I recently got into a brief discussion about religion in the comment section of a blog I read regularly. It struck me as funny that someone would think I was judging another person for their religion (or lack thereof). The truth is - while I believe that everyone should be allowed to believe in whatever works for them, I myself am not really all that religious.
For most of my life, I felt like if something could go wrong, it would. I focused on the negative parts of my life (what I didn't have, what could be better, what I wanted to change, etc.). I reached the point where I was going through life expecting the worst and not allowing myself to look forward to anything. I let go of my faith in God and in anything that gave me hope. When I came to a point in my life when my faith was truly tested, I lost my way and was in serious danger of not finding my way back.
My best friends and my cousin helped me find my way. They were there for me when no one else was - and when they really had no reason to be, either. What's more, they brought some of the best gifts to my life - a love for children, and the chance to experience the unconditional, innocent love that only a child can give.
Lack of faith aside, I knew it was no coincidence that these people came into my life when I needed them most. They are proof to me that someone or something was looking out for me in that moment. That's when my faith started to return.
Like anything worth having, finding my faith has not been easy. I've learned that I don't really believe in God in the traditional sense. I definitely believe in a higher power; there's something out there that is guiding my journey and looking out for me along the way. But I don't believe in any set of specific rules or beliefs that are required in order to benefit from that guidance.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe I am right where I'm supposed to be. I believe that people come into (and out of) my life with a purpose. I trust that there is a plan for me, and that it starts with me having faith in myself - in my own strength and in my own dreams. I believe that if I stop worrying all the time, take a breath and look around, I will see that I have the means to achieve what I want most. I accept that just because things don't always work out the way I want or expect doesn't mean they don't work out for the best.
Is that "God?" It could be. Or it could be fate. Heck, it could be aliens or Santa Claus, for all I know. The only thing I'm certain about is that there are good things in my life; if I look, I will find at least one in every, single day. I'm happier now than ever before because I believe.
I've learned that faith is a personal journey, that we all make in our own way and in our own time. So I would never judge anyone else based on what they do, or do not, believe. People need to do what's best for them; learn to recognize, and get comfortable with, who they really are. There is far too much pretense in the world - people pretending to be what they think others will find acceptable or cool. People spend too much time worrying what others think, and not nearly enough time discovering their own thoughts and beliefs.
It's such an easy way to lose your own character and strength - and yes, eventually your faith. Because if you can't believe in yourself, then really - what have you got?
[In that blog post, we also discussed marriage and divorce. If you want to read my thoughts on no-fault divorce, click here. Care what I have to say about same-sex marriage? Click here.]