of meditation and attended some yoga classes with spiritual purpose. I have agreed to talk to people around me who subscribe to various religions, hoping something will make sense, something will save me from the darkness. I’ve tried analyzing my thoughts, trying to write out what I believe and find where it fits into the 4,000 choices I have.
As I move forward and try to radically accept myself and my past, I’m beginning to feel less like Hester Prynne and more like Angel (Sarah) from Redeeming Love. They say that “You have to die to be reborn.” I’m not sure I’m ready for that quite yet, but I have all the baggage I need to be ready to leave behind and go forward blindly someday, when it all makes sense again. I don’t know that my relationship with God will always be so complicated, so lacking, so juxtaposed, but I’m very uncertain right now how to move forward with all my baggage and my strife.
So, if you find yourself in a walk of spiritual questioning, know that you are not alone, even if it feels that way. Our brains struggle to comprehend that which we cannot use our senses to make concrete, and religion is ultimately completely abstract. Perhaps the reason there are so many religions in this world is to show us that the human experience is completely unique, that we all can hold an individual spiritual identity and belief system. I know that for me, I am finding that I believe so many different things that I can’t confine myself to just one label or brand of religion. Hopefully, though, someday, I’ll find my place, reconnect with God…and I hope that you will too. We all deserve to have something to believe in, right?