Religion is one of those make or break you topics on the Internet – but this has been bubbling in the back of my mind for quite sometime now. So here we go, my journey with not finding religion.
I think this is an important statement to make – I do believe in a higher power. Heaven and Hell. Angels and Demons. Fate. Destiny. The bitch called Karma…I just haven’t defined what all of those are for me yet. Maybe it’s because I think some of them continually change.
Even now, moving into my thirties, I’m still figuring what my beliefs about religion are. I can’t even pretend to understand organized religion in its entirety and if I’m being totally honest, which I promised I would be, I don’t know that I want to. I feel guilty going to one church because deep in my soul I know that I don’t agree with everything they say. It seems unfair to be there, to put on a face for the sake of belonging. It’s exhausting.
It makes me feel like a hypocrite to try and appear to believe what everyone wants me to believe. I swear. I drink. I love crude humor and sex jokes. I shout the word, “BALLS!” when I drop something on my foot. I am perfectly imperfect, and I love that. It took me years, to get to a place where I was comfortable with who I am and what I believe.
Simply put, I just don’t think that everything I want, or need to believe in, fits neatly into one prepackaged box. Looking at the complexity of our world – its not that simple for me. I struggle to not question things, to just accept things at face value all of the time. I saw a meme the other day that said, “I am not a ride or die bitch, I have questions. Where are we riding? Why do I have to die? Can we stop and get tacos?” and that sums me up pretty well.
I don’t think any of that makes me less of a believer than the next person. I have seen miraculous things happen in my life and the lives of others, and I absolutely believe that comes from something much bigger than any of us. Is my higher power called ‘God?’ Sometimes. Sometimes I think the higher power looking out for me is my mom, my grandmother, or even just a force of nature. It changes for me and I think that’s okay too. I also pray. I pray really hard sometimes. But those are my words and feelings, no one else’s. I don’t feel the need to share them or have anyone else hear them for my soul to be right and feel complete.
Unfortunately, part of the reason I used to struggle so much with finding religion instead of searching for what I personally believed, was because there were things that people tried to teach me that I just didn’t agree with. I won’t go into detail, but I distinctly remember sitting in Sunday school at this church my grandpa took me a couple of times, and having questions only to be shut down and made to feel wrong for asking them.
I ran back to my mother, downtrodden and confused.
From that point on, the best thing she ever did for me, was not pressure me into having specific religious beliefs. “What religion are we?” I would ask. “Well I was raised Methodist. But you can be whatever you believe.” She would answer. She allowed me to come to my own assumptions, beliefs and most importantly she let me continue to ask questions. “Why did so and so die?” There was never a sugar coated answer from her. I didn’t experience the, “God needed another angel,” speech. It was always, “They were sick and suffering, it was just their time. I know it hurts, but they’re in a better place now.”
In hindsight, I appreciate that more than I could ever begin to express. She never told me what the better place was…I didn’t need to know. I just needed to know that she thought there was a place, and from there I could define it as such. Thus began my search for whatever I needed to find for myself.
My search lead me to a lot of different churches. Not every church I tried was a disaster. Some of them were so close to what I wanted, some weren’t. I just never truly ‘fit.’ So I had to come to terms with that and look more at what at what I wanted to accomplish, what I needed and what I expected of myself on this journey.
I wanted to volunteer and give back. I wanted to see changes happening in people that went beyond a religious experience. I didn’t want to blindly give money to an establishment I sometimes questioned. I needed my kids to feel like they could stand up and say proudly that they have parents who support gay marriage and not feel like they are the odd man out because the Bible says otherwise. I needed to feel like I could bring every. single. bit. of myself to someone and not feel judged for doing so once I left the room.
I had struggled for a long time with accepting myself wholly, and let me tell you – getting to a point where I could be the true Ashley in front of other people was not easy. I wasn’t willing to give that up or sacrifice any part of myself to try and find a specific religion. So I just stopped searching.
It finally felt, good. It finally felt, right.
I had never felt an empty void because I didn’t attend church regularly. I never felt like I was missing out on something because I didn’t read the Bible instead of Harry Potter. I always knew I had a very different relationship with all of my beliefs. I also knew I didn’t need to be rescued or saved because of my beliefs…I found what I needed. Finally, after discussions alongside a lot of self exploration, I’m okay to say that I have a personal and intimate relationship with God – She and I are good. I don’t think it needs to go much beyond that for me.
I found my middle ground somewhere along the way as my brain formed into a real grown up brain, and my thoughts and opinions on life and the world around me developed. Sometimes I slip off my middle ground, dig my nails into the dirt and pull myself back onto it. This is sufficient and normal.
Authors Note: I didn’t go into all of my beliefs and thoughts on religion, that’s not what I wanted this to be about. I didn’t want it to be about one religion or another, but more my beliefs and how I felt about coming to terms with all of it. But if you find yourself really wanting to know more, email me. I truly am an open book.