Sunday, August 5, 2012

Finding My Faith Again

          This past weekend, I went down to Cincinnati, Ohio to St. Clare Monastery. Last semester was really stressful and hard on me and I did not feel like I have recovered. So I decided to take a couple of days to go be by myself and see if I could find God and the faith I feel like I was lacking. The experience was more than I could imagine. I realized that God had never left me and that my faith never disappeared, but had only been in a depression that faith tends to do. Because the faith journey is never a straight line but has its ups and downs, just like life. Faith does not make life easier, but actually complicates things. However, the beauty of faith and of God is that there is an ever-flowing amount of love and beauty that at times can overwhelm you.
          I think that the best description of my time at the monastery can be described as the following written by a new blogger I have been following, Glennon Melton. She writes, [A monastery is] a sacred place, apart from the world, where a seeker can figure out what matters and catch glimpses of God... [It] is an open window. It’s a place to take a deep breath. It’s a place to drop out and tune in. It’s a place to stop striving, stop competing, stop suspecting, stop hiding. It’s a place to tell and hear the truth. To grow and rest. To be big and brave or small and silent. It’s a place to learn that perfection is a mirage…it’ll always disappear just before you arrive. [It]  is a place to get lost and found. It’s a place to love and be loved. It’s a touch stone. It’s a place to listen and be listened to. [A Monastery] is a place to practice living bigger, bolder, and truer on this Earth. It’s a place to practice disagreeing with love and respect. It’s a place to remember what you already know: that Love Wins and that We Can Do Hard Things."
         And thus during my time in the monastery, I was able to be honest with myself and refocus. I have changed a lot over the years and so has my theology and how I view God and God's working in the world. However, I realize that just because my faith looks different, it is no less real and alive. So for all of you who want to know, this is what I believe. I believe that Jesus came to show us an example of how we live and the main idea that he taught is to love everyone and it is this love that will change the world. I love Melton's description of being reborn. She writes, "The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid."
          In regard to the Bible, I believe it is inspired by God, but written by people living in a different time and different culture. We need to read it as a great work of literature that can help us live our lives to the fullest and a way to hear God's voice. However, it is also full of what seems to be contradictions. When looking at what seems to be contradictions I like to keep the following in mind (also from Melton's blog) "Each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives. Our criteria is that if it doesn’t bring us closer to seeing humanity as one, as connected, if it turns our judgment outward instead of inward, if it doesn’t help us become better lovers of God and others, if it distracts us from remembering what we are really supposed to be doing down here, which is finding God in every human being, serving each other before ourselves, feeding hungry people, comforting the sick and sad, giving up everything we have for others, laying down our lives for our friends . . . then we just assume we don’t understand it yet, we put it on a shelf, and we move on. Because all I need to know is that I am reborn."
          I know that not all people agree with me, but that is ok, because I am learning that God can work through all of us and even when times are hard and we do not understand, God is still there. Hope still exists in the world, and it is this hope that I hang on to. And when the time comes when I fall down, I plan to go back to monastery to once again refocus and catch a glimpse of God. 

For those who want to read more, here is the link to the blog I am quoting

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