For most of us, our religion is inherited from our parents.
Were your parents Christian? Chances are you will be as well.
I, too, inherited my Christian religion and was taught its basic beliefs at an early age.
I faithfully attended worship each week from childhood through my twenties.
But my church attendance grew spotty during my thirties and eventually I stopped attending completely.
Though some may welcome the comforting Sunday routine, I became bored by the ritual and the sermons, rarely, if ever, lit a fire within me.
I longed for spiritual fulfillment but was not finding it in “traditional” Christianity.
Like many before me, I began to ask religious questions both big and small and began to realize that the dogma I learned as a child was changeable, confusing, and most of all, uninspiring.
I wondered: If God is all good and all powerful, why does he allow suffering?
Is the Bible the inerrant word of God?
Should the Bible be read literally or metaphorically?
Could anything good or valuable be derived from other world religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism?
Can anyone actually explain the concept of “the Trinity?”
Can any religion be declared the “one, true faith?”
In trying to learn answers to these questions, I began to have concerns about church issues that resulted in the division of Christianity itself: Was Jesus of the same substance of God, or different?
Did the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son?
Should baptism be offered as quickly as possible to infants or should baptism be limited to adults who could make a soulful decision to accept Christ?
I recently was part of a discussion with two friends on whether baptism had to be performed by full immersion or with merely a sprinkling of water.
By the way, no agreement was reached on this point.
For more than 2,000 years, Christianity and churches have split on these and much lesser issues and that has resulted in the development of thousands of Christian denominations.
The thought of so many different belief systems within just a single religion overwhelmed me; if we, as Christians couldn’t agree on our dogma and beliefs, then maybe there was something more about religion, something beyond what I had experienced.
I began to question, if not actually doubt, my religious upbringing.
But Moses and Job both questioned God, and even Mother Teresa, a Christian archetype, struggled with doubt.
I desperately wanted a faith that I could truly believe in, one that would inspire me and that could be implemented in my daily life.
In John 10:10, Jesus says that he “has come so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
What was an “abundant” life, and what did Jesus mean by it? (There are different interpretations of many, including the most quoted, Bible passages).
But I knew I was missing a level of spiritual fulfillment and I seriously wanted to reach it.
Little did I know that the first step on my spiritual path would lead to a journey that would be confusing, consuming, and challenging.
My spiritual pilgrimage would take me to faraway countries home to the world’s largest religions, have me poring through various sacred texts and dozens of books, attending churches of different denominations and size, sitting in rapt attention at lectures and having countless conversations, some not too gentle, with friends, family and strangers.
My journey was far from easy, but my efforts would pay off as my faith would eventually become more rewarding and enriching than I ever thought possible.
Today, I have been “reborn” in Christianity although not in the “traditional” sense.
I have had my “aha” moments.
I am part of an “emerging” Christianity in which Jesus doesn’t comfort me, but provokes me.
It consists of trying to understand, follow, and implement the religion of Jesus and not the religion about him.
Believing in Jesus is easy; following his “way” is difficult and frustrating.
Once I accepted this paradigm shift, my sacred life took a turn.
My faith and spirituality have traveled a long road from when I was first exposed to the Christian faith as a child to the Jesus-inspired spirituality that lies deep in my heart and soul today.
As I “open my soul” and share my journey, I would like to hear your comments, both critical and supportive, because as satisfied as I am with my spirituality at this point in my life, my journey has not ended.
I remain a pilgrim.
Tom Bresko of Boardman, retired from Mill Creek Metro Parks, is a Christian on a spiritual pilgrimage.