Our world is a complete melting pot of cultures, traditions and religions. So many of us see these varieties as a good and wonderful thing, but unfortunately there are still so many humans out there who don’t. It’s truly mind-blowing to me that in a world where we’re all so exposed and information is so easily accessible that people can still be so close-minded toward other people’s beliefs.
I try really hard not to be one of those close-minded individuals. I don’t necessarily keep myself up-to-date on politics and trending news stories, but I’m open to discussion and everyone else’s opinions. I don’t particularly enjoy a conversation that has the potential to turn heated, but listening as an innocent bystander with little-to-no input is a great way to educate yourself.
Religion is one of those sensitive topics that I tend to shy away from. Not because of its debatable nature, and the fact that there are so many different ones out there, but because it has always just made me uncomfortable.
My sister and I were baptized as babies, but have barely set foot in a church since then. My mom was raised in a very religious home where she and her five siblings went to church every Sunday and were also involved in catechism. As much as she hated it as a child, she appreciated the morals and values it gave her. She tried to encourage my sister and I to feel the same, but since it wasn’t a part of our life, we resisted. The thing I’ve learned about religion and church is, generally, you’re either a part of it from birth and it’s a part of your lifestyle, or you discover it because of some major life event.
Having not been raised in a religious home, I’ve never really believed in God. It’s always seemed a bit silly to me that people can credit so much of their life to a being that we have no real proof of. Getting a great grade on a test, or landing your dream job, or meeting your soulmate – to give all of the credit to another when you’re the one who put the work in and the steps in to get to that point? That’s the logic [or lack thereof] that I’ve always struggled with. Why wouldn’t you want to take all the credit for getting yourself to these major chapters of your life?
Just shy of two years ago, I met my fiancé. He was raised like my mom was – church every Sunday in a religious family. Both sides of his family are actively involved in their respective churches, pray before every meal, and discuss God and Jesus openly as if they are there hanging out with us at every event. The first ten family events I went to were incredibly uncomfortable for me. Standing in a circle, holding hands, and thanking somebody else for the food we were about to eat felt completely absurd. And I felt like such a fake for quietly partaking in these traditions to which I felt absolutely no connection, and in fact almost felt slightly repulsed. I’m not sure repulsed is the right word – that makes it sound like I was going to be sick. I think the word I’m looking for is standoffish. I was completely out of my element and didn’t have a single person on my team who could relate to me. My fiancé is not actively religious, but as a man who was born with an upbringing of faith, it still comes naturally to him.
Fast forward to today – through nearly two years of family get-togethers where hands are held, God is thanked, and Jesus is given credit for all positive occurrences in life. And it was at my nephew’s 9th birthday this last weekend, my fiancé’s dad giving a prayer before dinner, when I realized it no longer felt awkward for me. I now murmur “amen” and feel appreciative for the food that’s laid out in front of me. I don’t know if I necessarily have God to thank for it, but I am much more grateful for it than I was before.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully immerse myself in religion. I can get on board with the prayers at home and discussing it with family members, but I am still a bit off-put by the Sunday congregation tradition. If God is so loving and forgiving, does He really need everyone to take time out of their busy lives to gather all together in a church every week? That seems a bit selfish to me. Plus, [and I know this is so incredibly close-minded of me, BUT], I find the crucifix symbols all over the churches to be extremely disturbing and not at all peaceful or conducive to a “family” environment.
As a person who unfortunately battles anxiety, I am always looking for non-medicinal ways to help combat my stress flare-ups. I’ve cut out caffeine, tried acupuncture, massages, seen a chiropractor, and recently decreased my alcohol consumption to a glass of wine a week, if that [I used to have a glass a day or every other day]. And about two months ago, during our trip to Europe, I had a bout of anxiety so bad that it was starting to border on a panic attack. Halfway across the world from home and everything familiar to me, I did the only thing I could think of, and I prayed. I asked God to please remove my stress; that I understood the reasons for it but that I needed to stop dwelling on the things causing it. And I don’t know if it was a placebo effect or a God of some sort, but I actually felt a real sense of peace after and could feel the stress leaving my body. And it felt really, really good. I began to see why people [so many people, in fact] put religion so high on their priority lists.
I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write this post. Maybe because a couple of my friends posted some really uplifting stories on their social media feeds this week in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and it really got me thinking about this season and how so many people will be thanking God. And while I still think we should all take more credit for the hard work, dedication, time and love we put into our lives, maybe I’m finally learning that it’s okay to thank a higher being, too.
Please note, these are all my own opinions and I in no way disagree with or dislike any religion or belief system on this planet. I completely respect each individual’s right to practice and follow what they wish, and, in fact, encourage anyone to do so. I apologize if this post offends anyone – I don’t mean to hurt any feelings or put anybody out. I just felt like expressing how I was feeling on the subject.