I thought that the next logical topic to post about would be why I believe in God. But the more that I thought about it, the more the “how” seemed to be an equal part of the same conversation. Really, it seemed like a chicken and the egg kind of thing, because I’m not sure which came first. Why I believe in God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is a function of how I came to believe, and vice versa. And while I may have confused myself on that one (lol), I think that they might actually be the same thing. So, you may see a bit of both in this week’s post.
I went to catholic school for most of my pre-high school years. That’s where I was introduced to God. And in the way that little children often do, I accepted that what I was told was true. I learned to sit still in church, despite the infinitely more interesting distractions provided by my classmates and my own mind. I learned to pray the rosary, went to confession, and said Hail Mary’s as penance for my sins. With my mother, I prayed before bed and believed that I had been heard. But did I know God? Did I have a relationship with God? I don’t know.
In the years to come, now in public-school, my interaction with God had become limited to a daily chant. “Please don’t let me miss the bus. Please don’t let me miss the bus.” I would sing those words as I half- speed walked, half-ran to the bus stop. Eventually, I began to wonder whether I was pressing my luck. Would I run out of chances? Would God be done with me? God was a genie in a bottle with a low tolerance for my nonsense – or so I thought.
When I ran into situations that a child’s mind isn’t equipped to handle or later, when my teenage brain entered a fog of sadness, distraction, and loneliness from which I could not emerge, I turned to my catholic school roots. I sought God – the Father through the saints, like the virgin Mary, and my ancestors. I sought the long-gone forebearers that I had known personally, and one, who had been as close to a saint in my eyes as anyone could be.
I called on them to put in a good word. I called on them believing that now from their position in heaven that they saw me in a way that they couldn’t while on earth. In my holy imagination, I believed that they now had a comprehensive view that was unlimited by time, and hopefully, weighted by compassion. With that in mind, I sought them in the quiet of my bedroom and often with tears that I didn’t understand. But I felt a little less alone. I had believed in God. But would I call this a relationship? No. I didn’t really know God.
I remember the red-edged bible that I had gotten from who knows where collecting dust on my nightstand. I would read it from time to time, but inevitably, King James’ thee’s and thou’s would command me right into a nap or onto something less boring. It wasn’t until the middle of my college years, on my own in a new city, that my thoughts again climbed heavenward. I was feeling both the familiar loneliness of my undiagnosed depression and the now tangible loneliness of day-to-day life without close friends. It was hard. I looked around and felt different from everyone else…and very much alone. I had been released into a freedom that I had longed for while under my parent’s roof. Yet, I didn’t know what to do with it and felt like I was failing. But I didn’t ask my family for advice. I didn’t consult the saints. This time, I sought God directly in everyday life, not with a chant, but a request.
Walking home from the train at night, I started asking God to protect me. And as I walked the blocks home that were sometimes dark and empty, sometimes marked with stares and catcalls that echoed behind me, or sometimes the footsteps of those that would try to follow me, I would hope that I had been heard. My feet crossing the threshold would bring a thank you from my lips. And somehow that simple experience began something inside of me that even today is hard to explain. It was the same belief, yet somehow different. After all this time, I’m not even sure that I understand it completely. But what I do know, is that it was the start of a conversation. The first tender shoots sprouting from a seed planted over a decade before.
It would be some time before I would encounter the bible verse, “But without faith it is impossible to please God. Anyone who comes to God, must believe that God exists and rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). But when I did, it rang completely true. Because not knowing much at all, I had reached out to a God that I hoped would be able or available and discovered a God that was both. And it was because of that discovery that I wanted to know more.
What about you? Do you know why or how you came to believe what you do about God, whether positive or negative? Leave a comment and let me know.