Have A Little Faith
I’m going to talk about my own beliefs around religion, faith, church and Christmas, and I want to start off by saying I completely respect the views of others, I have no idea what is the actual truth, all I can share is what I believe.
I’ll start at the very beginning. I was raised Christian, I went to church, my parents didn’t “opt out” for my brother and I to do RE at primary school, I attended afterschool religious classes, occasionally went to Sunday school. I said grace every night, every dinner, from the time I could speak until the day I left home.
“Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you god for everything – amen.”
So there was a big chunk of my life where I had faith, where I believed in god, where I believed in Jesus, where Christmas really meant something to me. I identified myself as being Christian a few years after I stopped actively participating in religious activities. But I always had big unanswered questions. I still remember very clearly when I was about 7 years old I came home after school, after learning about Adam and Eve, and I asked my dad “If God made Adam and Eve, and they were the first people, how did we evolve from apes?” and my dad laughed and said “That is the question.” At the time I didn’t get why it was funny, but that memory is so strong for me because it was the first tiny crack in my faith.
My faith was bolstered when I was about 10 and we had pet rats, which during a very big storm were moved into the garage in their cage and in the morning the garage had flooded and the rats weren’t in their cage – and I laid on the floor of the shower and cried and prayed to God to send my rats back to me (they were very loved pets) and a couple of days later miraculously we found our rats in the garage, and they lived on for a good few more years. I believed he had answered my prayer. I told my dad this and he told me I shouldn’t have prayed for something unimportant – but in my mind it was VERY important, I loved them, and I felt that God must have understood that.
More and more cracks appeared over the years – the idea that God could be watching over me, love me, care for me and what I go through on a personal level, but then not care for babies in poverty or answer the prayers of people who need their prayers answered much more than I did. Surely, if God could save my rats from drowning, then he could save people from natural disasters, war or poverty. I also was continually met with pointless answers when I asked adults for guidance – “God works in mysterious ways” “God doesn’t give people challenges that they cannot handle” “God has a plan” and the infuriating idea that faith means to not ask questions – it all felt like a bit of a fob-off. But, I’d decided, even with doubt, it was better to have faith and be wrong, than to not have faith and be wrong.
When I became a teenager I started having bigger questions about morality. No sex before marriage became a topic of conversation, the biggest crack in my faith was the idea of sin. Not big sins – obviously killing people is bad. But sins that cause no harm to anyone, something innocent, like masturbation. I started demanding an answer from god in prayer- why give me a body capable of pleasure and then tell me I can’t have it. That made no sense to me at all. So, I figured in for a penny in for a pound and became sexually active around 16 years old. I couldn’t believe a God who’d cared for me enough to save my pet rats could possibly take issue with premarital sex in any kind of serious way – perhaps only to the degree a parent would, but I couldn’t imagine he’d think I was sinful, because I didn’t feel any different, I didn’t feel dirty or wrong. (I felt like a hormone-driven teenage.)
So somewhere between there and adulthood the “not believing” outweighed the “believing”, and I stopped praying, or saying grace, and at some point I stopped having faith. I went through a phase where I’d have considered myself to be agnostic, I didn’t believe or not believe but after 7 years of my partner asking me to go to church with him, I agreed a few weeks ago to take the family to church, where I discovered with a sense of finality, that I don’t have any faith. I sat there looking for it in my own heart and mind, trying to find some part of me that might entertain the idea of their being God, and it just isn’t there.
However I found something there that I’d lost and didn’t know I’d been missing. The sense of community and family you get from going to church. The church we attended raised money for people in crisis after Typhoon Haiyan, the front entrance of the church was filled with gifts for children who otherwise wouldn’t be getting any presents this year. The people there were friendly, warm and welcoming. I found there something that I do have faith in, I have faith in people. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that most people want to do the right thing, even if we all have different ideas of what “the right thing” is. I believe in Christmas, I believe in the value of joy, and spending time with family, I believe in the fun of gift giving and the magic make-believe of Santa. I believe in love.
I want our own children to decide for themselves, I want them to have their own journey, and if they come to believe or not believe, we will both respect their beliefs either way.