Recently, I touched base with an old friend—actually she is the mother of several girls I grew up with. She has sort of unconventional beliefs. When she asked me, point blank, if I was a “believer,” it gave me pause. Am I? I totally thought that by my age I’d be more certain of the important things—like God.
I grew up going to the Presbyterian Church with my grandmother. My mother stayed home on Sundays—she didn’t like church, she loved God, believed in God, just didn’t like the church.
This church is one of the oldest in Pa.—Service United Presbyterian. It’s a simple, small one-room red-brick church that sits out in the country on a reservoir of pristine water. It’s surrounded by an old cemetery, trees, and snaking dirt roads. My favorite part of going to church was getting out of the small room and walking down by the water. That the church was simple, that the music was traditional, that it sat in the country, that I loved be outside of it—these are the things that, looking back, have influenced me in finding my own way.
Enter my first husband, who was a Moslem. I converted to Islam and broke my grandmother’s heart, at least for a brief time. Islam appealed to my intellect. Christianity to my heart. But I couldn’t be both. Or at least it didn’t seem like I could. During this time in my life, my world view expanded. I began to think of religion and culture in different ways. I learned how the Bible was written—not by God, as I was always taught. And through my converting to Islam, I gained a whole new respect for Jesus and the miracles he performed. Think on that for a moment. Given what many of us think we know about Islam. Let that sit in your mind.
Exit my first husband. Shattered, I questioned everything, my new religion, my old religion—and both had failed me. After all, I had been a good follower of both, yet it didn’t work out the way either one of them promised. Not the way my conservative upbringing promised. I began to look deeply at the foundations of religion. I read almost every book about religion I could get my hands on looking for answers. I read so much that I probably could have gotten a master’s degree in religion.
I started meditating, became very centered within myself, went for long walks in the country. (There’s that country thing again.) Then visited a friend in New York City and ended up in a shop in Greenwich Village called “Enchantments.” “What is this Goddess everybody is talking about?” I asked my friend. “The feminine God—Gaia, Earth Mama,” she replied. And my heart split open—as I remembered that pristine reservoir where my first church sat. The grass. The trees. These are the constants in my spiritual life.
Which is why I married my second husband looking out over that water, twenty-one years ago. I’ve been a member of women’s spirit groups and circles. I’ve found that many of the gatherings reminded me too much of church—the rituals, the “stuff”, the group politics. So I decided to continue on my own path. I no longer feel the need to call myself anything. And yet, it would be soothing, centering, I suppose to really have a belief system. One that I could find strength in. But I just question too much.
My grandmother used to tell me “Don’t question, have faith.” But I’ve made my peace with questioning. I’ve stopped waiting for a grand spiritual awakening. Few of us receive that. Spirituality, and finding God or Goddess or whatever name you choose for Spirit, may just consist of moments or glimpses of a universal movement or hand. The challenge, it seems, may just be awareness.