I never struggled with my faith growing up. In fact, I loved it. It didn't bother me that other kids made fun of me or that no one else was as convicted as I was in their beliefs, I loved being Christian and Catholic. I loved going to Bible camp every summer. I loved the feeling I got after coming out of church. I loved everything about it. For years.
But then something shifted. Things changed. My grandma, who also happened to be my best friend, passed away in 2015, our family dynamic was on the rocks and I had a heartbreak the following year that rocked me out of the comfort of my faith. Suddenly, I was being tested. My faith was being tested. And I failed. I turned to going out, drinking with friends, and flirting with random guys at bars to help me feel better.
I had never felt so alone in my life. No one knew what I was going through and what's worse is, no one even cared. People I thought were my friends had no idea the pain I was enduring. All while maintaining a strong face for my mom.
After 2016 ended, I decided I needed a change. I needed God in my life again. I was hardcore struggling and I couldn't continue this way. I started going to mass every day. I went on a mission trip to Honduras. I stopped drinking or going out. I gave away any clothing that was "risque" and only wore long skirts and dresses to be more modest. I listened to Catholic podcasts constantly and force fed myself teachings on Catholicism and purity. I was determined to be the perfect Catholic.
But as 2017 came to a close, I began to feel empty. Lost? Something. Something felt off. It was all off. I wasn't being me. I was trying desperately to fit into the mold of a perfect Church girl, and I did a great job for the most part. But the acting caught up with me. Suddenly, the places that felt like a safe haven, began to feel like a prison. As I looked around my church and saw no one that looked like me, I started to feel...out of place. Conversations with other Catholic friends who had begun to feel a similar way, only fed fuel to my fire. Why was I there? Why was I putting myself in the position to be "the only" yet again. The girl who once survived solely on Catholic messages and teachings, was now...doubting?
I thought back on my college experience. And late nights staying up, talking with students of color who proudly and boldly claimed spirituality, bibles highlighted and verses ready to quote, but held religion at a distance. At the time, I didn't understand why. I couldn't understand. Why wouldn't they want something as beautiful as religion? They must be empty inside, if they don't have religion.
Oh how the tables have turned. Now, I'm the one being accused of being empty inside. When in reality, I feel the most spiritually and emotionally fulfilled that I maybe ever have. Because I'm living in my truth. I'm being honest with myself about who I am.
I want so much to be just like the Christian bloggers and YouTubers I see and love. But the truth is, that's not me.
I can't pretend like I don't know that Christianity was forced on my ancestors.
I can't pretend that I don't know that it was used as a way to enslave my people. The people who shared my blood. I can't pretend it wasn't used as a way to prevent interracial marriages. I can't pretend that every image we've ever seen of any Christ or God hasn't been a blonde or light brunette man. I can't pretend that humans haven't done everything possible to Whitewash Christianity to justify prejudices, racism and other evils.
I just can't do it.
So where does that leave me? Well. It leaves me with family members who think my spirit is empty because I can no longer sit through mass. It leaves me having lost friends because I couldn't relate to their belief system anymore.
But it has also given me so much.
This new outlook on faith and religion has given me so, so much. I no longer feel bound by rules. But I feel liberated knowing that God loves me, regardless. I no longer feel forced to be somewhere I don't belong. I find God in so many places other than in a building. In nature. In the smile on my niece's face. In the innate kindness of my boyfriend's heart.
Faith is so weird. It's beautiful, and wonderful. But so, so weird. It's literally asking someone to jump off a cliff, and that person has no idea if there are hard rocks or a giant trampoline at the bottom. I think limiting faith to one day and one hour a week, actually limits the incredible things that God can do in all of our lives. God is not bound by walls. He is omnipotent. He's everywhere. And to assume that any person doesn't have a relationship with God because they aren't limiting God to Sunday at 9:00 am, is kind of silly.
Don't get me wrong....I'm not perfect. And my life is also, far from perfect. Should I go to church more? Yes. Probably lol. But how can I, when Christian and Catholic leaders refuse to address the elephant in the room? The fact that religion has caused so much pain to so many people. Are we just going to ignore that? Are we supposed to just pretend like none of that happened? And even if Christian leaders did apologize, would it matter?
Because of slavery, I will never know the religion of my ancestors. I'll never know what they believed. I'll never know what their practices were or how they worshipped their God. And that saddens me.
So as I look at YouTubers like Mrs. Midwest, and how seamlessly she enjoys her faith. I can't help but wonder, does anyone care about the history of these things? Or do we just forget it and move on? How can something that is intended to be good, cause so much harm to millions of people throughout history?
To be honest, I don't know. I don't actually have an answer. All I know, is that faith is so much more than church on Sunday. It's about knowing that there is a God who wants good and beautiful things for your life, and really believing that. Being Christlike is so much more than "Holy Days of Obligation." It's about choosing joy in everyday life. It's about actively seeking the beauty in the mundane. It's about stopping to talk to the homeless person on the street. It's about volunteering your time to help others. It's about spreading love and positivity everywhere you go.