I was raised in religious communities. My Mom brought me up to be sorta Jewish and sorta Christian. The congregation that I grew up in, had three-hour-long services every Friday night, and that is exactly where I was at the end of the week. One hour of chanting liturgy, one hour of dancing, and an one-hour teaching. That was the formula. I didn’t go to Shabat School, I wanted to learn directly from the Rabi.
That congregation was not perfect. Some of the ideas/theology/culture was a little wacky at times but for the most part, it wasn’t a terrible place to grow up. I still adore many of the members.
When I was young, I had an experience at a Sunday Church that changed me.
I was around 7 years old, and for some odd reason, my Mom took my sister and I to a Baptist Church. I went to Sunday Shabbot school and I had an experience that changed how I’d see everything for the next 10 years or so.
We were learning about the bible. Young me, says something about following the Torah and the teacher preceded to tell me that I wasn’t in the book of life and only those with their names in that book would go to heaven. I couldn’t believe how blunt this lady was. She was my teacher that day, I trusted her.
The word Anxiety could easily describe the next 10 or so years.
I prayed and prayed. Every single night and throughout the day, I’d ask God not to send me to hell. No matter how often I made this request, I never experienced inner peace. At every single alter call, I asked Jesus into my heart. I don’t think I ever physically went up, but in my head, I was begging the Lord to save my soul.
With every single slip up I believed that God was going to hate me and send me to hell. Apart of me didn’t understand the appeal of religion, and a part of me couldn’t see myself living without it. Why would I want to follow a religion that caused me so much anxiety? At the same time if I walked away I believed I’d have eternal consequences.
By the time I was in high school, the anxiety lessen because of the choice I had to make. For the sake of my mental health, I had to take a step back from the mere idea of heaven and hell because it tormented me. The lesson that I missed, was the concept of faith. I started praying a different prayer. I started begging God to give me peace. From there it began to be more of a relationship base. After that, I was super religious on and off for years. A part of me had finally found peace within religion, but I also had so many questions about the culture that seemingly nobody could give me answers to. The past two years have brought unique experiences.
Currently, I’m not really sure where I fit in my belief system. I pray and listen to religious music frequently, and even have worked on a couple Christian based projects in the past year. At the same time, I don’t feel welcome in the Christian community because I question things, and am liberal. Often when I’m around it, I become a worse version of myself. I catch myself being judgy over minute issues and easily get caught up in drama that doesn’t even matter. Maybe it’s because of the anxiety of feeling that I have to hide a part of who I am.
Right now, I am content. I’m still trying to figure out why I believe what I do, and am learning about how the world works. I ask lots of questions to anyone who may have an answer and am actively learning to be consistently authentic.