I knew I wasn't a person of faith at quite an early age, although I kept quiet about it for years before I finally tentatively started mentioning it to people. I grew up in the Christian church. Even as pre-adolescent girl, I just knew I didn't have the same depth of Christian belief as everyone else around me. To make up for my lack of faith, I was the consummate young Christian scholar. I knew all the stories. I memorized more Bible verses than anyone else around me. I could argue theology with anyone and hold my own pretty darn well. I even surrounded myself with the Christian kids as my primary social group in hopes of obtaining some kind of a Jesus contact high. It never came.
I wanted what I perceived everyone else around me to have - a deep and abiding faith in something greater than myself. To my young eyes, everyone seemed dialed in to this God and Jesus stuff, and they seemed quite happy to be so. I could never find it, and I could never feel it. But I never stopped looking.
At the age of 18, I finally started declaring to a few to whom I was very close that I was an atheist. I didn't believe in anything - certainly not God, certainly not Jesus as anything more than a historical figure, and certainly not the human soul. For most of my adult life, I applied one of two labels to myself: Atheist and Agnostic.
The irony is this: I never stopped looking.
While I was busy rejecting the Christian God with all my might, I kept my search up for the mystical. I was fascinated by spiritual (not religious) topics such as reincarnation, consciousness, and the survival of the human soul after death. I was also raptly interested in the historic Jesus and the true history associated with many of the Biblical stories with which I grew up.
Recently, I realized something major. If I'd lived my life so bereft of faith as I believed, then I wouldn't have spent my entire life looking for it. The mere fact I spent the better part of four decades seeking the Divine tells me I did, indeed, have faith or I just would have stopped. I believe now that what I thought of through most of my life as a struggle with faith was, instead, rebellion against the paternalistic Judeo-Christian version of God. It wasn't faith that didn't work for me - it was religion.
In order to seek Truth, one must have faith that ultimate truth exists. For me, that search started as a young child deciding how I felt about the stories of Jesus and continues until this day. I may not go about it in a traditional way, but I have been seeking the Source as surely as any person engaged in any holy pursuit.
Along the way, what I perceived as my struggle with faith was, in fact, my struggle with my own search - because the way I went about looking didn't resemble anyone else's relationship with the Divine, as far as I could tell. I was never rejecting God. I was rejecting my personal way of finding the Divine.
In truth, I let what others said and did get to me. Many people over the years have had a lot to say about the way I personally chose to seek God. I've had people tell me I'm going to Hell. I've had others tell me I have the Devil inside of me. Others have called me a charlatan. Some make jokes. Others roll their eyes. Others either ignore it altogether (I have a few relationships in my life where my spiritual activities are a taboo subject - we pretend they don't exist at all) or politely suggest that I get myself to a church STAT. I understand these are all well-meaning people living with their own version of faith - one that works for them. I don't hold it against them.
I had few role models in my personal life to show me there was another way to experience Divinity. Luckily, my dad was always a very open-minded presence who sought faith in his own way, much as I was doing. He encouraged me to find my own God, and his support and non-judgment through the years was instrumental in my continued search. Just knowing I had a least one person who didn't judge helped me keep going.
I now consider myself a person of faith, even though my God is very different than the one I grew up with. Over the years, the Divine kept leaving me clues that encouraged me on my search, if I was only willing to see them for what they truly were.
Regardless of where you are on your search for Divinity, if you are reading this blog it is one of God's clues for you. Keep seeking the Divine in a way that is meaningful to you. Don't listen to those who feel you need to be on their path and only their path. There are as many ways to find the Source as their are souls in the universe, and no single path is better than any other. How you get there is up to you, but remember this: the fact that you are continuing to seek the Divine is its own version of faith in action.