Does it matter what religion you belong to? For me, it’s not a question of religion. It’s about something to believe in. I’m not a very religious person but I do believe in God and I believe it in faith.
I grew up going to both Catholic and Protestant churches. Yes, two different religions. How did this happen? My grandparents on each side went to different churches. As a child, I was confused about some parts of each religion. Why do Protestants only have the cross and no saints? Where’s the picture of Jesus? Why do Catholics have such long masses? Why don’t they have bible classes for kids? Why do they have so many saints I have to know? Was that really what Jesus looked like in real life? I’ve seen many likeness of him in different Catholic Churches. I’ve seen him with lighter skin, brown skin, and dark skin. Although it was confusing, I never doubted the existence of a higher power.
As I got older, I stopped going to church period. It was after the time I lost my dad. It was such a painful time and I was mad. Mad that he was taken away from me. I kept hearing people say “Only the good die young.” Well, why should I be good then? A few years later, I went through the worst time in my life. Every aspect of my life was falling apart. I was definitely living in sin at that time. I was not only telling lies, I was living a lie. My answer to my problems were to make more mistakes… tell more lies… and create bigger problems! I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to give up. I wanted it to end. I was at my lowest point. Even then, I tried to resist my God. I told myself I didn’t need God. It felt like the world was coming down on me. I felt hopeless. After a few days of not sleeping or eating. I heard myself saying out loud “help me. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this.” After I finally fell asleep, I had a dream. I heard a voice say “the truth will set you free.” Was this really the answer to my plea?
There was no one else to help. No one else to turn to. No one to help me with my burden. What do I have to lose? How can it possibly get worse? It’s at this time that I went back to my God. I sat inside the nearest church and I cried. I gave up all my hate. I gave up all my fears. I gave up all my sadness. I gave it all to God. I never understood “The footsteps in the sand” until after that day. Everything that weighed me down seemed lighter because I shared it with God. I surrendered myself. I was tired. I was drained. I was done resisting. It was after that day, I stopped feeling alone. I stopped being afraid. I stopped giving up.
“The truth will set you free.” I held on to those words. It was hard to tell the truth because it came with consequences. Exposing the truth meant admitting my mistakes. It meant going through feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment. Some people hated me. Some people looked down on me. Some pitied me. I thought I had a lot of friends… But only a handful out of the hundreds I knew were true. My very few friends supported me. It was a very big gamble. It was much more difficult to be good than bad. But I knew I had to do it in order to set things right in my life.
I realized what it meant when the Bible talked about God being a vengeful God. In my opinion, I think he made me go through all the hardships because it was his way of calling me back to him. He made me realize I cannot go through life without faith. I was thankful. I was in a strange land, far from my family… I had no money, no hope, no one really on my side… I was too embarrassed to ask my parent for help… but God came through. When I prayed for help, it didn’t come right away but it came nevertheless. It came in one form or another. Whether it was monetary or meeting someone just to help me get through a tough part of my life.
One of the consequences of my mistakes was losing money. I didn’t have money to feed my child. Luckily, I had day care paid off in advance. I had to send her to daycare to get fed. Out of the blue, my niece called to check on me. She sent money so I could provide food for my daughter. I didn’t ask her but it seemed she knew I needed help. When a co-worker I was never close to heard what was happening to me, he offered money without me asking. He told me he didn’t expect me to repay it. He just wanted me to get better. And when most people looked down on me, an acquaintance who just happened to drop by my work that day, said “Don’t worry. Life is like a wheel. People will not always be on top or on the bottom. Your circumstances will change.” It’s these simple acts of kindness that helped get me through.
Ever since then, I never doubted my God. Ever since then, I always told the truth. And since then, things have been working out okay. So you see, it’s not a question of religion for me. I have always been part of a religion (in fact, two religions). It was my belief in something higher and something greater that mattered.
Do I force my beliefs on my children? No. I guided them to God. I introduced them to religion. It’s their choice on what religion they want to be a part of. Its their choice on what they want to believe in. I just want them to know that they will never be alone as long as they believe in something greater than themselves. I also teach them to live an honest life, avoid lying, and help others in need when they can. I know the feeling of being in need all too well. I was on the other end (the needing end) at one time.
I’m still not a regular church-goer. But I do pray. I thank my God for the life I have now. I thank my God for whatever happened in the past and whatever is happening in the present. Life is not perfect. It still has its ups and downs. But it’s okay. I know I’ll never be alone. It’s all a matter of faith.