Sorry God, It's Not You It's Me
I have been wanting to write this post for quite a few months now, and every time I went to start writing it I would realize that I was coming at it from a place of anger and so I would delete the post and put it back up on my shelf of ideas. And yet somehow over the last few months, I have had more conversations about religion and God and faith in general than I have probably ever had. If I was someone else I'd say this is a sign from God to write this. If I was someone else, of course.
I want to give a little bit of a background of my relationship with God and faith and what led to me wanting to write this post in the first place before I tell you what led me to write this post.
I grew up Catholic, I went to Catholic schools and was confirmed, I was an altar server before I became a lector. I went to church every single weekend with my family and we went to all of the church events that were held. I did my time in Catholicism, I gave it an honest real chance and I had every resource available to me to build an everlasting faith. But, by the time I was thirteen, I started to have my doubts. I think I knew for sure that I wasn't a believer by the time I was sixteen, a year before I got confirmed. But, I also thought that this was a part of life, that everyone started doubting their faith when they were a teenager.
When I went to college I started exploring other faiths, finding that the "talking points" of Catholicism (anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, anti-pre-marital sex) were hard to align myself with. That, added to the feeling of not being connected to God, made me look elsewhere. Thinking that maybe it was just this God that "pushed" these talking points that didn't resonate with me.
Quick interlude because this is a conversation I've had a lot, the thought process that you can be Catholic and be pro-abortion and pro-LGBT, etc. is definitely possible. But when your highest leaders are using your religion to justify all of those negative things, whether I believe in them or not, I couldn't stand to be lumped into that group. Because if they're able to look at The Bible and say that God is telling them to believe all of these things, if they're the loudest voices, I don't want to have to be louder and say that that's not my God. If we're in the same faith, how can that not be our God, one of us has to be wrong and I can't take the chance it's me. Okay, interlude over.
So, I explored other religions in college including Wiccanism, Bahai, and Buddhism. Buddhism felt the best and I realized it was because it didn't have a God that it leaned in to. I told most people I was Buddhist during that time of exploration in college, I think I was looking to stay in a group while being able to contend with my internal questioning of a God. It never really felt authentic, calling myself Buddhist, no matter how much reading I did.
Then one day I had my answer, or at least the answer I was looking for, on whether or not I believed in God. You know people always say "God doesn't give you a cross you can't carry" and "This is a part of God's plan with you." I heard that a lot after I was raped, well not really after it actually happened. After I was healed and thriving, that's when I heard it. I mean I already had one foot out the door with the whole "believing in God" thing, but yeah the real kicker was the idea that God wanted, no, needed me to be raped and violated and depressed and suicidal and never given justice.
That was the end of my relationship with God, but I think that we broke up on decent terms. It was like a long-term relationship that wasn't serving either party anymore, we both knew it was coming but neither one of us was ready to cut the cord. Then one of us did and I've felt so much better about it, and I'm sure He does because now He can focus on people who do want to talk to him all the time. We talk sometimes, about major life events like my Dad's surgery, friends or family being sick, and things like that. I don't really ever hear back from him but it makes me feel better to send the message anyway.
That's my background with God and religion, I felt like you should know that before we go on to the next part which is the part that needed some time before I could write it. The part where I talk about some of the conversations I've had regarding God. I'm going to keep it short and sweet and try not to ramble.
This post came to fruition in my mind when one of the "guides" that I knew during my confirmation time posted on Facebook, and tagged me, celebrating my 10 years of being confirmed. He wrote a lengthy post and in the post, he questions where we (my confirmation group and I) are in our lives and if we had strayed from our paths. He notes that if we have strayed he failed us and hoped that we could find our paths back. I had lots of thoughts about the post, and again, all of them come from a place of loving and understanding of what his faith means to him.
About a month after that post I ran into a friend of a friend during a bike ride. That friend had just gotten back from a ministry trip and spent the next 30 minutes talking to me about why I needed to find God again. Without rehashing the entire conversation the part that really stuck with me was the part where he asked me if I've lied, stolen, coveted, or lusted after a woman. When I said yes to all of the above he told me I was a sinner and would be going to hell if I didn't find and reconnect with God. I said what I always say when I'm told I'm going to hell, I said, "I'd love to think that if I met God in the afterlife he'll be able to look at the life I lived as a whole and forgive any of my sins." To which he responded, "If he lets you into heaven then he has to let Hitler and Stalin in too."
That conversation really really grated me. I mean who likes to be put on the same level as Hitler or Stalin right? I don't want to get into a whole rant so I will just say this to say my piece... If you are trying to get someone to take a chance on your religion, telling them that your God believes that they are the same as Hitler is probably not going to make them feel warm fuzzy feelings about your God. If your intention is to have them fear or hate your God but follow them to receive the magical prize of heaven, then you did it right. But I don't think that your God wants to rule from a place of fear.
That's not what I'm here to talk about though.
As someone who grew up religious, I have a lot of people in my life who are believers. That shouldn't be overly surprising, it's not like Catholicism/Christianity is a taboo thing. I don't have the best relationship with God, as seen above, and yet somehow I still love every single one of my friends and family that still believe in Him. A big part of that is because they love me, they love me despite not loving God.
That's a big thing for me, their ability to love me without me loving God feels bigger than me loving them despite them still loving Him. For me, God or no God, they're not any different. My family and friends who love me are worried about where my soul is going to go after I die, I don't believe in that so I don't have anything to worry about. They believe that I'll get to heaven and be possibly denied for not believing, and yet, they don't push for me to believe (well most of them don't at least). I love that, I love that I have people in my life who worry about me, and worry about my future, but respect me and my beliefs enough to let me live the life I want to live.
But, in saying that - there's a part of me that's a little jealous of people who have faith. The ability to wholeheartedly believe in something other than yourself. To have a community that you can turn to, a higher being to take on your problems and trust them to take it on.
I just read a book by an actor that I admire and he references his faith a lot in it, and each time my chest would tighten, and yet I kept reading. And I enjoyed the book. Because he took the positive messages from his faith and shared that. I am able to look at faith and religion for what they are, basic teachings and principles meant to guide us in our lives. My issue is putting my future into an entity that I don't feel a connection with, but that's my issue and I'm aware others don't have that.
I’m always looking to improve myself and I’m sure I’ve adopted basic faith teachings without even realizing it. Hello, “do unto others”, and at the end of the day, we’re all the same, we’re all just trying to make it through life and we all make decisions that make us feel more secure in the way we do that. All I wish is that we can do that without shaming others for the ways in which they’ve decided to get through theirs (restrictions apply). I hope that's how you live your life.