Thursday, August 2, 2012

finding my personal faith

I have not always been a religious person, in fact I think I was raised to NOT be religious. As a young child I remember attending church a couple of times with my grandparents but that was as far as it went. In our family we did not say prayers, we did not read scriptures and we definately did not attend church on a regular basis. Being a religious person was the last thing on my mind as I was growing up.

Then something happened, something changed and I felt a stirring within me. I started working as a teenager in a supermarket as a checkout chick. I remember on a regular basis 2 young men, always dressed in suits, coming through my register. They never spoke to me about religion, they never invited me to learn more but they were always happy and friendly. I could tell by the badges they wore that they were religious and I could tell they were different from other people I knew. I wanted to be like them; positive and happy.

I knew I could be like them by deciding to be a little happier myself but I also decided that the way for me to start being a little like them was to read the Bible. As a teenager I remember clearly hunting down a religious book shop in my home town and purchasing a Bible. It took me a couple of times to work up the courage to enter the shop and I remember afterwards being shocked that I now owned my very own Bible! I spent a lot of my time pouring over it's pages, just reading the words but not really understanding what it was about.

This lasted for about six months, I then put my Bible away and did not see any young men in suits for a very long time. Years even. However, it was a start, my heart had been pricked and softened to allow God to enter and little did I know at the time that it was a great preparation for the choices I would make in the future.

So after spending a short amount of time during my teenage years doing some light Bible reading, I put away my Bible not to touch it for about 4 more years. Religion crossed my mind several times during this period as I often stopped to chat to anyone who was promoting a certain faith or church. As I talked to people from other faiths I enjoyed what they had to say. I agreed on many points of their teachings but in my heart they never felt quite right for me. I continued on my journey of life and my thoughts started turning towards finding a religion that I knew in my heart and mind was for me. Strangely enough during this time I did not remember seeing any more young men in suits. 

I moved out of home at 17, I lelt as soon as I could! I enrolled in University, found a job in the city and lived a busy and full life. I found friends, I went out on the weekends, I danced my heart out, I dated, I shopped, I studied and I tried my best to keep up with what a normal young adult would do at that time and stage of life.

After completing several years of University I took a year off to work full time. I wanted to save a little more money and to think more about what direction I wanted to take my life. The more I started to think about where I was heading the more depressed I started to feel. I spent about two months feeling deeply depressed. During this time I wanted to end my life. I spent all of my day writing out my thoughts and reasons for not living. I planned it all out. How it would happen, who would find me and even set a time and date for when ending my life would take place. 

It consumed my thoughts constantly and I simply could not see any reason to keep living. One night, very late at night I had an experience that changed my mind. The only way I can describe it is that I had a moment where I could see clearly, it was if I had pure knowledge. I was taught a simple truth.

Into my mind and heart came an impression or concept I had never considered before. It was that there is life after this Earth life. That there really is a place to go to. It touched me. I had never pondered it very much before. I had heard people talk of heaven but I had never personally applied it to myself. How this knowledge would affect me.

I clung to that knowledge. I pondered over would happen if I ended my life. The emotional and mental state that I would be in if I ended my life right then. It scared me. I did not want to go to that next place as messed up as I was feeling, I wanted to go there as a happier, stronger person. I then made the decision to do whatever it takes to get myself better. I decided to be a survivior. That simple truth and decision and knowledge saved my life.

I quit my job. I enrolled back into University more determined to finish my study and to follow my dreams. I slowly started to make changes that agreed with what I was feeling. I wrote out a list of all the negatives in my life and started to cut them out. I stopped seeing my boyfriend, I stopped drinking alcohol, I stopped swearing, I stopped going to nightclubs, I started dressing more modestly, I changed my attitude, I started speaking kinder to myself and I started to feel happy. I listened more to my heart and I had the desire to live and to be a better person. For the first time in a long time I started to feel a personal faith in myself. A seed had been planted in my heart waiting for me to let it fully blossom and grow.

Two weeks later as I was home studying there was a knock at my door. When I opened the door I was surprised to see two young men standing there wearing suits. I was shocked to see them. It was two young men from the same church that I had met years earlier when I was working as a checkout chick. They were representatives from The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Now I know for a lot of other people getting a knock on the door from two guys in suits is the last thing that they want and in fact a moment that they hate but for me, it was just what I personally needed and it is for people like me that these young men and women go through all of the verbal abuse and other trials that come there way.

The timing of that knock on the door was not a coincidence. It was meant to be. I was ready and I was prepared and I was waiting for guidance on how to move forward with my life. Little did I know that these two young men where going to provide me with more peace and happiness and love than I could have ever imagined. They were going to be a big part of the answer on how I needed to learn to water and nourish and take care of that seed of personal faith in my heart.

We chatted at the door and they handed me a book to read. It was the Book of Mormon. As a University student majoring in history and literary studies, I was delighted to receive the book as a gift and read it immediately. By the time they next came to visit me I had finished reading the book. To their surprise I handed it back to them, told them I had read it and thanked them for such an interesting history book to read. Of course not coming from a religious background I did not read the book as a religious book, I read it as a history book which was a shock to the two young men standing at my door.

After several conversations together about the Book of Mormon I eventually invited them to teach me more about religion. I was very wary and cautious. I am not someone who simply believes the word of others. I like to research, to study and to find out for myself about life and what is truth. I was not an easy student for these young men. I went to my University, typed in the word 'Mormon' and checked out all the books on the church or religion. I read profusely. I read every book that the University had available and strangely enough they had a lot! I studied all of the books for the church and all of the books against it.  I immersed myself in it and through the whole process listened to what my heart was telling me.

After months of serious intense study and research which involved asking a million questions,  digging deep into scripture, investigating the role of women, studying the history of the church, attending religious classes, inquiring about the role of families, learning about doctrine, understanding prayer, spending time fasting and pondering, speaking my mind, writing out my feelings, attending other churches, feeling the spirit in my life, devouring as many spiritual books as I could, reading more of the Bible, learning about God and Jesus Christ, opening my heart, wanting to become better and believing I was a child of God and a beloved daughter for the first time in my life, I decided to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or a Mormon {as is our nickname}.

Decided to become a religious person was the last thing I had planned for myself yet I felt so at home, it felt so natural to me and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Over my years as a member of the church I have blossomed and grown in ways I could never have imagined. I now have a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ. A relationship I treasure. After being a member of my church for one year I also went on a full time service mission and became one of those missionaries like the two young men who wore suits and knocked on doors. I met so many wonderful people, I served in communities, I helped disabled children ride horses, I read to children in schools, I cleaned homes, I talked with ministers of religion, I learned to respect and admire other faiths, I learned more about myself and my heart, I made friends, my personal faith and belief that I was a worthwhile, intelligent, inspiring woman flowered and I felt more joy that I could have dreamed of.

Today my personal faith is firm and secure. Rooted in my heart is a knowledge that I am of value and of worth. I have come a long way from where I first began and as I have taken the time to put myself first on many occasions I have reaped great benefits. I know many people who have not had to go through this process and having confidence in themselves has come naturally and they have felt that way from childhood. For me it was a daily battle, a struggle to find and religion has given me a sure foundation to base my personal faith on. I am so thankful that two young men in suits knocked on my door and gently, lovingly helped me become who I am today.

I am a writer, I am a blogger, I am a wife to a wonderful husband, I am the mother of seven children, I am a jewellery and book collector, I am a kitchen dancer, I am a happiness seeker, I am a thriver and I am a Mormon.