This blog – which is almost a year old, if you include the few posts I imported at the start – has done exactly what it said on the tin: wrestled with religion. I can say it has been a very angst-ridden year. But I really, truly feel that that is behind me now.
I feel the most at peace that I ever have, since… since I started going to church in 1998. More than 10 years of wrestling, although most of it was spent with the worries pushed to the back of my mind. Until this year.
I think it’s partly that I’d never gotten over the guilt of having slipped away from church. I still viewed being committedly religious as my default state that I should try to return to. I didn’t – and don’t – want that brand of religion again, though. I was drawn to Islam as potentially a way of getting back to that religious state, but with less of the ungrounded hype and zeal, and with more support structures in terms of rules that would prevent me hurting myself. I gave it a try, I thoroughly explored it and I’m glad I did. It’s been worthwhile.
My anxiety only grew bigger the further I got into Islam, and it seems to me now that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I guess I didn’t want to come so far and then turn away. There were personal incentives for me to convert but I don’t think that was what was driving me. Less than a year ago I set out with a very open mind. I’d been married 5 years without a thought of conversion.
I think I was just every bit as infatuated with religion and the religious lifestyle as I had been at 18. I wanted to justify having that for myself. And I wanted to belong; I wanted to be able to say “this is what I am”.
Even very recently I have looked at more faiths and denominations and briefly wondered if perhaps they could be the way for me – and I feel those butterflies in my stomach, that excitement, anticipating finding my way and calling myself a [insert label here].
Maybe there will always be this tension in me between wanting submission and needing intellectual/moral integrity. Or maybe I will find a path that satisfies both.
Either way, I am far less driven right now. In the process of wrestling with Islam, I have somehow extricated myself from guilt over my journey. I have confronted difficult questions that have sent my anxiety through the roof but which have ultimately been liberating. I finally have the courage to accept that I just don’t know anything much about God, and that religion is largely a human thing. And that that’s okay.
I feel like I should feel foolish for this year’s events, but I really don’t. This is my journey, this is who I am and this is what I had to go through to be where I am now. People may not agree with my approach or my outcome, but frankly I don’t care. 😀
What’s next? Renaming the blog? Maybe. I don’t see being conventionally religious as my default state any more, and it’s strange that I ever did considering I was only highly religious for like 1/10 of my life. But I have always had religious tendencies, and I don’t think I will ever stop seeking the deeper meaning of life. I have no idea what I will become but I know I will not stay the same for long. 😉