Out of Ashes: Finding Faith

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Faith is a fickle thing. I am living proof of that. I’m not just talking about religious or spiritual faith–I mean just faith in general. I have a tendency towards pessimism and cynicism. Life has always shown me it’s ugly side. Logic and things I could tangibly touch and feel where the only things that made sense to me.

I was raised in the Church. A Southern Baptist Church to be exact. So think: lots of old school negro spirituals, folks dressed to impress, baptism, Sunday school, and long, drawn out services. I hated going to church as a kid. I was more or less coerced into going. My Grandmother would bake me cakes if I behaved and my Grandfather would keep me quiet with peppermints and butterscotch candies. When I was about sixteen, I started to rebel against the church. I used to purposefully be scheduled to work so that I could skip out on service. My Grandmother expressed her disappointment in me but I stood my ground.

It was around this time that I stopped believing in God and the church. How could I believe in a God that allowed me to experience the pain I was going through after the Big Bang? What kind of God allows his children to suffer the way that I was? I had an awareness of spirituality and what that might look like, but I just didn’t buy into it. Interestingly enough, around this same time, I started calling myself the Phoenix.

I think I’ve said this before in a previous post, but it makes sense to explain it here. Out of all the magical creatures from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, the Phoenix is my favorite. It was the Phoenix that healed Harry’s wounds and brought him the tool to defeat his demons (the basilisk). And it was the Phoenix that allowed me to believe that life was worth living. The Phoenix gave me faith in myself and my abilities. Most of all, the Phoenix gave me faith in something bigger than me. And I have continued to rise again and again.

The Phoenix gave me strength, but my Grandmother continued to talk to me about God. I decided that I could live with being spiritual, but I was not religious in the way that my Grandparents were. I still didn’t go to church, but I found strength and grounding in the gospel music that my Grandmother listened to. It wasn’t until after my Grandmother passed away that I would think about finding my way back to a church. I went to church the day after she passed. And then I didn’t go again for three years. I couldn’t go to her church–it would be too painful. And for a long time I was too afraid to try something new.

The funny thing about faith is that you can possess it without knowing it. You don’t have to believe in God or some invisible divine being to feel trouble within your spirit and soul. My natural school of thought is logic and even I knew when I needed to go to church–or at the very least, hear some words of comfort. Anything to help me make sense of the stress and obstacles of life.

So today I went to church. Something completely different than what I am used to. I grew up with the rigidity of the Baptist church. Today I went to a contemporary church– in a movie theater of all places. I was researching churches and I knew that I didn’t want to be reminded of my Grandmother’s church. I didn’t know what to expect.

What I found was a community of individuals brought together by their shared faith. I didn’t feel pressured to do anything. I was openly welcomed and given a tour. I believe that everything happens for a reason. And I do believe that I was meant to go to church today to hear the message I heard. The message was about listening and obeying. It was about how we have so many distractions in life and we don’t take enough time to be still and listen to what God/the universe is trying to tell us. If we are still and listen, we can obey and understand.

Which brings me to my next point, after my Grandmother passed away, I found comfort in watching Pocahontas. I heavily identified with Disney’s Pocahontas because she relied on her Grandmother Willow for wisdom and comfort. Grandmother Willow says to “Listen with your heart, you will understand.” She also tells Pocahontas that “sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.” It took me up until this very moment to understand that this is just another example of my faith–just like the Phoenix–it gives me strength. It helps me keep the faith that everything happens for a reason.

No matter how hard life gets, no matter how much you want to give up, keep the faith. Find something that keeps you going. Find something or someone that you can resonate with. I am by no means a master of faith, but I have seen first hand how it changes things. Faith comes in all forms–it doesn’t always have to look like a church, or a bible, or even prayer. Faith is the belief that things can change for the better. Faith is believing in the things we cannot see but believing anyway.

I share all of this because I have lived a difficult, painful life. And for a while, I let it get the best of me. I felt defeated and hopeless. I felt like I was covered in darkness for a long time. But one day, I opened my eyes and saw the light. I discovered that life is whatever you decide for it to be. If you think that everything is always going wrong, your life will continue to go in that direction. It’s the law of attraction. You must speak things into existence. But if you dare to choose to keep your head up and see the lesson in every situation, you will find strength. It will make things more bearable.

Here I am, out of ashes. Rising again in a positive light.

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