Nah, this isn’t going to be a post about Ziggy Marley, but I bet this song will be stuck in your head while you read this post! (It’s certainly making my toes tap right now, hehe.)
I sat beside teachers and students at Step by Step Learning Centre, spreading margarine on my sliced bread and passing bananas around the table, all whilst sharing ideas with my kaka and dada (brothers and sisters). Despite our different cultural backgrounds, we found soulful connection around the table. I engaged in side conversation with one of the teachers, who began by sharing how grateful she is for Americans who visit Tanzania: how giving we are with our time and money, and how our riches are vastly needed in Africa. She expressed appreciation for the knowledge we had been sharing during physical therapy lessons. Yet, in spite of the poverty of economy she and the other teachers/students face daily, this teacher saw the holes in my heart, and the weaknesses of our western culture. She saw through our economic strength, expressing that Americans are lacking faith and a relationship with God. Looking in her eyes, I knew exactly what she meant: We are losing our spirituality and are in a state of spiritual poverty and crisis.
Every morning at SSLC in Tanzania, I sat in the morning circle with children whose families may still make $1/day. Every child and teacher sang praise to Lord Jesus and thanked God for his gifts & prosperity. Seeing the light in the eyes of these children as they sang their thanks was humbling and grounding (to say the least). I felt consumed with love and union – the richest I have ever felt. It has since been my mission to find God within me, to better define my religious intents, and break through my own spiritual practice. I wanted to carry the love, community, and faith from the morning circle into my EVERY day here in the United States.
And so, this brings me to love: the love that I know lives within me and around me. Though I don’t feel I can entirely define this love and energy, perhaps this love IS God, and love IS my religion.
Honestly, I have not felt comfortable exploring religion, mostly because my knowledge has been lacking and I’ve been hesitant to seek answers. I’ve always felt more spiritual and connected to a worldly, universal energy. I’ve explored the meaning of the cosmos and feel the Universe supports us in all we aspire to be.
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I was baptized at birth and spent my childhood making the sacraments of initiation, declaring my faith in the Catholic Church. To be honest, I don’t know how much I actually got out of all the religion classes I took. As I wrote notes about sacrificial and miraculous acts, I didn’t know where all the stories could fit into my life. I didn’t connect with the church, and I didn’t ever feel a sense of community within the pews and walls. I did marvel at some friends who were part of choir groups in their churches and wondered why I hadn’t been part of such a supportive community. I spent some time exploring non-denominational churches, but still felt a little lost… So, I stopped all together and instead started leaning on angels and spirits. I always felt devotion to a higher power, and I have always believed in God, but I didn’t know much more.
Yet, something is calling me to God and religion. Two of the books I am reading reference The Holy Bible, and I’ve started realizing that the teachings of God and Lord Jesus can be directly applied to my life…
The quote “Rooted and established in love” has deeply resonated with me over the last few weeks. Naturally, February gets me thinking about love and I almost always try to find a quote to live by for the month. To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to who said this particular quote. Lo and behold, it is a quote from the world’s best-selling book: The Holy Bible. When I found out the quote was from Ephesians 3:17, I actually didn’t know what that meant. What is 3:17, I wondered? So, I downloaded an app on my iPhone that has the entire Bible in all its versions literally at my fingertip. Alas, the digital shares its gifts! I started by finding this verse, and an hour later was reading other chapters in Ephesians, Corinthians, Genesis, and more! Holy moley, how many books are there in the Bible, after all! It felt overwhelming.
I even went to looking at the verses in different versions: King James Version, New Living Translation, New International Version. Though I still have don’t know what version I should to read in (help??), it’s pretty neat to read different ways of expressing the same thoughts. In the New Living Translation, Ephesians 3:17 actually reads as:
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
Wow, growing roots in God. That feels so grounding, real, and raw. It feels like something I can trust and lean on.
This last year has been challenging in ways I never could have foreseen. I’ve asked myself many times: What is the solid ground I shall stand on? What can provide me with the most trustworthy support? Well, in moments of weakness, I know I can always lean on my family and friends – yet some (most) of them are so physically distant that my heart is constantly longing for something in closer proximity.
In the last year, some of my relationships felt unreliable. I felt as though I was leaning on paper walls, holding onto grains of sand, watching as relationships slipped through my fingers. My trust in others, which once felt so easy and relentless, suddenly had signs of caution and I felt myself holding back. I’ve felt my heart closing – retreating to heal. I have chosen to look into my own heart, to take responsibility for finding the truth within me and the love that exists in my very blood. I have sought forgiveness and gentleness within myself. Yet, sometimes this is not enough. I need more. I need belief in my own strength, but also something greater than myself.
There are many questions that remain unanswered in my heart. However, through my faith and with God on my side, I know I can persist. I am understanding that resilience was built into my spirit, and overcoming adversity is possible. I trust in the plan that God and The Universe have constructed for me and have faith that my heart will continue to grow in love. If I can root myself in the love of a higher power, perhaps I can continually build in strength as I move forward in my life. I can grow through this unconditional love and acceptance of myself.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” said the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11
I know I am not alone in this spiritual endeavor. I have many other people on my side: family, friends (old and new), communities to foster strength TOGETHER.
I have always believed we are ALL worthy of love and that we shouldn’t condone the independence that society holds in such high regard. I believe in CO-DEPENDENCE and growing, learning, together. Last weekend, my friends opened my eyes to Satanism and the worship of the idealized self – a denomination embracing individuality. Though I do feel we are individually beautiful, I also believe wholeheartedly that we are better together. I don’t feel my kindness should be biased, and I don’t wish to indulge in my desires. Instead, I choose self-control as a way to hold tight to my values and beliefs.
So, what is this love within me? Well… this is for sure: I don’t feel that this love is only mine. I feel it is the love, power, and energy of the entire Universe. I know that it is God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit within me.
I will keep opening The Holy Bible in search of answers and explanations. I seek strength in spite of adversity. I seek more foundation for my optimism – my undying faith that everything happens for a reason, and there are no ill intentions for the path of my future.
I truly started feeling it was delusional to believe that everything happens for a reason, and there is a grand plan.
Yet, it turns out, this is not delusional at all.
Something is always missing in our lives, but once we turn our intentions to our hearts, we can connect to the vastness within us. We are full of boundless love, despite the holes and cracks within us. How do I know this? I don’t, but I can feel it, and we may be reassured of this undeniable truth by our God, Lord Jesus, Universe, Allah, Higher Power, Divine Light… Call it what you may, but this universal love exists around us and within us all the same.
Love is my religion
Hey you can take it or leave it,
Now that you believe