I grew up in a Christian family.
My parents were married in church, which was the way it was done.
We attended church for baptisms, weddings, Christmas and sometimes random Sundays. As children we did not go to funerals.
We were all christened.
We said our prayers at night…although for a young girl the line “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” played on my mind a little.
I do remember being told that if I lied I would get a black spot on my heart and that when my heart was black God wouldn’t let me go to heaven.
I knew that God was always watching me…notably to notice when I was naughty.
I also remember a conversation after having my first daughter. My husband and I were still discussing whether or not we should have our baby girl christened and my mother was horrified that I might not. Her concern was,
“What if she dies, she will not be allowed in heaven.”
For me, this is fear, not faith.
Fear of eternal hell and damnation. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of causing pain to others. Fear of mortal sin that maps out a certain route to eternal hell. Yes, this is an intrinsic system that belong in the realms of and impacts on a moral and social code, a code to live by (not fear) that all religions have at their core, but this is not faith.
In my teens I read about Buddhism, I practiced meditation and began to become more aware of the natural world around me. I began to see how things were connected and how one thing impacts another. I was increasingly challenged by the existence of inequality and in particular by poverty and suffering. I was placid and contemplative, and sad for all the wrong that I could not right.
In my 20s, the introspection grew and I attended church regularly. I used the time to meditate on the meaning of life. I contemplated purpose and values, beliefs and reasoning. I lay my faith before me and scrutinised it. I enjoyed the music, the rituals and the chants of collective worship. I was able to be present in a church building like I could not be anywhere else. It gave me time to reflect on my own direction and raison d’etre, it helped me define myself as one whose moral code was guided by kindness and giving. It helped me to begin my quest to understand grace and live a graceful life.
I spent a few days in a Benedictine monastery. Eating in silence. Meditating through the Gregorian chants, sanctifying the day through the liturgy of hours, walking through the tranquil grounds. It gave me time and space to be.
But none of this is faith.
I was searching for something, definitely searching, but I am not sure what I was searching for.
I agreed to be a Godmother to a niece and later a nephew…but I am no longer certain of the agreed understanding of what that role entails. I think a guardian for them while they are young, an adult who might provide some moral guidance, someone they know will love them always, but to support them as they grow as a child of God…I am not sure about that. I certainly don’t want to instil the fear of God.
I now realise I can find that sense of peace and inner reflection anywhere. My beliefs are still uncertain. I know I do not believe in a God who would punish children for the choices of their parents. I know I do believe that I have faith. Not faith as in belief in the doctrines of a religion, but faith as in complete trust and confidence that we are here to do good. To show love and compassion to ourselves and to others and to work for the wellbeing of all. This I am certain is a core principle of all religions regardless of the faith and doctrine.
My faith guides me as I aspire to live my life full of grace.