I’m not going to lie; my faith is not what it was ten years ago. And I’m glad.
My understanding of and relationship with God has taken many different forms over the course of my life.
I started as a child wanting to know more about God: Who is he? Who am I to him? What does he want from me? What do I need to do for him? I read my Children’s Bible from Genesis to Revelation, searching the pages for the answers that never came, but I never stopped believing in his existence.
As I grew older, I wanted to participate in the Macedonian Orthodox religion of my family. I wanted to serve in some capacity, to show God I wanted to know him. But nothing I attempted–not the singing, the Sunday School, the kitchen work–helped me understand God or get answers to my questions, but I never stopped believing.
It wasn’t until I was a mother that I found a place that seemed to have answers to my questions. Nicole was five years old; she befriended a little girl who invited her to AWANA. I wanted to go with Nicole to see what it was all about. To make a long story short, Nicole and I gave our hearts to Jesus. I finally felt like I had answers to my questions.
It wasn’t an easy road though. Nicole seemed to assimilate easily; I didn’t quite fit in. I’m not completely sure why, but it was hard to make friends with the women at church; I seemed to be some sort of project for them, a project that didn’t quite get it or measure up to their standards. No matter what church I became a part of, I felt like the women were always in teacher mode with me, which I realized when I saw them with their real friends. They were at ease with each other, joking and smiling and hanging out at non-Christian events; I wasn’t a part of that inner circle.
That outsider status might have something to do with my asking too many questions about beliefs I didn’t understand and rules that seemed legalistic. I tried to forget my questions and go along with the rules just to fit in. I became competent at stating doctrine and sharing the truth that was shared with me. As the good student, I knew the answers to all the big questions. Sadly, those answers never made me a better person; and even worse, I still didn’t fit in.
But regardless of whether I fit in with this non-denominational religion or not, I never stopped believing in God. That much is still true today, but let’s just say I definitely would not be let into the inner circle of God-fearing, church-going women now, and I’m okay with that. I know what I believe; I know what living my faith has done for me and others around me. I feel more connected to God now than I ever have.
What I’ve discovered is that connectedness with God doesn’t mean I have all the answers. As a matter of fact, I’m back where I started as a child, asking all the same questions: Who is God? Who am I to him? What does he want from me? What do I need to do for him? –and I’m thankful that I don’t know the answers.
I don’t know why God let my son get a cancerous brain tumor when he was four. I don’t know why I seem to have more than my share of pain and betrayal. And, honestly, I can’t stand when people claim to know the answers to these questions and give me some b.s. answer. No one really knows why God allows bad things to happen, or if God weeps when I weep or rejoices when I rejoice.
What I do know is the person I’ve become because of these things: I am stronger and more confident than I ever thought I could be. I am a woman who has learned that it’s better to love than to hate; who has learned that forgiveness heals and anger wounds; who eventually chooses compassion over revenge. Along the way I’ve also learned that love needs to say no more than it needs to say yes; that those who won’t answer questions are those who should not be trusted; that the still, small voice inside of me is intuitive and should be trusted; and that life isn’t going to be any easier now that I know these things, but life is more rewarding because I do. I am a better person now even though I don’t know all the answers because I know who I am.
I have Faith to thank for that. Faith has taught me who I am because faith enlightens. Faith does not judge. Faith is not exclusive. Faith chooses love. Faith teaches forgiveness. Even in the midst of tears and heartache, faith gives me strength and courage to step into the darkness because I know faith will illuminate my path.