They say everything happens for a reason. Though at times I’m doubtful of that saying, I believe in its truthiness. Throughout my life, I have encountered multiple things that holistically exposed me to different stages: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. And during these circumstances, I have learned to lose and win fairly. I was also forced to step out of my accustomed mindset and morally irrational ideologies. Which meant that the old me was naturally peeling away in order to make rooms for the new me. I have gone through various stages of growth in my spiritual journey towards finding my center.
Where it all began and started
I grew up in a strict orthodox family-centered household, where practicing religious teaching was the number one priority. My childhood consist of memories that involves the church, the customs, holidays celebrated in the church and the important actors in it (the priest, deacons and the gospel singers). Honoring and highly respecting the church’s teaching have been thoroughly instilled in me for as long as I can remember.
I never forget the first time I was allowed to fast and join my family and the orthodox community. For years, I would sit inside the temple during three hours of spiritual chanting (kidase) in the fasting seasons and wish for one day to experience self-discipline for the sake of God’s love and grace. I was, and still is, completely in love with the Orthodox Church and the teaching. However, moving to the United State put me in a position that minimized my daily contact with the Orthodox Church.
During this time, I found myself having less communication with God and less desire to spend my time honoring him–compared to the intimate relationship I had with the church and God in Ethiopia. Instead, I was occupied with common activities that were around me. This helped me to recognize the difference between the love I thought I had for God and the love I actually have for the Orthodox Church. I am not saying this to bash the religion that was my pathway to God, I am relaying my journey to discovery.
Getting to know God
Love does not change because our environment changes–love is formless. My move to America should not have affected my relationship with God. I realized, it was God’s mysterious way and my need to seek understanding that created a chasm between the Orthodox Church and me. Not because the Orthodox Church was bad in God’s eye, but because he wanted me to know Him first and foremost. I started to pray in places and positions (standing, walking, sleeping etc.) I never imagine I could pray in and I continuously asked for God to reveal himself to me. I started reading the bible and praying continuously to gain an understanding.
In this process, God started sending people with different religions and beliefs in my direction. I have met individuals who were practicing diverse religions and divergent customs. My walk towards God led me to encounter religions I didn’t even know existed existence and people who were also on a quest to find answers even as they were left grasping for it. I was sublime; I felt as though God was personally sending people directly to speak to me.
At first, I was oblivious as to why this was happening to me, but without my knowledge, I was learning God’s existence and identity through my experience with the views of other people. I don’t mean to infer that God has multiple identities, I mean God reveals himself to each one of us in ways that is personal to each one of us. Just like my life experience shaped the way I synthesize and understand God, likewise, other people’s perspective of God is based on their own sets of unique experiences and understanding of the world through their eyes. Who am I to assume that I–an Orthodox Christian–to assume the perception of God held by other people is wrong?
I realize the sensitivity of this topic, especially in the Ethiopia community. I want to be very clear about the message I’m trying to convey. I still respect and value my Orthodox origin, and find peace in it. Some might say this particular experience is not necessarily from God or I’m questioning my religion from the western cultural viewpoint, and may be they are right. This is still a journey that I am walking after all; I continue to examine and challenge what I know by seeking out people of diverse religions and view points and engaging in dialogues that is free of judgement. These conversations lead me to one conclusive thought; religions are practices we were all either born into or choose as a means to connect with the higher power. In the end though, our objectives are all the same even if our customs are different. Who are we to claim superiority when we are all on a journey to seek knowledge of God? #SeekingGod
The views expressed by our contributing writers are not necessarily that of Ghion Journal. We present a dissection of ideas that serve to engender conversations and to prod a broader conversation as long as the topics are not divisive or pit one group against another. The search for truth might never bear fruit, but the first step to discover truth is knowing when you are being lied to.