Believe it or not, I was hoping to leave religion out of this blog…
It’s not an easy subject for me to discuss with other people, and my own experience as of late has been that mentioning the word “God,” or “faith,” seems to drive more people away, than it draws into a meaningful, constructive dialogue.
As awkward, and difficult, and uncomfortable as it is for me to introduce the subject…
I would truly be remiss if I left out this vital part of my story.
(Be patient with me on this one; this feels like one of the most difficult posts I will write – but then, I tend to feel that way more often than not, anyway… so, here goes…)
To be frank – I own my religious beliefs.
The same way I own my fear, my anxiety, my addictions, my PTSD (my weaknesses), I am learning to also own my strengths:
my faith, my insight and my understanding of human behavior, my ability to communicate effectively through the written word, my never ending optimism, and appreciation for truth and love and beauty, and my endless search for meaning.
I have no desire to preach, to proselytize, or to “imagine” that I can convert anybody through my blog. (Anyway the way I understand religion, the only being that can convert a person is the Holy Spirit… whom I am most assuredly not…)
I spent decades of my own life not believing in God… not attending church… not wanting to shape my thoughts, my words, and my actions in a way that would point me to Jesus Christ…
And I got along. (But I never got along well, until I turned myself to the Lord.)
I had friends, and close family members – correction; I have friends, and close family members… who are not religious. Who either abhor religion, replace religion with spirituality, or, more often… simply do not believe.
Truly, I am not interested in convincing you, my reader, that you need to believe… and it runs counter to my very nature, to think that I can tell another person what to believe… so let’s get that out of the way right up front.
I am not going to preach to you.
I am not going to tell you that “you must accept Jesus Christ into your life in order to be saved.”
I am not going to tell you that if you don’t subscribe to my religious beliefs that you are damned (mostly because I don’t personally believe that’s true, anyway…)
I am going to tell you that I alone could not overcome the challenges before me… without putting my faith in my church, my religion, and my Savior. I am not strong enough. I’m not sure that any of us here in mortality are… but that’s my opinion, and there’s no amount of proof or evidence that I can offer, to say that my opinion is correct lol…
Do I, personally, believe that adhering to the teachings and the principles of my religion empowers me to rise to greater heights? To hold myself to (and move constantly towards) a higher standard? To progress through life’s challenges, setbacks, and disappointments? And to inspire other people to do the same?
I absolutely do.
And I absolutely will share my experiences, in terms that are familiar to myself and other followers of my faith. That does not mean that “believing everything I believe” is the only way for you to find the happiness you’re looking for – it simply means it was the way I found my happiness, and it’s such an important part of my story it would be dishonest for me to leave it out.
Now, do I, personally, expect or require or need other people to believe, or accept, or acknowledge, that my own strength derives from my faith in Jesus Christ – and to adhere to the same religious beliefs that I do? (Or to any religious beliefs at all?)
I do think, though, that a belief in any higher power, Supreme Being, enlightened teachings, spirituality, inspiration from the Universe… whatever you call it. I think that such a belief is indispensable when it comes to understanding and overcoming things like fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, depression, all the things that I have struggled with for decades, and that I hope to write about (and shine light on) in this blog.
So, along those lines, I do recommend that if you are already religiously or spiritually inclined… that you hold tight and fast to your belief system… and allow it to be your anchor in the storm… and rely on your higher power to guide you safely across the river of filth that most (okay, all) human beings routinely encounter in this thing we call “Life.”
If, on the other hand, you are not so inclined, I am happy to meet you where you are. I personally don’t believe that a person can truly overcome difficult life challenges without real religion or spirituality… but I also have no interest in disparaging anyone for their belief, or lack thereof…
We are all on this mortal journey together. And I sincerely believe that, though we all walk the same “lonesome valley,” the individual paths we follow are as varied as the sands on the sea shore… and I truly believe that it was planned that way.
Anyway. I believe what I believe. And. I encourage others to believe what they believe. And most of all – I encourage you to know why you believe what you believe. To really take it apart and analyze it, and search and ponder (and, where appropriate, to pray), and put your beliefs to the test…
Does your belief system move you forward? Does it bring you peace, and hope, and lasting happiness? Does it inspire you to love your fellow man? To serve those who stand in need? To strive each day to improve your lot in life… so that you can enjoy greater peace, greater love, a deeper, more satisfying life?
(This is where it starts to get really hard for me to wrap this post up lol… like I’ve got this whole deep, profound train of thought going, and now I need to bring everyone back down to “oh yeah I have to go pay the bills now, and make a grocery list and pick up the kids from school…” and I don’t really know how to do it with something so ‘serious.’)
If I could wave a magic wand right now and have you come away from this post with one thing… I think it would be this:
Know what you believe. And respect that other people know what they believe.
Don’t believe (or argue, for that matter) anything just because “you’re sposed to.” Or because somebody told you to, or because someone you know who does believe such-and-such is either the most marvelous person you’ve ever known EVER, or the dirtiest most despicable scoundrel who’s ever walked the face of the Earth.
Ask hard questions. And chew on hard answers. Search for guidance, for direction, for inspiration… and literally study it all out in your own mind… in your own heart… in your own day to day life… and see for yourself, if your beliefs lead you to the results you really want.
(And please for the love of Christmas don’t try to disabuse others of their deeply held beliefs… instead, respect and acknowledge that they did not come by their beliefs easily… and whether their beliefs are right or wrong are ultimately only for them to discover… not for us to decide.)
Like everything else in life, the value we place on our beliefs determines how much influence those beliefs have on us.
So if you choose, or want, or need, to believe in something outside yourself, whatever that something may be (spoiler: I think that you do in order to really change your thoughts and your behavior, but that’s just me…)
If you need a belief in a higher power…
You need to own it. And make it a valuable part of your own story. It’s the only you it can have the kind of power and influence in your life, that you need.
(Also, be excellent to each other.)