When I was in junior high, I was an avid youth group attendee and spent every Sunday night worshipping and celebrating the Lord with my fellow Christian peers. There was always one big difference between their expression of spirituality and mine. With the exception of a few others in the group, I was never forced to go to church by my parents. My parents fostered an environment where if I was curious about something, they would find ways for me to explore this curiosity. They encouraged me to ask questions and find acceptance in the idea that sometimes there aren’t always answers. This is how a Methodist youth group ended up being a big part of my life from age 12-15.
During that time, I learned so much about the wonders of God, but often felt scared to do things like read the Bible because I knew I wouldn’t agree with a lot of what it had to say. Being in a culture that so heavily relied on the Bible, this ONE book of stories about ancient peoples and their understanding of the world at that time, made the endeavor of reading it terrifying to me. What if I had put my heart into this belief system that was actually shunning large groups of people because this ONE book said they should? I knew I felt the Spirit, God, that thing inside me that they all talked about, but I didn’t necessarily agree with the way that relationship was being expressed in the church. I knew, without having read past Genesis, that I didn’t feel a connection to the Lord or Jesus like that book said I should.
I felt a connection to the people of the Earth. I felt like all of our beliefs somehow coincided with one another and was perplexed by the idea that one religion could be more correct than another. Some of these doubts grew when I started questioning my sexuality. How could this church tell me that God loved me, but not if I was gay? I felt God’s love as they described it, but very quickly felt like that could all go away if I was honest about my desires to love another woman.
I can remember the moment I started to edge away from the church, and it was completely wrapped up in my sexuality. While passing out water bottles at a local park in an attempt to bring new people to the church, my youth group and I came across a gay male softball league. There were gay men and lesbians there with their families, innocently watching their closest gay besties play softball. My youth group was utterly appalled by this. Gay people having fun like all people do? CRAZY! Maybe it was more of a reaction to the unknown, but we left the park very soon after coming across this haven of sin, even though the point of the water bottle activity was to bring people together.
That was the moment that I lost my faith in the Christian idea of God, and began to embrace and discover that you could love God and be loved by God in whatever way is right for you. Now, I don’t really even refer to it as God. For reasons I can’t explain, praying to the Universe feels more tangible to me. The key here, though, is that my way is not the only way or the right way to feel that connection. However any of us tries to express this weird thing that we feel inside of us, whether it be God or our consciousness, it shouldn’t matter that we call it what we do. All expressions of spirituality are valid regardless of the words we use to express this spirituality.