Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reasoning Myself Into Faith

A few weeks ago, I went to church for what was arguably the first time in my adult life. I was not brought up to be religious and, in fact, spent many years deploring not only organized religion but faith itself. Belief in a higher power (and the fervor and violence with which people historically defended and spread these beliefs) stood at odds with my youthful and analytical brain. It seemed to be nothing more than a security blanket for adults, and one with often destructive effects. I valued instead what I imagined to be hard truths and realism, feeling perfectly satisfied that there was no greater power than my own mind and the minds of others around me.

This view, thankfully, has matured and expanded with time. I am neither so narcissistic as to confidently believe in the supreme power of my own self nor so narrow as to so easily dismiss the perspectives of others. But what really led me through the doors of that sunny and welcoming Unitarian Universalist church was what I have realized is a quest for faith.

Not faith in God. Or even really faith in myself (although who couldn't use more of that?). Not faith in the goodness of others, I've seen enough to know this exists in excess between people. Not even faith in love, although that too could never hurt to increase. What I sought was the simplest and most complicated kind of faith I could imagine: faith that it will all actually be okay. That the forces of the universe, combined with my own will power, hard work and skill, will lead me to a fulfilling life that I want and value.

For those of you scoffing, a part of me is right there alongside you. Of course it will work out in the end: we are all alive right up until we die. And, furthermore, most of us, myself included, are better than we let ourselves believe at enjoying the moments as they occur, even within tumultuous and uncertain times. I have always been happier than I am sad, had more fun than I've been bored, found more love and friendship than I have loneliness. And I've never shied away from change and growth, so in that sense, if it hasn't worked out, then it isn't the end.

These arguments are my process of reasoning myself into faith: what if I take another job that isn't for me? Then I'll leave and have the opportunity to try yet another. What if I miss people? Then I'll have the strength go where I need to be instead. What if I run out of money? Then I'll live with my mom (right, Mom?) and find odd jobs to pay the bills. What if people don't like me? Then I'll find people who do (and those guys probably were probably jerks anyway). What if I never find what I love? Then I will keep looking and I will find a way to enjoy the moments in between.

Absent in me, which of course no single church visit can instill, is a sense of contentment with these analytical answers. Put another way, I lack the conviction and faith that things really will work out for me to be who I want to be and lead a life that I enjoy.

I'm beginning to believe that very few of us know what we want to do with our lives. At least not in the way I have spent years believing I should, trying on dreams and careers like over-sized Halloween costumes from someone else's dress-up box. Instead, I'm seeking comfort with the uncertainty, with the constant only of change. I am seeking true enjoyment of the process, focusing on the fun, growth and beauty in this journey whose ending point isn't really the priority. And to do that, I am reasoning myself into faith.

Whispered like a prayer, chanted like a mantra, sung like one of those beautiful songs that nearly brought me to tears in the pews of that alien church building: it will all work out, it will all be okay, I will be okay. And if it hasn't worked out, then it isn't the end.

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