Angst: the aftermath

January 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm (is religion good or bad for you?, personal, reflections on my journey)

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. 😉

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18 Comments

  1. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    Props for having the courage to go through religious journeys! Most people wouldn’t even try asking, wondering or questioning. Your posts are always insightful and always make me think and question my own beliefs. Can’t wait to see what this blog turns into now 😀

  2. Amber said,

    If you’re at peace now with your past, and your current state of being not so strictly defined ‘religious’, then the journey was what was needed. You grew, you learned, what more can a person honestly ask for from an experience?

  3. LK said,

    I’m glad you are at peace. Maybe seeking the deeper meaning of life is your religion 🙂

    We all want a place to belong, a group to call our own. Some will have that, some will not. But all can still have God.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      LK – hmm… now all I need is to recruit some more people to the “seeking the deeper meaning of life” religion and then I’ll have my own group! 😉

  4. Stacy said,

    I think that things will be more positive for you as you move away from the guilt and just seek God in your own unconventional way. You can still appreciate the beauty of ritual and religious texts, but don’t have to make an unequivocal statement of belief.
    I was just driving outside yesterday and seeing the beauty of the mountains and the details of God’s creation from that largest to the smallest thing. That shows the glory of God and makes me feel closer to him than trying to DO something. There is nothing we can do that will bring us closer to God, we just have him at work in us and the world.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Stacy – yep, I already feel more positive and I can discover religions more now with curiosity.
      That’s beautiful. I have often found too that I discover God more when I’m not trying so hard.

  5. susanne430 said,

    Yay, I’m happy for you! 🙂

  6. Hubby said,

    Very nice post! I personnaly believe that “wrestling with religion” is what God wants us to do. I believe that is the Holy Spirit working within us. Keep struggling / wrestling 🙂

  7. Achelois said,

    ” 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.”

    Bravo! So happy to hear that you are happy. Congratulations.

  8. ModestJustice said,

    What a nice ending to the movie of your spiritual journey (if that analogy works :P)

    So is there going to be a sequel? I’m still going through your past posts (although some are password protected lol)

    But I’m glad you’re happy with the place you’re finally in ^_^

    I started the beginning of the movie, however my parents watched all of it (my dad plans to watch it again)! But there was no mention of Al-Ghazzali (I think.. I didn’t watch all of it yet hehe)

    And I guess I really don’t know much about Islam to start doubting it, so I guess I’m beginning my own journey… oooooo

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Thanks ModestJustice. I have no intention of stopping here!
      It’s a shame if Ghazali was not in the movie… although the book is so long they couldn’t possibly keep all of it for the movie.
      Well, good luck on YOUR journey! 😉

  9. Sarah said,

    Wow, it’s been a while since the last time I read this blog!

    I’m really glad you’re feeling more peaceful, Sara.

    I wish you all the best. =)

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