I never did go back to that church and it actually took me several years to be able to listen to any Christmas music and put up even a small tree. I did try going to some other churches and other denominations but just never felt like I belonged. I felt empty, but at the same time I had made new friends who supported me and encouraged me to find my own path. They never tried to push me one way or the other. They just made sure that I looked at my choices from various views before making decisions. I honestly don't know if I would still be here, had they not been part of my life.
Three short years after I walked out of the church, I lost most of my sight to a detached retina in my good eye. I recall a nurse asking me if I wanted her to pray with me or if I wanted to see a hospital chaplain. That was the last thing I wanted. I wanted my friends that loved and supported me no matter who I was - not the representatives of a place that had made me feel so empty. I'm sure that some people thought that this was Gods' way of punishing me for leaving the church. The thought certainly crossed my mind. I didn't like this direction that my life was taking and I certainly wouldn't have chosen it but this was the life I had been given and I needed to figure out how to deal with it.
The first few years were tough. I went from doctor's appointment to doctor's appointment and felt like I had no control over where my life was headed. I definitely felt like a lost soul. I lost some friends through those years - both through leaving the church and loosing sight. It was hard and very sad to loose those relationships, but I was also finding new friends and new support networks that had nothing to do with religion.
Through a lot of discussion with a psychologist (and also with friends), I gradually accepted my vision loss and came to understand that everything happens for a reason. There were people who came into my life just before I really needed them. I crossed paths with people I would never have met within the church. My mind was being opened to subjects like social justice, human rights, equality, and political beliefs. There was still a huge conflict between my mind and my physical body. I told you in March, that it took me many years to deal with my external image issues.
As time went on, I slowly realized that I was finding my own inner peace. I no longer felt empty inside. I had come to believe in fate and destiny - that everything happens for a reason. Some people will argue that, that is God taking care of me. I consider myself as an "Agnostic". I believe that there is a Higher Power - I just don't believe that there is one Almighty being who knows all. I think it is more of a combination of beliefs mixed in with the oh so human element of free will.
What works for me, doesn't necessarily work for anyone else - nor should it. To me, that is one of the great things about being human and living in a free society where our beliefs aren't dictated. It isn't easy to question your beliefs. It is even harder to walk away and start over. It was a long and difficult journey and I often wondered if I would ever find "inner peace", but I did. It is never to late to question and explore who you are and what you believe. You may decide that you are very much at peace with who you are. You may decide that it is time to re-examine who you are and your belief system.
I'm not particularly comfortable going into a house of worship or even talking about religion as I prefer to leave that part of my life in the past. I still remember a lot of the music, but I don't remember much of what I learned in Bible studies or in Bible School. However, I do recall something that one of the teachers told us in a religious studies class. He said that "The Creator" is like a diamond with multiple facets. All sides are slightly different and various religions see different sides. So whether you refer to The Creator as God, Jehovah, Alla or as a Higher Power you are actually just looking at another side of the same thing. Yes the various religions have different beliefs, but there are common factors that will always unite us if we choose to be open to each other.