Faith. From my first memories I was told to have it, to live and breathe it, to cling to it like it’s the last thing keeping me from drowning. It was something I was afraid to let go of, a part of my identity that I wasn’t sure who I was without.
Fear. There was a time when it was all I could hear, drowning out any voice of reason or hope because I was seeing so many things wrong, so many puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit in with all I’d been taught to believe, so many grey areas blurring the solid blacks and whites that had colored my world since childhood.
And then, faith was something I had to find all over again, crawling on my hands and knees and grabbing for something solid to hold in the darkness. It was taking steps when I wasn’t sure I was ready to take them, the darkness in front of me so thick that my steps became smaller and smaller, almost stopping altogether.
It is a scary thing to question one’s faith, like shaking the only branch that is keeping you from tumbling out of the tree, but it’s a step that everyone should be taking. If you don’t ask questions, you will never truly know what you believe, you will simply be a parrot repeating what you’ve always been told.
So here I am, searching again for the very thing I was brought up to believe. Here I am, struggling to find God in some moments, but feeling him with me so strongly in others. Here I am, wanting worse than anything to reach out to the people around me, to tell them they are loved, that they are valuable and beautiful for just being alive, and for trying, and for showing up. I want to tell them that God loves them exactly where they are, no matter what they are struggling with. From the little children I see at church with their pure and innocent faith, to the young girl who is for the first time learning to ask questions and to realize that the world is bigger than her bubble, to the women all around me who struggle not to compare themselves with others, not to feel less than because they are different. I have been all of them, and I am all of them.
I understand the struggles that come with being raised with certain beliefs, the damaging messages that can be internalized even with the best of intentions. I understand the fear and the agony that can come with realizing that even though God is the purest of whites, humans are and have always been grey, and the world we live in is like a giant laundry machine, that no matter how hard we try to keep things clean and white they won’t ever stay that way. Not in a world where violence and war muddle our ideas of morality, or where bigotry and hatred cause deep wounds in people simply because the color of their skin or who they are in love with is different. Not in a world where a girl can feel ashamed for being raped and physically assaulted, because her religion taught her that God frowns on her because of what happened to her and that it was her fault.
I believe in a kind, wise and beautiful God who loves us with all of his heart. I believe in Him because I have seen Him in sunrises and mountains, and I have seen Him in the souls of kind and pure-hearted people. I believe that God created us all to learn and grow stronger and this earth to be a beautiful home in which to grow. And I know that in the painful struggles of this world it can seem like he has abandoned us, but I choose to believe that He hasn’t, that He’s still here and that He will be there for us if only we hold onto the thing that makes it all worth it.