Live Through This

Literally the Best Thing Ever: God

The most worshipful LTBTE ever.

Collage by Beth

Note to readers: I wrote this piece weeks ago, long before today’s school shooting in Newton, Connecticut. Today Anaheed, who edited it, asked me how I can still believe in God when terrible things like this happen, and why a benevolent force would allow them to. Here are my thoughts on that, which are hard to articulate because I am so angry right now.

What happened in Connecticut this morning is unfathomable to me. I will never understand how a human being could consciously do harm to a child. I will never understand violence, or come up with a “reason” for suffering. There is no reason behind suffering. What I know is that my faith endures because I believe that people who ruthlessly harm others aren’t acting in the name of the God I know, but rather because of their distance from the love, connection, and compassion that God represents.

When my ex-boyfriend, on the day of his bar mitzvah, told his rabbi that he didn’t always believe in God, the rabbi smiled and told him, “Doubt is the foundation of faith.” I’ve bumped up against my own crises of faith many times, and wondered how to make sense of how the merciful, compassionate, and loving God I believe in could allow atrocities like genocide, rape, racism, murder, and war to happen on his/her/their watch. In these moments I accept my confrontations with doubt as another pathway to learning about and connecting with that which is holy, and I embrace that alienation as an essential part of my faith.

And it’s at times like these that I really need God most, to help me find good in a world that suddenly feels so awful. I find it in the teachers, the rescue workers, the law-enforcement officers, the churches, and the mental-health-service volunteers who rushed in to protect and to help the people at Sandy Hook Elementary School today.

This piece expresses some of my personal beliefs about life and its transitions. I want to clarify that my spiritual ideas about the meaning of death and the endurance of the soul do not in any way lessen or undermine my horror at the tragedy of the loss of innocent life. Today, in the face of unimaginable sorrow, I join my nation in mourning and use my faith as a call to action to do whatever I can to help prevent atrocities like this in the future.

Love, Jamia


My friend Meggan, a feminist theologian, once called me a “divining rod,” by which she didn’t mean that I can find water or other hidden treasures buried in the ground, but that I have an ability that seems just as uncanny—no matter where I am, whatever the situation, I can always find God.

When I was three years old, my mother taught me to sing spirituals and my father taught me to recite the Lord’s Prayer, and those things taught me how to pray. I haven’t missed a day of prayer since. I always start by thanking the most holy, the goddess, nature, the divine, and the big kahuna (who is so big they have countless names, including God, Allah, Shangdi, YHWH, Yahweh, Nana, Igbo, Elohim, Zhu, Hu, etc. etc. etc.) for the blessing of living another day.

God has always just made sense to me. The same way that some people feel sure that there is nothing beyond this physical world, that there’s no such thing as a soul and that all that awaits us after death is decomposition, I have no doubt that my soul has always known life beyond the body it currently inhabits, and that everything in our world is connected to and by something bigger, smarter, and stronger than we are. I’ve experienced this force when marveling at gleams of white light dancing on palmetto trees and hearing my grandma and aunties singing gospel music in church and in the kitchen. I’ve also felt it during dark times (like today). God has always walked with me, showing up to show me my blessings and to hold on to me during heartbreaks. My relationship with God makes me feel like I have an all-knowing, nonjudgmental free therapist, teacher, and friend who listens to my soul 24/7 and never rejects me. This feeling has never wavered. My faith in religious institutions, however, has.

I grew up in a politically progressive household, but freedom of religion was not really an option for me growing up. I was expected to attend church every Sunday, and won extra points if I got up early for Sunday School. I was taught about “sins” (i.e., all the things that supposedly piss God off) and was told that being a “good girl” who honored her elders, never lied or cheated, and was kind to everyone was the surest pathway to heaven. One of my earliest memories is being dragged out of our Baptist church when I was very small for wailing from my pew after sitting still on a hard wooden seat in itchy tights and too-tight Mary Janes for three hours. My parents gave me a time-out and I never acted up in church again, but it wasn’t long before I started to seriously question the confines, both physical and behavioral, that the church seemed to draw around worshipping God. It seemed to me, even as a kid, that God represented freedom rather than repression and restraint. I spent my childhood confused about why I was “bad” for not wanting to go to services even though I spent my private time reading the Bible, praying, and trying to live my life by the golden rule.

That confusion was the beginning of a long process of searching and questioning. I had always resisted the idea that I would only be saved if I conformed to other people’s expectations of, and limitations on, me. I knew that my personal relationship with the highest power was more holy than anything I was being told in church and that God had my back. I started to look at the church’s teachings with a more discerning eye, filtering what I was being told through my own strong sense of spirituality. I accepted the ideas that I believed in—like love, justice, service, and compassion—and silently rejected anything that smacked of injustice or bigotry, like homophobia and sexism. I liked talking to God about my most intimate yearnings and challenges without needing anyone else’s validation that my approach was “right.” With God, I could always be myself.

I continued to develop my own spiritual practice and relationship with the spirit through my teens and into adulthood. I can say that from the moment I let go of my blind loyalty to institutional rules and rituals, I became more comfortable with letting the divine spark within guide me in the right direction. It has never steered me wrong. My spiritual path feels like space exploration; the possibilities are as vast as the universe and as innumerable as the stars.

For a long time, though, I hid my spirituality. I was afraid that my secular liberal friends would think my beliefs were silly, and that my conservative Christian friends and family would worry that my open-mindedness would damn me to hell. I recall an atheist ex-boyfriend telling me that he was “surprised someone so smart could be so naïve.” It annoyed him that I always believed that God was guiding me when he knew for sure that nothing exists but the cold reason of blood, bone, and dirt.

But then, a few years ago, I joined several interfaith women’s circles and an intergenerational community that affirmed my right to my own distinct religious experience. Through my involvement with these groups I was able to reclaim my spiritual authority and give myself permission to carve out my own holy path without apology. (And by the way, no one—believer or nonbeliever—has rejected or condemned me.)

Today, my relationship with God feels unlimited. I talk to the lord all day long. I take advantage of long subway trips and elevator rides to pray and meditate, to connect with the spirit, and to remind myself to be calm and compassionate in the midst of commuter chaos. Sometimes people look askance at me when they see me breathing deeply on the train with my eyes closed and my raised palms resting on my knees, but I just don’t care.

It is my understanding that God is love, and that love motivates action. My commitment to activism has always been driven by the notion that living a life of service is one of the most sacred ways to give thanks. I learned this from my Baptist parents and grandparents, whose activism during the civil rights movement had roots in the African-American church, and from hearing stories about how slaves used spirituals as a means to communicate, educate, organize, and rebel in their quest for liberation. I am now at a point where I feel comfortable acknowledging what led me to this point—a strong urge, a loud internal whisper, and a tingling shiver that I know well: my spiritual calling.

After years of seeking, I forged a new spiritual frontier: myself. Releasing myself from other people’s expectations and allowing myself to receive God’s blessings and wisdom in ways that feel honest, righteous, and real has been, in my life, literally the best thing ever. ♦

72 Comments

  • lacecat December 14th, 2012 7:13 PM

    Thank you so much for this Jamia! I believe in God too, although im not a very “strong” Christian. I believe that God has no prejudice or gender, its a God of love not hate. It is the best thing ever, and its always there for me too <3 (I use it for neutral purposes).
    I'm praying for the victims of the shooting

  • litchick December 14th, 2012 7:55 PM

    This article touched on so many things I have been thinking about lately. I really enjoyed the message. Thanks, Jamia!

  • KK December 14th, 2012 7:57 PM

    http://blog.alyssajoy.me/?p=528

    • Jamia December 14th, 2012 9:02 PM

      Thank you for sharing-Small world. Dr. Keller (author of The Reason for God) was mentioned in this blog and i’ve met him. We were on a panel together and while i’m WAY more liberal and disagree with some of his beliefs, I appreciate a lot of his insights as well). I now live very close to his congregation.

  • tcmaree December 14th, 2012 8:01 PM

    My prayers go out to all those effected by this monsterous crime in Newtown. It was the worst thing to wake up to, expecially with only 10 days untill Christmas. We need to do everything we can to help, so sign the petition, donate, pray, it all helps! xx

  • Abby December 14th, 2012 8:02 PM

    Even though I’m an atheist, I really, really, REALLY like this. You seem so… awesome. I really respect people who are this strong in their faith (whatever that faith may be)… because it just makes them seem so much more kind and cool to me.

    As for the shooting… though I don’t pray, I’m sending my heart and my thoughts out to those affected by it. It’s horrible and awful that it happened, but I think that maybe it will bring some change… maybe.

    Anyway, it’s people like you, that are strong in their faith, commitments, and values but still open-minded, that are keeping this world together. All the love in the world :)

  • cherrycola27 December 14th, 2012 8:06 PM

    This is beautiful, and probably one of my favorite Rookie pieces. Thank you.
    This line: “My relationship with God makes me feel like I have an all-knowing, nonjudgmental free therapist, teacher, and friend who listens to my soul 24/7 and never rejects me.” made me smile, because I feel the exact same way.
    I’ve felt much the same way about talking about my faith with my non God-loving friends. I want them to give me the respect I give them and their beliefs, and although I know they probably will, I just don’t want to hear other people’s opinions about my faith sometimes. It’s mine, it’s a part of who I am and sometimes I just don’t want to have to discuss it, but that feels a little like lying. I think i’m still finding the balance.

  • I.ila December 14th, 2012 8:17 PM

    I really appreciated this article. So many of my friends have said “You believe in all that?” and don’t seem to understand what God means. again, thank you Jamia.

  • Jamia December 14th, 2012 8:49 PM

    Thank you so much. Love and blessings to you! xo

  • roselikesclothes December 14th, 2012 9:19 PM

    I used to live in Newtown (actually Sandy Hook where the shooting took place), and when I heard about what happened, I just sort of broke down. I don’t know anyone from the elementary school, but what if people I went to preschool with had younger siblings there? Sorry to be all weird, but I haven’t really been able to talk to anyone about this yet. This article is actually really comforting, thank you Jamia

    • Jamia December 14th, 2012 10:08 PM

      Dear Rose, Sending you and yours love and prayers and so grateful for your sweet note.

  • lipstickjunkie December 14th, 2012 9:38 PM

    I feel the same way! I’m a Christian, but I’m always so scared to say, “Hey, I believe in gay rights and a woman’s right to choose etc.etc.” around other Christians. Not everyone is so liberal and accepting. Thanks:)

  • AliceinWonderland December 14th, 2012 9:40 PM

    Thank you for this. Though I am not religious, I don’t like how many people think that all religion is the same: ignorant, intolerant, uncool, arrogant, etc., etc., etc. I also can’t stand how in order to be “rational” or “intelligent”, you have be an atheist. It is very refreshing to read something that portrays a very open, loving, intelligent, responsible, and especially respectful religious belief. People need to remember that not all religious adherents are the insane “believe-or-you-will-die” people.

    Great article. :)

  • nerual December 14th, 2012 10:17 PM

    I loved this. Thank you.

  • Sea goddess December 14th, 2012 10:22 PM

    Ahh I had been waiting for a “literally the best thing ever” post on God :) Iam so glad you guys did it. I have grown so much into my relationship w/ God and it’s just wonderfully amazing. For anyone who has not jet met the Lord, you’re missing out! Amazing article :D

  • Lani December 14th, 2012 10:27 PM

    Having grown up Quaker (where it is believed that everyone’s relationship with god is different and that is okay) it’s hard to imagine that your beliefs were not accepted. I’m glad you found what worked for you (:

  • TheNarcissisticGinger December 14th, 2012 11:21 PM

    Jamia, this post made me cry. I’ve been having an extremely stressful week in school and today I had a horrible day, and I came home, opened the Internet, and learned of the events in Connecticut this morning. I also find myself doubting my god sometimes, but it’s days like today and articles like this that remind me how truly lucky I am, and how wonderful my savior is to me. Thank you for reminding me that no matter what, I’ve always got someone watching over me. You’re an angel on earth. :) <3

  • Claire December 14th, 2012 11:33 PM

    “For a long time, though, I hid my spirituality. I was afraid that my secular liberal friends would think my beliefs were silly, and that my conservative Christian friends and family would worry that my open-mindedness would damn me to hell.” BAM. This right here.

  • Leilani December 14th, 2012 11:34 PM

    Thanks so much for this! I love my God so very much and He (I do believe He’s a he) teaches me to love others the best I can and for that I am grateful. <3

  • Teez December 14th, 2012 11:36 PM

    i often wish i could feel this way about god. i really want to have faith but it just does not come naturally to me. i envy your strength jamia

    • Jamia December 15th, 2012 1:56 PM

      Thank you Teez–in my experience, faith as defined by others will never “come naturally” for us. That has been a really big part of my own struggle–going within on your own terms, listening to your own inner voice and your own soul–that will tell you all you need and lead the way. My friend Meggan is releasing a book in a few months that is all about this and how we can “reveal” ourselves. You might want to sign up for her newsletter on her website: http://www.megganwatterson.com to learn more–I learned so much about my own spiritual authority and voice by attending her REDLADIES circles–no one in these circles had the answers for me, we came together as women to find the answers for ourselves and held space together and meditated together and talked about our own thoughts and it was so powerful and integral for me in terms of getting to where I am right now where I can hear my own calling, my own soul’s musings etc. Trust yourself and know that not coming naturally isn’t a problem–its that whatever is not your own is not natural–and what yours is, is already there–you are enough. you are all you need darling! xo

  • Ben December 14th, 2012 11:51 PM

    The tragedy today was really terrible, it’s so sad that these things happen :( Also the other shooting this week took place in my local mall. Like I’ve been there multiple times and family of people at my school where there and the shooter graduated from our school 4 years ago so some teachers knew him and stuff. It’s really weird and scary that this like happened in our community.

    • Jamia December 15th, 2012 1:58 PM

      Oh Ben, sending prayers of protection and warm thoughts to you and yours.

  • Bianca December 15th, 2012 1:39 AM

    This is wonderful. Beautifully written Jamia.

  • Christi December 15th, 2012 2:29 AM

    This is beautiful. Just what I needed!

  • akkingery December 15th, 2012 2:37 AM

    Really enjoyed reading this article. I’ve always loved Rookie and their willingness to write about anything, including all different types of religion. It’s that open-mindedness that will help this world become more peaceful and accepting of others. [cue applause from Ms. America crowd here]

  • Killjoy December 15th, 2012 3:01 AM

    This is beautiful, Jamia.

  • ShakespeareRules December 15th, 2012 3:45 AM

    Thank you for this, I’m a Christian and I totally understand how you feel, this piece is so beautiful and well written. It’s times like this when I’m thankful to have a God to talk to and get us through things.

  • Sorcha M December 15th, 2012 9:00 AM

    Thank you for this beautiful article. You’ve helped me understand a lot more about why people have faith and to respect people’s beliefs. I’m also so happy that there’s religious people who don’t wrap up their own bigotry in God and Jesus as an excuse. We’re so often shown the ugly sides of religion, when people use it to hate and control, that it’s great to see people who take the best from their religion.

  • HeartPlant December 15th, 2012 9:06 AM

    Thanks for this post, Jamia! Thanks for not using a male pronoun for God all the time! I believe that God combines all the characteristics of humanity into one, and to divide that into human gender is reductive and annoying. So that’s made me really happy :) Cheers!

  • Naomi December 15th, 2012 11:13 AM

    Jamia, I read this and then teared up because I used to talk so much to God, as in, simply have a connection with something bigger than everything down here on earth and it always managed to make me feel better. But this made me realise how much I have lost that when I was feeling a bit like a lost soul anyway. So before I went to sleep, for the first time in months and months I clasped my hands together and started praying and I apologised for being a little rusty but it all came back to me – that feeling of spiritual calmness. I then slept the best I have for weeks and weeks.
    This was such a significant reminder for me that it is alright to pray. Jamia, YOU are literally the best.

  • khaleesi December 15th, 2012 12:09 PM

    This is so beautiful. I connect to what you are saying, god has always been a part of my life, though I am not religious. This life is about joy.
    I also wanted to share Braco. http://www.braco.net/ Just check it out.

  • julalondon December 15th, 2012 12:25 PM

    Ok i have tears in my eyes, because this was just pure awesomeness. When i saw the “Literally the best thing ever: God” headline i was so curious/happy/whatever and it turned out to be one of the very best articles i have seen on here so far (and i read Rookie every day and love EVERYTHING about it).
    Almost everything you say here IS SO ME. It is so great to hear from other Christians, especially those who don’t agree 100% with the church, but are 100% in love with God.

  • wallflower152 December 15th, 2012 12:45 PM

    Beautiful.

  • annika December 15th, 2012 12:51 PM

    sometimes when things like this happen, it can go either way. I prayed for the first time in three years last night because of the shooting.

  • Jamia December 15th, 2012 1:25 PM

    Naomi, Thank you for your lovely words. My cup literally runneth over! Sending you a big virtual hug of solidarity–I have had similar experiences where I’ve come back after a long time without being connected and it absolutely works. “) I always feel like a miracle has happened after I get back into deep devotion. Its an ebb and a flow and all a part of the beauty of our spiritual journey. Beautiful! xx

  • Tambourelle December 15th, 2012 1:26 PM

    Literally the best thing ever…
    God

    haha genius!

    http://tambourelle.tumblr.com/

  • Jamia December 15th, 2012 1:29 PM

    Love to you all–I’m so glad that so many Rooks are engaging in their own diverse explorations and connections. I am feeling very inspired by all of the love we’re sharing.

    I read a prayer on Facebook from one of my favorite spiritual alchemists Marianne Williamson and I thought I would share:

    PRAYER FOR CONNECTICUT

    For those who bear tonight the unbearable burden
    of unimaginable grief,
    who in their agony yell at the forces of fate…
    For those who moan and those who faint,
    for those who rage and those who pray,
    we moan and pray along with you.
    For tonight, those were our children too.
    Dear God, May a legion of angels
    come upon these parents.
    Bring to them an otherworldly touch,
    an otherworldly comfort,
    an otherworldly sense that their children are well –
    that they are safe with God
    and shall be with them always.
    Give to those who grieve what no mortal can give…
    the touch of Your Hand upon their heart.
    May all touched by this darkness
    be Lit by Your grace.
    Please wipe away all tears, dear God.
    as only You can do.
    Amen

  • Amy Rose December 15th, 2012 1:55 PM

    Perfection.

    • Jamia December 15th, 2012 1:58 PM

      Thank you Amy! Love you so much! xx

  • Electra Heart December 15th, 2012 2:32 PM

    I really have no words to describe this article and what it means to me. It’s just absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. It’s also so refreshing to know that I’m not alone in what I believe. Thank you so so much for showing the true and beautiful side of who God really is. <3

  • PATYVAL December 15th, 2012 2:39 PM

    We learn in life where there is not God as well as where there is God. Where there is not God we correct, turn and re-enter its path. Where is God we affirm and stay. God show us where he is not so we can advance toward him and with him…in this situation God is showing that guns and arms are not him…we have to correct that…..

  • velveteengirls December 15th, 2012 2:56 PM

    I don’t usually comment on things, but I fell that I have to.

    Before the Sandy Hook Shootings I had a pretty firm belief in God, or at least something higher guiding us, something good. However, it took something surreal and too close to home to shake it.
    I live ten minutes away from Newtown. I go to the doctors there, grocery shopping and have friends there. In addition my two little cousins attend Sandy Hook Elementary and were there the day of the shooting. When I found out they were okay I immediately thought, thank God. But then I wondered, what right did my cousins have to survive than any of the other children. Did they deserve to live more the daughter of a family friend that died that day? The answer is no. What kind of God would spare certain children and not others? Not the God I believe/ed in.

    I am also very offended that this event has turned into a social networking thing. What trivializes an event like this than creating a twitter hashtag for it? People on my facebook posting “pray for Newton.” I don’t know what’s worse, not caring or pretending to care, tweeting false information, hammering into me the death toll with every tweet and status update. What a sick fascination. I had to turn my computer off I felt so disturbed. These were real people who lost their lives, not numbers that you can easily type on your computer.

    I fell like I’ve lost most of my faith in humanity, but hopefully I’ll find the strength to believe in something again.

    • Jamia December 15th, 2012 8:09 PM

      My heart goes out to you and everyone in your community. I am sorry for your suffering and can’t imagine how much it hurts. I agree that it is important to focus our attentions towards taking real and sincere action to prevent this kind of terrorism–but I also believe that there is something beautiful happening when people who don’t have roots in Newtown are finding ways to connect in the best ways they personally can–I think that gun control, health care access, and security are issues that need action, but I equally believe that now is the time for love, open-heartedness, and connection–forces that emerge from the opposite place of the anger and destruction that occurred. I also have some issues with the spectacle some people are creating with some of the macabre coverage of the tragedy, but I do believe now is a time for healing and coming together. I’m thinking of Maya Angelou’s quote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This quote reminds me not to judge the reactions of people who are genuinely trying their best to cope in the way that they can, where they are. IMHO…but I wanted to send you my honest and loving response. Best wishes to you.

  • Ruth December 15th, 2012 6:29 PM

    Thank you for writing this Jamia, it inspires me to continue having a relationship with God. As a teen I’m always straying from the word and feeling the pressures of getting baptized just makes me uncomfortable in my church and home. I mean I’ve always believed in God but I’ve never committed time with Him outside church or never fully declared that I am a believer. I just have fears that I’m never good enough and that’s why I never wanted to commit. It’s difficult for me to sacrifice my whole life to Him when I fully know God sacrificed his life for mine!

    I feel that my friends disregard me as a true Christian because of my behaviour and that’s why we never talk about things such as why God would do bad things to good people. The tragic events that happened also make me doubt my beliefs. I want to grow old with God and understand more about Him but I don’t know where to start. There’s one thing I know for sure and it’s that He’s real and that He sacrificed his one and only son to forgive our sins.

    I hope you see this and provide some guidance.

    • aideenj December 29th, 2012 6:54 PM

      The comments in this have been really really interesting (great piece by the way Jamia!) but I really can’t witness someone feeling alienated from God and not say something. Do you realise that the fact that he died for you means he expects nothing in return? You DON’T HAVE to be good enough! You don’t have to bring ANYTHING to the table! Just enjoy what he did and the fact that it brings you constant, uninterrupted, blissful union with God, completely independent of whether you can jump through all the religious hoops you think you have to. My mentor always says, if it sounds too good to be true, or like you could take advantage of it, it’s the true gospel. Hope it lands for you :)

  • Jamia December 15th, 2012 8:02 PM

    Dear Ruth,
    Thank you for your open hearted honesty and for your kind words about my piece. I understand the pressures and the guilt that can pile up. It is natural to have our faith during times like these and to feel alienated, alone, and cold. Know that you are not alone and that perhaps even some of the people who you feel are the most pious have doubts of their own–even Mother Teresa’s secret letters exposed moments of doubt.

    I don’t have the answers because all of those answers are within you and your highest power. What I can suggest is that you read some books that can help as you explore this journey–books by women seekers (one book even has a piece from me in it) from diverse faiths who have encountered similar challenges and made sense of things on their own terms:

    I have a piece in this anthology, Women, Spirituality, and Transformative Leadership, Where Grace Meets Power — mine is not the one that I think will be the most helpful for you since it deals with a different topic-but I highly suggest you check this out and read about the different spiritual paths many of us experienced and also you will find some beautiful prayers, meditations,rituals, and resources to connect with other likeminded women an girls: http://womenofspiritandfaith.org/the-book/
    You’ll want to read everything by Parker Palmer, Meggan Watterson and Marianne Williamson–it will blow your mind and you will know you’re not alone. There’s a lot of beautiful work in the Christian mysticism genre that you should explore, you’ll find great comfort in knowing that the answers are in the Qs.

    • Jamia December 15th, 2012 8:03 PM

      Sorry about some typos–typing this from my phone.

  • thebrownette December 15th, 2012 10:01 PM

    Thank you for this, Rookie. It’s really wonderful to read about someone who feels just like I do :)

  • galaxypirate December 15th, 2012 10:34 PM

    I’m an atheist and I live in a small town where almost everyone is a devout conservative Christian. The majority of them believe that homosexuality is a sin and some of them (even girls) are very sexist. I’m so happy to have articles like this and connections with the outside world to help myself understand that not all Christians are like this and not all religion is this way. Thank you for this article and thank you for using religion to spread love and not hate.

  • pen2sword December 16th, 2012 11:25 AM

    Great article. I’m Catholic, and I’ve been lucky to grow up in a faith community that includes lots of different spiritualities. It taught me that we need to have all the differences in order to make the world work… We need the thinkers, the builders, the organizers, the teachers, the artists, the perpetually praying, the young, old, and in between. There’s an Irish saying: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live”, and I think that applies well to what I said above, but also to the tragedy we just experienced and your thoughts on it.

  • TheMeps December 16th, 2012 11:51 AM

    Typically don’t read a lot due to the super-abundance of mediocrity…this was beautiful. This is what I crave when I read. Reluctantly read this out loud as a family (the kids included) at my wife’s insistence…we’re currently extracting ourselves from a cult (most friends/family have deserted us). We’re in a state of “what now?” which means there’s a certain amount of overwhelming guilt of whether we are going the “right” thing…The tragedy which has occurred aside, we really needed this – thank you!

    • Jamia December 16th, 2012 5:02 PM

      Best of luck and blessings on your journey as you leave what sounds like a very unhealthy community. Sending prayers that you will be guided and supported as you enter the uncertainty of the “what now?”

      • Jamia December 16th, 2012 5:02 PM

        Also, thank you for reading and sharing this piece.

  • ceriseetcitron December 16th, 2012 2:54 PM

    This article is awesome in so many ways. Growing up in a muslim family, albeit my immediate family don’t pray and such, has always been difficult for me. I doubted my faith for very long, and denied myself any realtionship with god. I’ve always felt so guilty about abandonning my faith, and felt I disappointed my family. Now I’m starting to find out what religion really means to me. For me, it is necessary to know there is some meaning to life – and that is what god gives me. God gives and takes, as he pleases. We just have to make the most of what we get.
    So thank you Jamia for writing this article, and putting all my thoughts out there, to better be able to understand my faith.

    • Jamia December 16th, 2012 5:03 PM

      Thank you so much!!! Have you heard of the book Love, InShallah? I think you might enjoy it. I know one of the editors and it was one of the most special books I’ve encountered this year.

  • tvrk December 16th, 2012 8:43 PM

    do you still think of yourself as a christian ( meaning you believe that Jesus died and rose again after three days and that he is also the son of God) because it was a little confusing to understand your foundation. I really appreciate the acknowledgment of your faith and that it is so strong but i feel like people are picking and choosing their faiths not taking it as a whole.

    P.S. great article

  • Jamia December 16th, 2012 8:51 PM

    TVRK, Thank you. Yes, i do personally believe in the Trinity and the gospel. What I don’t and won’t accept is other humans projecting their interpretations and judgments about my personal connection to God or evaluations of my level of devotion–something that has happened a lot in my past institutional experiences with more conservative congregations I have been a part of.

    • tvrk December 17th, 2012 7:36 PM

      i understand
      thanks also for being vocal i sometimes fell that Christianity is a dying faith because people are ashamed of what they believe in and think that the worldly ways are easier and more fun. it is nice to know that there are others who still have values and are standing strong for what they believe in.

  • Smriti December 17th, 2012 2:39 AM

    Beautiful article Jamia… I believe in God and that He comes to our rescue no matter what. I do not pray everyday and sometimes feel guilty about asking him for anything. But in my own small ways I express my love towards Him and believe that He loves me as His own child. I hope someday I will be able to connect with Him more. Also, I am a Hindu and brought up by parents who are extremely religious but sometimes I do not believe in following all rituals and stringent ways of connecting with God. This again brings guilt, sadly. I believe that being humane, showing compassion and love is the definition of respecting God. And I try my best…

    Blessings to all the parents and families who went through so much… My heart goes out to them. Om!!

  • plutosproject December 17th, 2012 7:00 PM

    This has made my day and I’m so glad it was written because I can relate so much to it. So thank you, Jamia.

    Over the years, I always the religion was a tricky topic— on Rookie, school, anywhere. It sometimes feels as if God believers are portrayed as naggy, hypocritical, and delusional in which it sometimes holds truth and sometimes not.
    I’ve always struggled finding a middle ground between the cross fire of friends who aren’t believers and who are. My non believing friends always mocked Christians because of how they acted towards them (exclusive and segregating) at school. I would feel shameful and never announced that I believed in God. With my Christian friends, I was afraid to mention I held different opinions of evolution, homosexuality, feminism etc.
    So thank you for writing an article displaying love, not judgement, and respect. Often, God isn’t portrayed like this. Thank you so much for writing this where people can comment and share similar views while being Christian! Literally the best thing ever.

  • joenjwang December 18th, 2012 2:39 AM

    I was born into a missionary family and was always surrounded by theologians, philosophers, missionaries, etc. and I am thankful that throughout my life I have been surrounded by dialogue, whether it was doubting or not. I can openly criticize the church, the hypocritical elements in the religion Christianity, be an advocate for homosexuals and still feel that these are all developments in my faith, rather than detractors. A lot of times, I feel that the Religion of Christianity has muddled the actual text that the Bible provides. However, I don’t think people should be bitter about it. –more dialogue vis-a-vis, this is what we should have. :)

  • Lydia Jane December 18th, 2012 1:52 PM

    Jamia: this is lovely. I don’t think I’ve ever really believed in God – I come from a family that isn’t very religious, but isn’t atheist, either. We never really discussed our religious beliefs, and it was always just kind of something I accepted as a plausible theory. The past few years I’ve realized that I just don’t believe. I could go on a rant about this, but there were so many things that frustrated and confused me about God.

    To be honest, I feel really ignorant saying this but I’ve always associated God with the Bible, religion, and strict rules on how to be a good person (which I disagreed with). This piece has definitely given me a new perspective that God doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with Christianity or church or what the Bible does and doesn’t allow, that belief can be a more personal thing and it doesn’t have to be black-and-white I Believe In God or I Don’t Believe In God.

    I don’t think I’ll ever believe to the extent that I’ll identify with a specific religion, but (sorry if this sounds really cliche) your article gave me hope that maybe someday I’ll be able to find “my” God who/that I believe in.

    That was super long. Sorry. Basically, to summarize, you rule. Thanks so much for making me a happier and more open-minded person :)

    xoxox

  • Marcie December 18th, 2012 3:20 PM

    This is just what I needed right now.

  • sternenfall December 18th, 2012 6:20 PM

    On the subject of God letting terrible things happen to people–I remember asking my priest that same question, and she said “I would love to ask God why he lets awful things happen, but I’m afraid he would ask me the same thing.” I really loved your article, Jamia.

  • papayapetunia December 19th, 2012 1:05 AM

    Thank you for this post. It really, really spoke to me.

  • sweetvalleyhi December 19th, 2012 12:11 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this. Ever since I can remember my mum would take me to church, read the bible to me, pray with me, and I had a childhood that was very involved with spirituality and the christian faith. After a period of not attending church, I recently started going again. However, I have been struggling lately with faith and the restrictions of ‘church’, and this piece really helped to reaffirm some things for me, again, thank you.

  • alieninini December 21st, 2012 4:28 PM

    i love this article. this is exactly how i feel.

  • meg_1_t December 21st, 2012 5:56 PM

    :)

  • Jamia December 29th, 2012 5:03 PM

    I visited Newtown to pay my respects about a week ago. I thought of all of your beautiful comments and warmth when I was there.

  • Kaitlin January 25th, 2013 1:17 PM

    It’s refreshing to know I’m not alone. Beautifully written.

  • Maggie Fenning March 14th, 2013 9:21 PM

    This community of Rookie is truly incredible, in fact I believe this is exactly what the world needs. Tavi, I’m not sure what you believe, but I know in my heart you must have divinely inspired to create such an open-minded, loving, and unique opportunity for connection between womenkind all over. This is how the internet is used for love and people do not see that enough. God loves Rookie and so do I :) peace and love to all the strong and beautiful readers out there.