College is somewhat infamous for being the period in life when you start to figure out who you really are, what matters to you, and what you want to do with your life. It's the first real taste of independence, a time when your parents are forced to somewhat take a backseat in decision making, and you really have the freedom to make your choices for your own. And for the most part, this is an exciting transition, if a bit intimidating/overwhelming at times. However, there is a point when you suddenly realize what this freedom means-- it doesn't just apply to deciding how late you stay out, what food you decide to put in your body, and whether you will continue to exercise or allow yourself to fall into the habits of a couch potato. It also applies to the bigger things.
There are things that you grow up with, that you somewhat simply accept as truth. It's what your parents tell you, it's what the people around you accept to be true, and it simply makes sense to go with it and not question things too much. But when you are removed from that, you start to realize that these decisions are your own, and nobody else's. I just recently had this 'epiphany' of sorts, in this most recent year of college. I don't know about you, but for me this was at first a terrifying experience. I couldn't imagine what life would be like if these beliefs turned out to be false, and it scared me realizing that that was a potential reality. However, after a bit I actually discovered this to be an extremely liberating realization, and I would argue one incredibly important for my spiritual journey.
Growing up in the church, I have never particularly rebelled. I liked church, I liked the community, and the things taught seemed to make sense. Things were fairly simple, and I liked feeling like I knew what I believed. However, in this last year, I have become painfully aware of how my Christianity has been very dependent on this upraising. If I had been raised in another religion, would I have left that and become a Christian? Or would I simply remain in what I had been told? And if it was the latter, how could I even call myself a Christian, if the only reason that was true was because I happened to be born into a Christian family and community?
In my spiritual walk, I have often become frustrated when everybody around me seemed to have this really close connection with God, and although I put in time into doing devotionals and praying, I didn't feel like I was even close to what they had. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, and it was hard not to become disheartened and stop putting personal effort into my spiritual walk and kind of coast along, just going to vespers and church, but not really working on my beliefs on my own. But what I've come to realize, is that I can't expect to establish a deep personal connection before I take the time to figure out why I even am a Christian, and afterwards still decide that this is what I truly believe.
I somewhat hesitate to explain in that way, because currently I definitely still describe myself as a Christian. Yet I don't think I could ever reach that level of faith and confidence in my beliefs until I really pull apart my beliefs, take a hard look at them, and still come to the decision that this is what I want to put my faith into. At first, it was scary to even consider the option of not being a Christian, that this could all be fables and myths, and the community and beliefs I've grown up in are all something I would have to leave behind. But through acknowledging that that is something that could happen, and instead of remaining in a blind faith, choosing to delve deeper into understanding this decision, I feel liberated in knowing that I am figuring out what is best for me, and the choice is becoming my own. And I think that through this, my spiritual life can become much more personal and real, in a way that it never could reach if I didn't undergo this journey.