For some weird reason, probably genetics, I have this habit of asking endless questions. I was never the ever obedient child. I must always know why am I being asked to do something before I actually do it, or why shoud I believe in a cause before joining a certain movement or believing in a specific idea. Sometimes I think, I probably was a scientist when I popped out of my mother’s womb. One of those things that I have kept on seeking answers about was religion.
There’s this curiosity that I tend to gravitate to about the concept of religion. I was raised as Catholic but all I understood about it back then was I have to go to church on Sundays or else I’ll go to hell or my sins will not be forgiven. That was a scary concept but that was how a child’s brain works. I actually find it funny that I used to think that way. I even had anxiety if I don’t attend Sunday service because I honestly thought that I’ll be brought to the underworld.
There are these rituals that we do inside the church. We sit, kneel, bow, memorize and recite prayers. We light a candle and wipe the image of saints with a handkerchief. Sundays were also fun because after mass our family would eat somewhere or visit my grandparents’ house. That was how shallow my understanding was. However, at an early age, I felt a sense of peace inside the church. Even now as an adut, I like the ambiance of it. I feel fascinated with how its environment can bring such calm.
Then I began asking questions, but for some reason, no one could answer them, or at least give me a hypothesis that I am satisfied with. When I pray, my overthinking mind asks me, “Girl, do you even know who you are talking to?” I couldn’t really grasp the idea of believing in God because I really don’t get it, I don’t see, feel, touch, or hear it. The first step I did was to try and understand the religon that I was in. I sang in the church choir every Sunday, I volunteer to be the one of the readers during mass service in our school. I also prayed and talked to the God that everyone was talking about.
I did all those because I was told that I should pray all the time because God makes the wish of good girls come true. I memorized the prayers, and even became the president of a school club that gives importance to God. Even though I still couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of God, going to church after classes brought a peace in me. I poured everything to the God that I imagined whenever I was in the church, a father figure with a beard and emanating light wherever he goes. I told God about our problems at home and the big choices that I had to make. I still don’t get it at that time, but believing that somewhere out there, someone is listening is a good feeling, and it brought me peace.
I went to college, and I tried to be the same prayerful girl. However, that was the time when my beliefs were not aligned with what the priests in the churces I go to were saying. For instance, I am a firm advocate of reproductive health bill, because of personally knowing women who are suffering because of having children even when they are not yet ready, and the child suffers too (Exhibit A: Yours Truly). As a woman I got really offended with some of the remarks of the priest and no matter what church I go to, the topic was the same. I have then gotten tired of going to church.
My aunt then invited me to a Born Again Christian Church, which was cool and fun. I met a lot of friends, and to be honest I enjoyed it because of the music. I started reading the Bible too. I loved Christian songs, and I was also given the chance to be part of the music ministry. But there are still preachings that I did not like at all, especially when I heard one pastor say that when you are gay, it’s like your soul is being burned while you are still alive. I knew at that moment that being in church is not for me.
I still remained open to religion, I became a church hopper. I was like a scientist who’s trying to understand these different religions in a systematic way. I also grew up with a Buddhist bestfriend and my college bestfriend was a Baptist. Then I taught in a catholic university, which probably influenced my brief comeback to the Catholic church. However, everything became clear when I went abroad and spent a lot of time alone.
I surprisingly found peace in not knowing the answers. Meditation, writing, and life experiences became my teachers. I finally accepted that it’s okay to not understand, because no one ever will. I started focusing on doing the things that make my heart feel safe instead of finding answers to my endless questions. I started learning from my experiences, and reflecting on them on a regular basis. I started to see religion as a path, that if used wisely, will lead you to enlightenment. Making an effort to be curious and present in every moment taught me a lot, and changed me into a wiser person. It doesn’t really matter what religion you choose, it’s about where your heart finds peace.
After some time, I understood what the preachers are talking about. I found the love that is unlimited, the peace of God that is within. There is no right or wrong religion after all. No matter where you go, any institution would have their flaws, because humans are running them. It is up to me to listen to what I need and learn even from people that I don’t agree with. Instead of judging and identifying the teachings as either good or bad, I choose to remain curious and non-judgemental. This is growth after all.
At present, I still don’t attend Sunday mass, but I like visiting churches. I love the peace that such a quiet place brings, may it be a church or a Buddhist temple. Wherever my heart is at ease, that’s where I go. It’s a different spiritual journey for all of us. What can I say so far is, spirituality, and the constant practice of reflection and growth keeps us grounded. It has personally given me the foundation that I absolutely need.
Does seeking end here, because I’m at peace? Definitely not. I am now comfortably praying to God everyday, about my thoughts and feelings, the things I’m grateful for. This time, I don’t have an idea what God looks like, but I find peace, in the feeling that I am being guided by a power that is greater than me, and one which is beyond a human being’s understanding. I hope more people would continuously engage with their own spiritual path. Your heart gets lighter, and your mind, wiser.