Following My Heart and Redefining My Faith

by: Nicole Dahl

Religion and spirituality.

Tricky subjects, these two. On the surface, they are beautiful, sacred, and wonderfully mystical.

Dig deeper and things get a bit murky. I am often conflicted when it comes to discussing my spiritual beliefs.

On one hand, faith is a significant part of my life but, on the other hand, religion has been the foundation of near every war this world has hosted.

I want to live my life openly but I’m not up for war-like debate over my beliefs.

Most of us are rooted in some sort of faith as children.
For some kids, Sunday School was a weekly event, for others, believing in God was presented as a crutch for the weak-minded, and for others still, a different religious viewpoint was presented as universal truth.

To further complicate matters, within every religion, there are several sects.

For me, my foundation of faith was laid down at an early age.
I was raised with prayers of thanksgiving and troubles, sweet songs of God’s loves, and colorful bible stories.

My mom’s faith is rock solid. She’s been through a lot and is a certified survivor who has never once doubted God’s existence and word. It’s amazing.

Though I was raised as what you might call a Christian, we did not go to church.

My mom is a genuine person and honest to a fault.
Turned off by church politics and potlucks, she chose to journey her faith in small groups.

As I got older and became my own little person, I craved community and wanted to be part of a church.

In high school, I joined a local non-denominational Christian church’s youth group and went full throttle.  These years were not my finest.

I was ecstatic to be part of a church community and thought my mom had made the wrong choice choosing to go at faith seemingly alone.

Young, inexperienced and full of what I thought was wisdom, I dove headfirst into the group mentality.

In my teen years, I accepted what I was taught at church as gospel.
I mimicked older peers and pastor’s behaviors, opinions, and philosophies.

And then I went overboard.

I became hypercritical of other people’s life choices and prideful of my ability to stay out of trouble. It was ugly.

From my judgmental perch, several times I hurt family and friends, something that makes me cringe to think of even today.

As I began to shed my childhood and come into my own, I was met with a slap of self-awareness to the face.

I saw that what I had wasn’t faith or a relationship with a higher power, it was close-minded and unwarranted arrogance.

This attitude of mine was not the churches fault, not any one person’s fault.
Rather, it was the result of a young kid thinking she had all the answers, with a dash of religion mixed in.

Yet there I was, 18-years-old and facing myself.
Realizing that I had always just accepted Christianity as my faith, I decided that I owed it to myself to learn more about other religions.

My father, though not a present figure, practiced Judaism. I spent the next year reading books about Israel, attending the temple, and picking a Rabbi’s brain.

A beautiful faith, Judaism just wasn’t the right fit for me so I focused on Buddhism.

I took a college course, meditated, and practiced the best I knew how. Another year passed and I still didn’t feel quite right.

One hot summer night, alone in my Arizona row house, I got down on my knees and prayed.

I have learned that I am a spiritual person and my faith plays a central role in my life.
I felt my early childhood beliefs calling back to me.

I don’t remember my exact words but it was a calling out to God, acknowledging that my beliefs were riddled with confusion.

You see, as a young adult, I had become more open-minded, less judgmental.
By my mid-twenties, I had lived a bit of life, made mistakes, experienced second chances and grace.

I asked God, can I believe in You without being judgmental?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Right there in the Bible, Matthew 7:1-3, it says (my summary)

Don’t judge. If you judge others, God will judge you using your same method of judgment (YIKES!).
Instead of focusing on the small wrong-doings of other people, check yourself and take care of your own crap.

Reading that verse was a lightbulb moment!

My faith, my relationship with God. I didn’t need to bother myself with judging others.

I just had to love them.

That’s where I’m at now. I hate labels. I’ll share a Brené Brown quote as soon as a Proverb:

“As a person and in my faith,
I am a work in progress.”

I choose not to identify myself with a label but rather just live my life as honestly as I can.
God’s love and grace is truly the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced and the power of prayer is real to me. As Oprah says, that is what I know for sure.

Faith is an important part of our journey as humans.
I am eternally grateful for the years I was able to study and learn about religions I didn’t grow up with.

So often we accept something as truth because we were told so by an authority figure and just as often we dismiss a belief because someone claiming to represent it hurt us.

When you begin to openly allow yourself to consider what resonates with you, what feels right in your heart, you can move mountains.