Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a strong belief that I wanted to have faith. I love the idea of a greater good and of there being purpose to life.
I found the concept of religious truth to be unbelievably appealing. People coming together, building cathedrals, embracing altruism and doing their best to reflect the glory of God. More than that, it was the faith that went alongside religion that got me. I loved how it gave strength, sincerity and meaning to actions and peace to those who held it. I wanted hope and I saw faith as the vehicle for that.
The problem was that I was sold on religion before I had any idea what I was buying.
I intentionally neglected to explore whether the things I believed were, or could be, true. I think this was because deep down I thought it was unlikely. So I went on, blindly. I was living a life full of faith, but I didn’t know in what. I was driven, but I didn’t know where I was going.
While things were going well, this approach worked for me. But everything started to fall apart – I’d been putting my heart into ambitions, for relationships, success and wealth, and one-by-one they fell. It was only then that I realised the things I’d been relying on were transient and that the faith I was so sure about was shallow. I’d been pretending I had this anchor in my life and when the storm hit I was thrown.
“I was living a life full of faith, but I didn’t know in what”
What happened next is hard to explain—imagine a panic attack in slow motion. Over the course of a couple of weeks I just stopped functioning, I was full of fear and completely adrift. The very thing I admired about faith, the sincerity and conviction, were exactly the things I couldn’t fake.
I ended up on a beach in the middle of the night, in the pitch black, in the cold and for the first time I just stopped. I stopped because I couldn’t go on and I surrendered because I couldn’t fight. It was control that I surrendered: the need to shape every aspect of my life and to do so on my own. I sat there and I said out loud, ‘help.’ It was a one-word prayer to no one.
I grew up around Christianity. I’d worshipped alongside people bursting with faith, prayed prayers good enough to pass as heartfelt and memorised the books of the Bible like they were my ABCs. Truth is though, I’d never listened for the voice of God and I never expected to hear back.
“It was a one-word prayer to no one”
On that beach, for the first time, in the cold dark I stopped and I listened. When it hit, it was irresistible – like a wave, like an enveloping wave – God’s voice around me. I’ve only heard God speak to me with that kind of clarity a couple of times and neither times has he spoken, he’s bellowed. It was an unmistakable, assuring voice and the weight of everything else was light.
I found that depth and peace that I’d pushed for and worked at, all I had to do was stop trying and listen. It was the most compelling, fulfilling and real moment of my life. I realised I’d spent so much time running around the question but relationship with God came as soon as I asked. For me the prayer was, ‘help’ – that’s all it took.
I never explored my faith because I didn’t know what I’d find, but that just doesn’t work. Ask questions and expect answers. Whatever your approach or perspective, there’s nothing to lose from being honest.
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