Fighting Faith + The 4 Books That Helped Me Find It
Religion has always been difficult for me. was surrounded by it in different ways when I was younger. My mom is a Christian, honey. She reads the Bible, quotes scriptures, carries holy water, and all that, but she doesn't attend church. I remember asking her why she didn't when I was around six, and she told me she found the ones she previously went to were "full of hypocrites," so she'd rather not. I didn't know what a hypocrite was, but I knew it wasn't someone good or acted like you were supposed to act in church.
Ma's church was on TV She watched Frederick K.C. Price every Sunday at 7 a.m. She'd sit in the living room with her giant, white, gold-trimmed Bible. That sucker was huge! One side of the book would slide from my tiny lap. Ma would quote passages as Rev. Price preached, nodded, and amen'd. "Life and death are in the power of the tongue," she often said. As a kid, I thought if I talked about dying it was immediately going to happen, so this spooked my little ass. My mom was faithful with this TV church, but she never forced me to join her.
But when I would stay at my grandmother's house? There was no choice. And my grandmother didn't just go to church. She was Sister Clarice who went early in the morning and Sister Clarice who stayed long after the loner service was over. OMG! Yes, OMG! I did not like church. It was a chore and a bore. It was especially a chore, because my mom already taught me that you didn't have to get up early in the morning and put on Patti LaBelle hats with fancy dresses to worship God. You could do that from bed in your pajamas if you wanted. Strike one, church.
Then there were the songs. I didn't know the songs, and in that church, not everyone could sing! My grandma would pull out the hymn book and run her fingers under the words for me to follow along. I'd just look at my grandma like, "You know this is not my jam," and I'd go back to the book staring at nothing in particular while I fish-lipped the lyrics to her satisfaction. Occasionally, I'd let out a squeak.
Then there was my dad. He claimed, at one point, that he was a Muslim. I guess that was all the rage for black men back in the day, and he jumped on the train. It was more like he dropped someone else off at the train station who was on their way to being a Muslim, and that was my daddy's contribution. One of my aunts practiced Islam. She was in it. The most my dad did was not eat pork, and as he got older, I don't remember him claiming any religion at all, so I guess he got over it.
After him came his mother and sister. My aunt and grandmother were Jehovah's Witnesses and boy, did this make me confused. At five, I was already thinking, "Are they Christians? They have church but it's called Kingdom Hall? What do birthdays have to do with anything, and why can't they have a party?
Every once in a while, my Aunt Lulu would tell a story from the Jehovah's Bible - which I now know is called the New World Translation of the Holy Scripture - and the way she told the stories was just fabulous. My aunt is a great storyteller, and I would have listened to her Jehovah Bible-on-tape, complete with whores and sinning. She went there and didn't spare me the details despite my age.
But even that couldn't satisfy my mind. As a teen, i didn't really have much to do with religion outside of what my mom continued to bring around me. I'd still pray but I didn't know if my words were reaching anywhere. Looking back, I probably should have read Judy Blume's Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? to understand things in my language - YA fiction.
Something happened, though, around me hitting 27. I felt so stuck and unsure of myself. I literally did not know where to go. I had a dream so vivid, at the time, it woke me out of my sleep, and it made me cry. WTF was happening?
I know a sign when I get one. I decided it might be time for church.
Long story short, I tried it out. It wasn't for me. I went to services, Bible study, community groups! I was in it. I, ultimately, decided it wasn't when I was at a membership workshop thing - so really, my name was almost on the dotted line - but when they tried to get me to speak in tongues, my church boner went down. What a bummer. An older woman named Dottie – if you can picture, she was a brazen redhead from Texas, who I know for a fact always had fresh breath – laid her hands on me in effort to make something happen. You know those women who be smelling like peppermint. That was Dottie! Though my tongues weren't coming out, I'm glad all of hers radiated freshness. But it was really an awkward moment overall.
Despite forgoing church, I still needed something...
I took my ass to the library.
All of this leads me to the question I had to seek:
How do you build your faith when you're not even sure where to find it?
Below are some books that helped me find the faith and to realize that I don't have to go to church or belong to a group in order for my prayers and wishes to be answered. I didn't need to go to experience God, He's really all around us. Also, there are things that I feel that other people have experienced, and problems I thought were so insurmountable were actually just apart of life and I needed to have faith that things will unfold as they should. For ME, in particular, I might not identify with being Christian, but I still give God his props. I believe in Him as much as the Universe (it's all one in the same to me), and I'm cool with that. I don't need these big, broad, yet specific reasonings for how things came to be.
1. The Four Agreements: A Practical guide to personal freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Don Ruiz breaks down the agreements that every human has made with himself, and those are:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
I try to stick with these as closely as I can. Not taking things personally was difficult for me because I didn't even realize I was doing it! It was just how I thought. Since faith is really about believing things will work out, I had to put major faith in myself and truly understanding that by adhering to at least one, my mindset would improve. Now, I am able to let things roll off my back more and not GAF about the things I don't need to GAF about.
2. A Return to Love: A Lesson in A Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson
ARTL showed me that it was okay to let everything out. All the doubts, fears, and critiques I had about myself and what was in my heart, Marianne Williamson described beautifully and oh-so-accurately. And it showed me that I was not alone at all. But it also showed me how loving and compassionate you should be to yourself. Her words really struck me. I actually listened to the audiobook of this one and it brought to uncontrollable sobs because it hit me that much. A few of my fave quotations below:
“Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of heaven. Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell.”
“Very few of us were taught that we’re essentially good.”
“The ego is our self-love turned into self-hatred.”
“Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell.”
“If I’m convinced that I’m not good enough, I will have a difficult time accepting someone into my life who thinks I am. It’s the Groucho Marx syndrome of not wanting to like anyone who would want me in their club. The only way that I can accept someone’s finding me wonderful, is if I find myself wonderful. But to the ego, self-acceptance is death.”
You need this book. Loving truth bomb explosions dropping down like a Funk Flex sound bite.
3. Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav
This book is the book to tell you like it IS. It's the shit you need to hear when you need to hear it most. He doesn't sugarcoat the truth, but he also doesn't make you feel bad about the decisions you might have made in your past, either. SOTS is a well-cleaned mirror, and it gave me a sense that I could overcome my challenges if I empower myself, combined with my God-given skill set, which includes intuition and reverence.
“The decisions that you make and the actions that you take upon the Earth are the means by which you evolve. At each moment you choose the intentions that will shape your experiences and those things upon which you will focus your attention. These choices affect your evolutionary process. This is so for each person.”
"When we judge, we create negative karma. Judgment is a function of the personality. When we say of another soul, 'She is worthy,' or 'He is worthy,' we create negative karma. When we say of an action, 'This is right,' and 'This is wrong,' we create negative karma. This does not mean we should not act appropriately to the circumstances in which we find ourselves."
"The world in which we live has been created unconsciously by unconscious intentions. Every intention sets energy into motion whether you are conscious with it or not. You create in each moment.. Each word that you speak carries consciousness – more than that, carries intelligence – and, therefore is an intention that shapes light."
"For many of us, being held responsible is equal to getting caught."
"Forgiveness means that your don't hold other responsible for your experiences... Complaining, for example, is exactly that dynamic of wanting someone to be responsible for what you experience, and to fix things for you."
4. Soul Speak: The Language of your body by Julia Cannon
This book is BEYOND. Just BEYOND. Faith in your body is so important. Registered nurse and energy healer Julia Cannon gives As a child, I found out early on that how you feel about yourself affects your bodies. I actually believed an apple a day kept the doctor away. I was rarely sick as a kid. I wasn't one who milked days off. I just did not want to be sick. When I caught a cold, I was miserable, and I hated the feeling, so I would think that was something I wouldn't go through too often.
However, I never thought that how I felt about situations could affect me. After my parents divorced and they moved on to other relationships, I didn't have the best relationship with my mother's boyfriend. We just could not get along, and it was extremely difficult for me. It got to the point where I would be so anxious by him being around that my stomach would turn and churn in uncontrollable pain, but there was nothing "wrong." I'd get headaches on days I knew he'd be home. I felt horrible. I knew what the cause was, and it frustrated me because I couldn't rid myself of my issue, and I couldn't exactly get my point across to my mother either. (Understandablish.)
But by the time I went to college and lived on campus, all of my pains went away. 🙏🏿 I was grateful for the time away (and it was a whole 15 minutes! You weren't going to catch my ass at home unless they kicked my ass off campus).
Back to Soul Speak... Author Julia Cannon tells the reader what specific thought each body part represents, as well as the ailment. She either relates it back to a past life or current. For example, if you're someone who has asthma, you might "feel constricted" IRL or "not being able to move freely."
Personally, I wear glasses, and I have since I was six. You know how weird it is to be young and not be able to see clearly, and you don't even know it?! It's like holy shit, what the fuck have I been looking at all this gotdamned time??? Anyway, Cannon relates eye issues to how we see the world around us. Heavy right? What was I thinking about at six? 😩😂 The book gets deeper into diseases and conditions like cancer, diabetes, back problems, etc. It's worth a look; you may uncover something you didn't know was there.
I am never going to diss religion or people believing what they need to believe to make it through their days. The books above are what I have used to help make sense of my life and put the power back into me. And that's what I think faith is really about.
Below is another playlist (this time in Spotify form!) with a few unconventional songs on faith to listen to while you check out the books above. What songs help you make it through, or keep your faith in check?
When it comes to faith, what has worked for you?