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Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is important to many. Our Faith column is a place to discuss how faith (of any kind) positively affects mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
For the most part, I don’t like labels. I know, it’s a pretty cliché thing to say, but I mean it. Labels have a way of containing a thing, defining what a thing should be and what it should not be. Labels allow little room for growth or change, and oftentimes, can be what prevents a thing from reaching its full potential or true meaning.
Whether it’s one’s sexuality, gender, political affiliation, or religious background, labels can be greatly detrimental.
When it comes to faith, especially my own, I have never accepted a one, singular label. For many believers, I imagine this in itself would mean I am doing it wrong. Still, when asked what I am—Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etcetera—I do not commit. It’s taken me years to realize, understand, and accept my own beliefs, and these beliefs are just that: my own.
Now, I believe in God…but who is God? What is He? She? For me, organized religion is a human label, placed on something much greater than ourselves and all-encompassing. Whatever name you give God—Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Ganesh, Parvati, or any other—for me, these are all embodiments of the same One.
I personally, use all of these names as well as others during my own worship, and I do not view one as greater or lesser than another.
I also believe that my faith belongs between myself and God alone.
While I have celebrated in many of His houses, including churches, temples, and mosques, it is not the building I am in that defines our connection. You will rarely find me in a church, and I know that some will say this makes me less of a believer—but I find God in all places, in all things, and we don’t need an appointment every Sunday to talk.
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I have no thoughts, no worries or questions that are hidden from God. We spoke earlier today in the shower just fine.
Now, that is not to say that God has not sought me out in His Houses before. I can still remember with great clarity, every moment of praying on my knees in the Sultanahmet Camii in Istanbul, Turkey almost six years ago. To this day, I have never had an experience within any other mosque, church, temple, or synagogue by which I felt closer to God or heard him speak more clearly.
However, I appreciate that every place, anytime, is the right one to worship and celebrate my faith.
While I have always drawn strength from God in my everyday life, it has been within the context of recovery that my faith has shown me its true power. Because God is never stagnant, always changing, and always present, I have been able to seek His guidance, Her wisdom and grace as needed throughout different trials in different ways.
I like to think of it this way: no matter what, I’m talking with the same One God. But maybe today, as I struggle with a relationship and someone who’s wronged me, I seek Jesus and His guidance to treat others as I would be treated, to turn the other cheek rather than causing harm as I have been harmed. Instead, tomorrow, I may need Ganesh’s strength to deal with a particularly bad bout of anxiety and endless rounds of compulsions. As the remover of obstacles, He shows me the path to get ahead of my fears and protect my own progress thus far.
This is my faith. This is what I believe, and how I have found God to be true.
While many try to label God and what faith should mean, what really matters is what faith means to you.
Faith has many different faces in this world, and one is not necessarily more or less right than another. What I know to be true is this—faith can keep you afloat when nothing else will. Believing that you can and will get better can be the greatest key to your recovery.
No matter what name He goes by, I know that God is with me. He is here always, when I need Him, in the way that I need Him at any moment.
Whether represented by the cross tattooed on my right arm, or the elephant on my left, both share the same truth: love. Love for all things, perfect, imperfect, and those in between.
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