My faith has been for the most part, relatively unshakeable with the exception of the usual rebellious years in my teens. I believe in God, an overseeing creator and the tenants of the Episcopalian Church has suited me well, mostly because it is what I grew up knowing. I know the words to the service, I know the general consensus of the people around me and I am comfortable enough in my faith to pass it onto the children I teach.
My faith in God is unshakeable. My faith in God’s interest in me is a different matter.
I’ve been fortunate, or unfortunate enough depending on your view, to come across many different opinions on the matter. The first and possibly the most influential is that of a boy I dated in high school. A strict evangelical Christian at one of the New Age churches that are so common and America and so rare in Scotland, he was firm in the belief that God had a specific plan laid out for him and it was his duty to follow it. At the time this raised some issues. I have a tendency to be contrary just for the sake of it and the idea that there was some path I was supposed to be following was constricting. I liked to quote that infamous Garth Nix passage,
“Does the path choose the walker, or the walker the path?”
I believe in free will, I believe in choices and responsibilities and above all, I believe in consequences. I am where I am in life because of choices I made, or more accurately, because of choices, I didn’t make. He wanted me to walk his path with him, I wanted to blaze my own rebellious way. Needless to say, it didn’t last between us.
The second great influence was a priest who came to my church for several years and who put me through my Confirmation. She imbued several rebellious beliefs in me, which I assume was her intent all along. Firstly, that the Bible was written by men and as such, should be taken with a generous pinch of salt. Secondly was a healthy fear of God. You hear of a great many churches where the congregation are regularly overtaken by the spirit of God and have to be quietly shown to a collection of mats set aside for the expected fainters. These are not people I envy. I think many people are desperate to feel the presence of God in their lives, a sign of direct intervention that proves…something. I don’t know. I find that idea terrifying. I am a very small person in a very large world full of people. The idea of that much Grace being focused on me…is not an idea I wish to entertain. I don’t blame people for fainting, but I also believe in not courting trouble. My faith is quiet, steady and awfully English. I can do without the fireworks thank you.
The third great influence is a girl…she is the same age as me and so I hesitate to call her a woman because I’m not certain that either of us truly qualifies. She is someone I met through university and someone I care for a great deal. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints, she like me, is very quiet in her religion. We’re both aware of the…issues that can come with being openly Christian, not quite hiding but not advertising it loudly either. She’s currently in the US undergoing her missionary training. She sends me emails. For her, although she was a part of a church which believed strongly in spreading the word of God and engaged in a fair deal of that herself, she seems to believe that for the most part things will happen if they are supposed to. She doesn’t, as a rule, go looking for God’s opinion on the matter, nor does she worry that she is on the wrong path. If it is meant to be, it will be. I find this to be both eminently practical and vaguely comforting, indeed it is a sentiment that my mother herself has often echoed. It seems impossible that a girl as lovely and kind as this one could possibly be on the wrong path, but as she is currently ensconced in a compound in the US…I can’t help but worry.
For the most part, I waver in my own belief. I teach young children that God cares for each of them individually. I’m sure that that is true. But I hesitate in telling them that they are expected to follow a specific path in life. If nothing else that is a lot of pressure to put on one so small. I’ll settle for making sure they know that no matter where they end up…they know they are loved. Unconditionally.