In early elementary school, math captured my academic heart and never let go. I liked the fact that all the problems had an answer: a whole number or a fraction, x equaled one thing and y another. So when it came time to choose a career, I felt drawn in the same direction. I studied engineering and found I excelled at the jobs requiring linear thinking, where the resolution to the problem had a definitive, explainable answer.
Meanwhile, my parents took my siblings and me to church throughout our adolescence. Even as we moved from one suburban East coast town to another, and they migrated from Presbyterian to Congregational to Baptist, services on Sunday were a constant. As an adult, I kept going, as if the ritual had been ingrained in my psyche, in the walk I took every Sunday morning.
However, it’s never been an entirely comfortable walk. Since I left home and my parents’ direct religious influence, I’ve always felt like a fraud when I’ve had to recite the Lord’s Prayer: “thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever” or sing Easter hymns: “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!” How do you measure forever? Where is the scientific proof Jesus returned from the dead? I never felt comfortable saying I believed in God or faith or any one religion because anything smacking of such certainty, yet unassociated with linear thinking and ultimately unprovable, made no sense to me.
In the meantime, however, I kept coming back to church, for the peace it provided: The sense of community, the hymns and the organ chords, the smiling face of my daughter after Sunday School, the increased likelihood someone would visit me when I’ve become ill or grown elderly.
I believe in my right to be unsure, to wonder, to doubt. I believe in my struggle: between the simplicity and absolute certainty I find in the analytic and the concrete and the utter unknown of a creed trillions of people throughout history have staked their lives on.
For years, I thought I would figure it out. I said the words I wasn’t sure I believed in when I joined churches as if by saying them they would be true. I avoided church, denouncing religion like so many of my friends. But I always eventually returned, to the traditional church model of my childhood, singing the songs I know by heart, hearing the celebrations and concerns of the individuals I sit next to every Sunday morning, feeling connected to the building and the people and the faith in a way I can’t completely understand.
I’ve come to accept my struggle, the only thing in which I can believe.
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