We wear many hats in life, each with its own burdens and bounties. There’s one hat that often doesn’t get the credit it deserves, the hat of the believer – the steadfast believer, unyielding and sometimes tiresome. I’m going to give you a slice of my own pilgrimage of belief, the peaks and valleys, the green-eyed monster, and finally, the homecoming. I may not possess unwavering belief, but I can be as tiresome as they come, and to you, the reader of this piece, I promise a deep dive, perhaps to return to this subject at a later time…
As a boy, the stern dogmas of the church didn’t engage me. Every faith appeared like deities from the Bronze Age, myths from before television was invented.
During my university years, however, I experienced a divine moment. I’m not going to delve too deep, but there was an instant, a sudden consciousness of a superior power’s mercy. In the tranquil certainty of the ‘now,’ I discovered a refuge. This revelation paved my path to faith.
Faith brought me the kind of peace one feels swaddled in a warm blanket on a frosty winter day. I took to a church, which as it turned out, steered me down a twisted path – it turned me into a version of myself I didn’t like. Using the same metaphor, I began to harbor the toxic belief that my blanket was superior to others’. I was a disgraceful representation of a believer. Despite that, faith gave me a lens to see the world, it gave me purpose and comprehension. I turned into a fanatic. But, like everything, that phase also reached its end.
As I neared the close of my twenties, I was swept up by a tide of change. I began questioning my unerring faith, the beliefs I had once embraced so passionately. It was like amputating a part of my being. The pain was excruciating, akin to losing a lifelong companion. My faith had deserted me, leaving me adrift in a spiritual abyss.
I regressed to being the resentful teenager I once was, losing myself in alcohol and poor behavior. The seemingly endless inner strength that believers appeared to possess, their endless beacon of hope, it all seemed like a sham to me. I was vehemently against the church, against faith as a whole.
By my late thirties, the tables had turned. I found myself envying believers again – perhaps it was a sign of maturing or softening. They appeared to have all the answers. It was as if they had swapped one set of anxieties – the existential dread of those without a faith tether – for another set of faith-based concerns. It seemed like they had abandoned their existential dread at the entrance of their place of worship, exchanging logic and reason for the comforting embrace of faith.
Their tranquility was striking. Their prayer and comfort, the conviction of a higher power watching over them, it all sparked envy within me. Their faith was their armor, their solace, their guide. Even when wracked with doubt, they clung to their faith, each day making it stronger.
This tarnished my own experience, the one from university. It belittled my time at the church, filling me with guilt. I didn’t recognise it then, but I was seeking absolution – but from whom? The Church? God? No, I was seeking forgiveness from myself and attempting to reclaim the simple Experience from my university days, in the sunlight.
Now in my forties, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. I realise I have what I call a ‘lived faith.’ It’s different from the faith I once held, and different from the faith I once envied.
It’s a faith born out of experiences, out of joy, pain, successes, failures, love, and loss. It’s less about an unwavering belief in a higher power and more about the trust in the journey of life itself.
My lived faith doesn’t offer me the concrete answers I once had, or the promise of a divine protector, but it offers something else – resilience. The understanding that life will ebb and flow, the acceptance of uncertainties, the ability to find hope amidst chaos, and the courage to confront the unknown, that’s what my lived faith has bestowed upon me.
To those with unwavering faith, I still look at you with a sense of wonder. Your belief, your strength, and your peace, they all inspire me. But I have found my own path now, a different kind of faith, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
In conclusion, faith is a deeply personal journey, and everyone’s path will look different. I had to think twice about publishing this post – it is quite personal and close to the bone. But, whether you’re grounded in strong religious beliefs, questioning your faith, or finding peace in a lived faith like me, remember, it’s your journey. And every journey, with its unique experiences and realisations, is beautiful in its own way.
I think I will start a new category called Faith due to this post – I may end up deleting this post, it is a very personal post and one that I hope does not offend? But, thanks for your time.