Sunday, August 30, 2009

Religion, Faith & My B.C. Life

I had someone ask me this week if I'd always been raised with religion and how does this work in relation to my illness. Recently, I've begun cringing at the "R" word. When people attack my faith, they wield that "R" word around like a weapon. This person most definitely was not attacking my faith, but rather inquiring, but still the word religion somehow causes me to flinch.

It could be my Catholic upbringing that triggers it. Growing up in Catholic conditioning means you attend church religiously and that you recite and respond religiously. I have always been convinced that religion and Catholicism were synonymous. Someone once told me that being religious really just means the act of doing something over and over again. So am I religious? HA!! I am the most inconsistent person I know! I do, however, religiously mow my lawn and brush my teeth. Today is the first time I think I've ever looked up the definition of religion in the dictionary. Stop laughing, I'm serious. This is what I've found thanks to Merriam-Webster's Student Dictionary:

religion: 1. The service and adoration of God or a gods expressed in forms of worship and a way of life. 2. Any one of the systems of faith and worship. 3. Profession of belief in God or a god; observance of the ceremonies of worship. 4. A conviction of the existence of a supreme being, resulting in reverence, love, gratitude, etc.

I guess it's number three that gets me. Observance of the ceremonies of worship. My newest revision to my testimony is that I was brought up with religion, but what I have now is faith. I don't have to memorize the Apostolic creed to know from where my salvation originates. I don't have to recall if my reply to the in-service prayers should be, "Lord, have mercy" or "Christ, have mercy". I don't even have to know when to sit or when to stand. At my church they mix things up so you never know and if I forgot my Bible at home on Sunday, the church I now attend (not Catholic) has Bibles right there in the pews instead of excerpts already picked out for me in the Misellette.

Now back to this guy's question-and to be very clear-I'll share what I shared with him so there will be no confusion whatsoever:

I am a rebel, I am a cynic, I have had a wild-hair ever since I can remember. I've lived through tragedies and devastation that have left me broken and jaded. I am the least likely person to submit to ANYONE, let alone an invisible God who I spent most of my life running from. I have kicked and screamed and bargained and offered the Lord ultimatums. Much of my 'Before Christ' life was pitiful and on my own I am lost. It wasn't until I was just to be 28 that I decided that constant calling and knocking on my door was from God and I would answer Him. It took many years thereafter to truly submit and I still sometimes fail miserably at it. My faith in Him and His word is what has transformed my life and the lives of so many others I know. But in His strength I am someone I never knew I could become. I am a mom and a wife I never thought I could be. In His strength my life has direction and purpose.

In my strength, I would have been buried by some of the choices I've made and some of the blows I've been dealt. It is my faith that tells me that the Lord knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me, not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11) This tells me there are lessons to be learned from the pitfalls of life like chronic illness. My faith tells me that we cannot always take things at face value. My religion might be how I observe God and is still somewhat organized, I'll admit, but my faith is personal and that's what I hold onto.

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