What does it mean to be faithful? Some consider it faithful to attend Sunday morning church services or say a prayer before each mealtime. Others devote their whole lives to being faithful servants by entering into the convent. So to what degree should we implement faithful practices in our everyday lives and who is really the judge?
Having been raised catholic and attended four years of catholic school, rule following was ingrained in my head from an early age: I wasn't to chew gum in church, I couldn't eat within one hour before receiving communion (that one still gets me every time), and I was to regurgitate prayers that I didn't understand and that held no meaning for me on a daily basis. If I followed these rules, among many others, it was considered being faithful to God.
In the last few years, I have found it increasingly difficult to take these rules seriously. Who was it really that decided humans are fundamentally flawed creatures and therefore must sit in a dark room behind a screen and divulge their darkest kept secrets to a man they don't know? And why is said man so much more holy than any other stranger wearing a long, colorful robe? Is he really privy to God's direct line and thus, better suited to communicate with Him than I am? I began to have a hard time stomaching much of what others accepted freely as part of their "faith."
At first, I began feeling guilty that I was questioning so much. But then again, guilt was also deeply ingrained in my head from an early age. I was scared I was loosing my faith in God and religion altogether. I stopped praying, attending mass, and considering myself a catholic. I rejected many of the ideas of the church; like the one that states anyone of a different faith or sexuality is a sinner and therefore unable to get to heaven. I didn't believe in a fiery place beneath the earth where "bad" people go, nor did I think there was an evil force trying his best to break apart families and tempt people to sin.
I began longing for something bigger than man-made laws, bigger than religion itself. I knew in my heart that God's existence couldn't be explained or rationalized, so I stopped trying to "figure out" what was true. I believed if I was patient, answers would come and I would, once again, feel fulfilled by faith. So I waited. I waited patiently for almost a year before things began to make sense again.
What I realized was that I was whole, not flawed. I was divine, not a sinner. I learned that because I was part of God and connected to all humanity, my old feelings of loneliness, despair and unworthiness could finally be released. I slowly realized that the thoughts I allowed to enter my head affected how I acted, which in turn became who I was. I had been paralyzed by fear and guilt for so long. But for what? Because something bad might happen in the future? By letting go of any and all predictions of what was to come or dwellings on what had been, I found comfort in the present and faith in divine order- that everything was happening exactly the way it was intended to. What a beautifully freeing revelation!
My life has since changed in amazing ways and I am so thankful for the countless blessings that I have been given. When once I may have said I don't deserve all the good in my life, I now affirm that I am deserving of all good and beauty that exists. I love and respect myself as well as all of God's creatures. I no longer feel guilty for being exactly who I am or choosing to snuggle with my husband on Sunday morning rather than attend a church service. I have found faith that stretches far beyond the confines of most religions. I feel closest to God when I am in the beauty of nature, surrounded by all forms of life, or doing yoga, alone in a quiet room.
For me, faith is connection with something bigger than myself. It is the feeling of wholeness that I know is only achieved through Spirit. Faith is too expansive for words and is not one-size-fits-all. It is not the need to be in control of life's circumstances, but the flexibility to move forward and trust.
Regardless of what life brings, I have faith. In Him. In me. In humanity.
and so it is...