I stopped going to church.
I haven’t been to church in years. I felt the distance growing when I was in college, and the feeling of “this is not where I find God,” never went away.
And one day, I just stopped. That day, when I had gone to see the chaplain. Deployed and alone. That day, when I had stumbled into his office, barely able to breathe because anxiety had overwhelmed me. That day when the ring on my finger scared me to the point of a breakdown. And all I received was cliche upon cliche about what his godly marriage looked like. That day was the last.
I know this may cause alarm and concern to some of my very few readers, but please don’t let it. My faith in God and my love for Him have never wavered. I’ve continued to seek spiritual guidance from family and friends who have an exemplary relationship with God and a deep grasp of both spirituality and humanity. I’ve also continued to seek out and attend Bible studies to work out my faith with peers and Christian leaders.
But the act of stepping away from the church ignited something that took me a while to name. Eventually, I realized it was authenticity. Personal, spiritual, and deep connection with others, and it was so special.
I noticed it first, years before I stopped attending church services. Surprisingly, it was in my conversations with an atheist friend. We were sharing mutual grief together. I shared with her from my faith basis of understanding, and she shared from pure love for me. She never rejected me or my faith-inspired perspective. And together, we formed not only a beautiful friendship, we helped to heal each other’s wounds.
And slowly, my faith began to redefine and refine itself.
I next noticed it in my Catholic friend who came to live with me. She had just left an abusive husband, and she slept on my couch for over a year. My 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment became a home for two friends. With her I could share my inner most thoughts, and she only listened and loved. She could sense when I wasn’t ready to change my ways and did not pressure me. She simply took me as I was and stayed by me on my journey.
I’ve met several similar friends along the way. Most of them also do not belong to a church. Together we found unthreatening environments that did not compel us to be different in order to find approval. We accepted each other’s unique paths, and we helped each other navigate through trials.
Steadily, I began to notice what I have started to call a beautiful collision of souls. A TV show, illustrating the transcendence of love and acceptance across people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and identity. An exchange of raw thoughts concerning the Bible and life experience with trusted persons. The compassionate embrace of a child to a grieving mother. The well-timed assistance of random strangers in a foreign country.
Most recently, my soul experienced healing when I went home over the summer. My heavily tattooed arms couldn’t stay covered under the summer heat. I felt my heart tighten and its rate quicken as I sat near conservative, Christian family members and high school friends. They didn’t know me as this woman. I was afraid they would see me and misunderstand who I had become. But to my amazement and heavy relief, they told me not to hide my arms. They asked curious questions about my tattoos and the story behind them, and I saw that their only interest was to know me better and love me for the woman I am today.
Tremendous healing took place that summer.
Is God found in church? He is for some, and I’m glad for it. As for me, I see Him more clearly in everyday life, and through deep personal connections. And I genuinely notice Him better when I can no longer hear the institutional voices. Faith, to me is found in the most unassuming places. Where souls collide and people authentically express love, provide healing, and accept each other.
1 thought on “What is Faith?”
I love and completely relate to this! You have eloquently expressed my current and continuous journey. The going home and family element of my faith journey is a path I haven’t genuinely explored but maybe one day soon I will find the strength and meet a similar reaction as you did with tattoos. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing.
LikeLiked by 1 person