I grew up in a Catholic school where every day Thursday at exactly 9:00, all thirty of us in my class would march in a single file line over to the cavernous Cathedral and pray. A waste of time in my case…. We were told to pray for our loved ones and sometimes told to pray for the sick. Of course I never prayed. Ever. I was always too preoccupied with watching how the priest’s top lip went slightly up and how white spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth. It was gross, yes, but entertaining. At that age, it was impossible for me to focus my mind on a single thought for longer than three seconds.
I hated school. I remember sitting on the scratchy, cheap green woven seats of the church. A couple of times I refused to kneel. My excuse was that I didn’t think the sermon was logical or even sometimes I simply stated that I had bad knees. Mostly I just wanted to see the principal turn purple with uncertain rage. After all, I was only in 6th grade, and I spent enough time in “detention” (which entailed sitting on a wooden bench for an hour) to get to know the principal pretty well. Usually she started off with the same question: “Why must you always be testing the limits, Samantha?! Why?!” she would splutter anxiously. By this time she was only slightly red, so I decided to push a little further into the violet spectrum by answering with “Why do you always expect me to answer that question?” I smiled my sweetest smile and expected her to turn pink… which she did. Then the conversation always turned to what I had done or not done, but in the end she always turned beet purple. I think the term for my strategy with the principal would be called McCarthyism, which is a history term for the practice of answering questions with more questions.
Questioning. It’s an interesting concept. How many questions a day would you say you ask? How many of them do you already know the answer to? How many times a day do you think about asking a question and change your mind because you think you will sound stupid? That is what religion has been for me for so long, a question that I have been too afraid to ask out loud.
For some people religion would never be considered a challenge. However, for me personally I have had a tremendously difficult time figuring out what I want to believe in. Part of this dilemma is due to the eight years of Catholic schooling. While I was involved with the Catholic School system I never really allowed myself to think about the religion that was presented to me on a daily basis. I went about mindlessly believing.
I now realize what a terrible thing that is, to believe without thinking…without questioning. I never realized until I got out of the private school system that I didn’t need all the structure the church provided me. I went outside and found my personal connection with God right beneath my feet. It took me eight years to learn one faith…but only 2 seconds to find my own.
I feel it is extremely important to find your own faith specifically for yourself. If your have something personal to hold onto; something that your entire soul rings true… you can make it through anything. It is an incredible feeling to be able to know where you come from spiritually, and this feeling carries me personally through all of the other worldly challenges I face and will face in the near future.
Everyone has his or her own path, his or her own “God.” I think the word “God” stands for many different things to many different people. It could be an instant of calm before a sudden wind, when you realize that everything is simply an inextricable force of circular motion, a cycle. It could be the fact that even though you are incapacitated with grief, you can look at a flower and smile without thinking about it. It could be coming to the conclusion that no matter how bad your past has been or how many memories you consciously repress, you can still cry about them. I know I have.
Many times I have found “God” in tears and hardship…and you know what? I know that even if life isn’t what I want it to be for myself, even if all of my hopes and dreams are amorphous, I will still have myself. The only person I can rely on forever is myself, and finding out what I believe in and where I come from has helped me make myself stronger.
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