Read Part One
One of the common themes in the religion was the parable of the shepherd and his flock. The obedient sheep were cared for and protected from harm by their shepherd, while those who chose to stray from the others soon found themselves lost and alone, at the mercy of predators lurking in the darkness.
And those poor lost lambs broken, bleeding, stumbling through the darkness, hunted at every turn, crying out for help, to no avail? When it came to that part of the sermon I knew they were talking about my mom.
In reality, the only thing my mother was crying out for was for me to wake up and get ready for school. Or do my homework. Or clean my room. There isn’t a doubt in my mind it was a tough time in her life. I was young, but I could tell she was fighting daily battles with fear and doubt.
At the same time, there was unmistakable relief from a burden suddenly lifted. While it appeared that she had lost her faith, I could tell she had finally found it. Rather than making a martyr of herself, she chose to keep on living her life. Mortal sinner or not, she was still a mother, wife, daughter, friend… and for that, she is also my hero.
My mom was always adamant that our individual faith not be affected by her decision to leave. Pretty soon, life went back to normal. I was the one that had changed. In parallel with the laws of physics, my awkwardness (physical, social, etc.) decreased with each new year. I gained confidence, friends, even boyfriends. I was growing up and seeing the world through new eyes. I started to notice the hypocrisy in the religion; everyone seemed to be living double lives. There could be all manner of scandal (all seven deadly sins) going on in private, but as long as you showed up looking the part, you were fine.
Mostly, I hated the hypocrisy I saw in myself. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to drag myself out of bed to scrub the residual makeup off my face and change into a [much] longer skirt in time for Sunday morning meeting after a late night out with (non-religious) friends. Questions swirling through my mind since the beginning had grown from whispers into a deafening roar. I felt like my initial feelings were true; that the entire establishment was just a game — a facade to gain power and influence. It was my senior year of high school when in the midst of a broken heart (love) and fear of my unknown future lurking over the horizon (college), I decided to massively feng shui my life. So I left the religion in search of answers and a fresh start.
I decided religion was nothing more than a fairy tale humanity clings to because the majority of us are too cowardly and weak to take responsibility for our existence in the face of an indifferent universe. Had I finally found the answer? Had I achieved enlightenment through German philosophy?
Belief is defined as, “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.” Belief means accepting you’re never going to have all the answers (easier said than done in the Age of Information). Looking back, I was getting “weakness” confused with “vulnerability.” Having faith means making yourself vulnerable to the reality that you might be wrong. Still, does demanding irrefutable proof of (xyz) within the scope of human comprehension before it “exists” strike you as progressive or open minded?
Couldn’t sneering at those who believe simply because you don’t be classified as bullying (although this is hilarious)…?
Our belief (vs. passive interest in life) is what ultimately define whether we live life — or simply exist. Am I wrong in suggesting that leaving everything familiar behind and taking a job in Minsk even though you’ve never been out of state is an exercise in faith? Or when you realize that you’re falling for someone, and you’re scared to death that they’re going to rip your heart out, but you go ahead and fall anyway? What would you call that?
So whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddah, Yahweh, the mud god Pikkiwaki, science, modern medicine, Gaga, Apple, Whole Foods or (horrors) yourself… faith is what ultimately drives our existence.