Here lately I have been questioning faith. Not just faith in the religious sense, but also faith in self, faith in others and faith in the world. Are they that unrelated? I’m not sure. What role does faith play in your life?

I am not a religious person. I attempted a life of church guided faith a few times in my life. Once was when my Mom and I were on our own living in an apartment complex in Rosenberg, Texas. A school bus painted white and blue, owned by the local Baptist church, would come pick up any kid willing to board and take them to church for the morning. A big group of us would wait on Sunday mornings, board the bus, then immediately start singing bible songs on the way to our destination. Once we arrived, we all filed into the “Little Red Church” where we colored biblical scenes, learned about Biblical characters and we learned about what God does and does not want us to do. It was during those learnings that my Baptist education was doomed. When I went home one day upset because my mom was going to hell due to her divorce, my trips to the “Little Red Church” abruptly ended.

Once I hit my teen years, I decided to search out church life on my own yet again. A good friend of mine was a member of the local Methodist church, and I often accompanied her youth group to the amusement park and miscellaneous outings. I liked the people I spent time with and figured that life in this church may be different. Right as I made this decision, the church was starting its yearly confirmation classes. I decided to jump on board and go all in. I successfully made it through my coursework, was eventually baptized in front of the congregation, and I was confirmed into the Methodist Church. All was going well – I enjoyed the uplifting messages, and I got to see my friends. My Mom would drop me off each Sunday morning, or I would stay the night with a friend who would be going to church with me on Sunday. Then, the letter came. “Dear Ms Newman – We will have to remove you from the church roster as an active member because you are not tithing.” Excuse me? 10% of $0 is $0. I was hurt, sad and shocked. Is that what it took to be part of the church? Money? It ended my affiliation with organized religion and has permanently tainted my views of any further religious affiliations later in my life. I understand the church’s need for cash, but I don’t want my affiliation based on how much I do or do not give. In my world, love is free.

With that early experience jostling me out of the realms of organized religion, I started to actually pay attention to more of the teachings that bothered me. Top on the list – we are all sinners. That one always got me. I had to be baptized to wash my sins away before I could be confirmed. I would go to hell if I hadn’t been cleansed. How on earth did I deserve that? I was a good kid. Sure, I messed up sometimes, but overall I didn’t think I had done anything damnable. There was the one instance of cutting my Mom’s brand new shower curtain with the scissors, but she forgave me for that years before. Why on earth are we all labeled sinners?

Because of my suspiciousness of the church in its ways, I still have a habit of trying to figure out what the secret purpose of the church’s teachings may be. Is it to try and get you to be afraid? To give money? To ensure certain people have power? To ensure certain people do not have power? And I just never got why we all needed to be labeled as sinners. Sure, it got people into the pews every week looking for forgiveness and to learn to be a better person. I get that part. But there was just something missing. That explanation was too obvious. What else could it be?

And just a few days ago, it hit me. I think I know why we all have to be sinners. And I realize that this labeling is a gift. A true and absolute gift. We are all sinners; therefore, none of us needs to be and can never be…perfect. Do you know how much pressure that removes from us? It’s not saying, “hey, go do what you want, you crazy sinner!” It is saying, “No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it to be…you will never…EVER….be perfect.” And that allows us to make mistakes. It allows us to not beat ourselves up each day for the myriad of failures we so often face. A bad interview, an angry boss, a neglected duty, a stupidity that later bites us in the ass. But the truth is – we all mess up. Every day. It is part of being a human, and I believe it is an important part of the human experience. The pedestal of perfection does not exist - and cannot exist.

Learning to fall off one’s false pedestal is an important part of life. I used to sit on a shining pedestal myself. I was on it all through elementary, middle and high school. Straight A’s every year (except that damn handwriting grade), cheerleader, president of the National Junior Honor Society, flag corps, drum major, peer advisor…the list goes on and on. By high school, I am pretty darn sure I thought I knew everything. Sure, I had made a few mistakes here and there, but life was lining up like I had hoped. I managed to get scholarships to college, I was able to attend the school I dreamed of attending, and I felt special. I was one of the smart kids who always did the right thing (ha!), and all I had to do was keep it up. Secretly, it was nerve-wracking. How on earth do you continue keeping those ridiculously high standards alive? The stress of trying to get A’s all the time. The pressure of the student groups and time commitments. No one imposed this on me. I took it on myself. I strived for perfection. Every decision had to be right.

Then college was not what it should have been. Lost in classes of 500 people, I felt anonymous and unimportant. I had yet to learn how to study, and in a huge lecture class no one knew if you were there or if you weren’t. So I wasn’t. A lot. I became the not important anonymous girl. But I made it through. I didn't excel, but I graduated college in 4 years with a reasonable, although not exceptional GPA. Was this fall from "perfection" useful for college? Hell No. But I can tell that from where I stand now, it was useful for life.

Once you get your feet on solid ground, you can go anywhere. There’s no fear of impact anymore. No need to stay ahead of everyone else or hold yourself to a self-imposed set of unattainable standards. Are there giant hazards on the ground, too? Sure there are. I have definitely faced them – divorce, unhappiness with my career, ending relationships. I have hit a few roadblocks along the way. But you know what? I made it through. With a lot of therapy and good friends to show me good times. But I made it through.

It was once I accepted the fact that “I’m a sinner” (in a non religious way, of course) that I was able to let go and eventually enjoy just being. Therapy helped teach me that. Did I ever screw up? Yes, I did. Did I make some mistakes? Yes, I did. Am I still living and breathing and trying to enjoy each day? Yes, I am. I keep moving forward and to this day I try to do the best I can each and every day to everyone around me. I have a chosen the life of a “do-gooder” who seeks out employment that helps people rather than searching for a paycheck that will help me. I live by the Golden Rule and strive to be a good person every day. But I also know that I screw up. I say the wrong thing, I mess up at work, I make someone made because I’m mad, I shoot off at the mouth without thinking and I just plain make mistakes. Do I dwell on them? No. Life is too short, and I know that making mistakes is how I unfortunately learn a lot about myself and the people around me.

So, in the long of it, I do have faith. I have faith in people and the goodness within. And I have faith that the mistakes I make are just the things that make me human. If it wasn’t for my dumb mistakes, I could never appreciate the best decisions in my life. Thanks, church, for teaching me that YES - I am a sinner. It is the best lesson I have yet to learn.

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