Faith in God bolts me into reality with a beautiful view of the ocean. I grew up in a Southern Baptist congregation. The preachers of my early and teen years never condemned anyone or shouted about damnation. Both men were brilliant, happy, eloquent storytellers who conveyed a constant message that God is love, not a tyrant. Though my church attendance was insisted upon by my parents, I never disliked the experience.
In college I stopped going to church. No dramatic falling-out event with God caused my absence. Campbell University and later Shorter University surrounded me with the Spirit, even if I failed to notice at the time. I felt too busy for an hour of worship Sunday morning. In retrospect, I know bad decisions, hard times, and rising frustration grew from my soulful alienation. That being said, my life has largely been one of joy. Only in the last few years has the tide turned into a series of unfortunate events.
Last year I hit as close to rock bottom as I care to get. A moment of clarity shed light on the fact that God was the only one left who didn’t deeply distrust me. My mother suggested an Episcopal church ten minutes from my home, and after sitting through one sermon I was hooked. An overwhelming peace engulfs me when I attend, and now it goes with me into the world. Here are the 5 ways faith improves my life:
- The Ability to Accept Forgiveness: I am good at hating myself. Self-loathing locked me into addiction. If I could get high enough to forget the monster in the mirror, that beast didn’t exist. In my chemically-enhanced forgetfulness that creature grew fierce. The love of Jesus Christ gave me permission to retire my Hyde, love myself, and accept not only His forgiveness, but my own.
- The Removal of Doubt: Due to my autism and history of intemperance, I developed a crushing case of doubt. I overthought everything. Prayer, parents, priests, therapist, and trustworthy friends prevent me from losing sleep over situations outside my control. A clear mind provides sound conclusions. In the event a decision collides with confusion, I know God will provide insight.
- An Unmatched Sense of Peace: For a million reasons, I accepted that Drama and its sister Chaos were permanent members of the artistic ideal. They are not. When I got out of the way and let God take the wheel, the relief gave me clarity to abandon bad habits, conviction to walk away from poisonous people, and resolve to protect my newfound peace at all cost. You can be dramatic, or you can be successful. You cannot be both.
- The Cultivation of Patience: If I develop any personality trait as a superpower, please let it be patience. Patience blossomed once I accepted absolution, settled my hobgoblins of doubt, carved out drama, and took up the philosophy of: All good things come to those who wait. That doesn’t mean apathy or inaction. It means keep on keepin’ on and stop thinking the world’s clock runs on my time.
- An Unbelievable Level of Productivity: Spiritual due diligence makes space for productive activity. I move deliberately, confidently through the day with a schedule mapped out with scripture study, quiet meditation, necessary naps, time with friends, dates with my sweetheart, writing assignments, reading hours, and gym visits. I get everything accomplished with minimal interference from my “monkey mind.”
God is good. If I get cocky and topple off my cloud, it is not the Lord’s wrath. Negativity befalls me as a consequence of unwise action. Taking everything personally is vain. People lash out. Stress stems from being alive. Fretting about the next hour, afternoon, or tomorrow solves nothing. I find solace in the lives of saints. Good people in life increase serenity. Striving for perfection is folly. There is great wisdom in the word of God. I sleep deeper knowing Mother Mary is always with me. Jesus is just alright with me.