I Put Religion On The Back Burner And I Don't Regret It

I Put Religion On The Back Burner And I Don't Regret It

Such a big change became one of my best decisions.
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I grew up very religious. I lived in a Modern Orthodox home in a primarily Jewish neighborhood and attended an all-girls Jewish day school. Religion was present in almost every aspect of my environment.

I had always been skeptical about religion and the idea of a God. From an early age, I found myself often questioning certain practices and seeing flaws in them, things that just didn't make sense. For a long time, I wished I could abandon certain practices simply to make my life easier. I had to dress modestly and only eat kosher, for example.

But it wasn't just the skepticism of a teenage girl learning to think critically. Religion became suffocating to me. I lived in a household with parents who were very observant and expected their kids to do the same. My school was strictly religious and expected their students to observe on a specific, higher level. It felt like religion controlled every aspect of my life: what I wore, what I ate, how I behaved, the numerous things I could and couldn't do. And as a kid, I had no way out.

I remember the exact moment I stopped believing. I was in ninth grade, and my great-aunt was battling cancer. I put aside my doubts and prayed harder than I ever had, saying special prayers in her merit daily. I even gave her Hebrew name to my school's morning prayer group so more people were praying for her recovery. My great-aunt was a fond part of my childhood and I had only good memories of her.

But she lost the fight. I remember crying in my room: for her loss, and for the broken faith that lay before me.

To me, it felt like God had heard all those prayers and threw them out the window. I didn't believe when people said, "If God didn't use your prayers this time, then He's saving them for another time you'll need them." It sounded like a load of crap.

If this were true, why didn't He use them when He saw me struggling to make and keep friends? Why not when the anxiety and depression took over? Where was He at my lowest times?

I switched schools my junior year of high school. This new school was significantly less strict about religion and had students from all levels of observance. Religion slowly began to loosen its hold on my life as I began to wear jeans and short sleeves, hang out with the other gender, and become more learned about the pop culture and the secular world.

I chose to live on-campus for freshman year of college. I could have commuted, but I needed out of the religious environment and to escape religion's suffocating hold.

In my first two years, I only observed at home. But elsewhere, it was like Judaism didn't exist in my life. I dressed how I wanted, ate what I wanted. I didn't celebrate the holidays and broke almost every rule I had grown up with my whole life.

It was the most freeing experience.

I finally had a chance to step back from the only life I had ever known and think. Think about what I wanted for myself, who I wanted to be as an individual away from the religion. But most importantly, I gained a chance to discover what my religion meant to me.

After growing up in a 24/7 religious environment, it was impossible for me to completely cut religion from my life. At first, I thought that's what I wanted to do. But as time passed, I realized that I do love Judaism. The meals on Shabbat and holidays with family and friends, the traditions like lighting a menorah on Hanukkah and the insanity of Passover.

I don't regret my decision. Those two years helped me evaluate what relationship I wanted to have with religion. The experience and my decision helped me develop my individuality away from something that had dominated most of my life.

There certainly were some awkward moments between my parents and me when it came to explaining my decisions to no longer uphold certain beliefs. But in the end, my parents understood. They saw how much better off I was without the weight of religion keeping me down, and have continued to support and love me.

And now, I'm the happiest I've ever been.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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A Letter From God To Help You Finish The Semester

God sees your struggles and He's here to give you strength and motivation.
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My Child,

The lack of motivation towards the end of the semester is normal. You are mentally and physically tired, but you are almost at the end. Don’t stop walking down the perfect path I have for you. When you’re going along and you come upon a speedbump, I want you to go over it and keep driving. The paper you have to write and the test you have to study for are just small speedbumps I have given you to make you wiser. You can write that paper and you can gain motivation to study for that test. I am here to give you strength, and am here to open up your mind and give you motivation.

You are so loved. You have such a beautiful mind. The light of Jesus shines through your eyes and your smile brings comfort to the world. There’ll be times you feel like you’re carrying a heavy load. There’ll be times you feel like the task I have given you is impossible to perform. But remember this: I would never put anything upon your shoulders that you cannot carry. If I put you in a certain situation, it’s because I know you are strong enough to go through it.

When you feel like crying, cry to me. When you feel like a failure, remember how much I love you. You are not a failure and you are not going to give up. I will hold your hand through every second of your life. I will seek your heart through your darkest moments. I see you, I see your heart, and I see your burdens. And remember that I have your heart which means I also have your burdens. Follow my footsteps and you will be free from the doubt. Remember Mark 4:40-41: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I have the power to calm any storm and wave. I have the power to calm YOUR storms and waves. Set your doubt, anger, and tiredness in my hands and simply be patient.

Romans 8:14-15 says,“For those who are led by the spirit of God are the children of God. The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again, rather the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Nothing can separate you from my love. Not even your lack of motivation. You have no motivation because you do not feel good enough. You are more than good enough. You were perfectly made by me and when I look down at you, I think of how proud I am of your heart.

Throughout the last few weeks of this semester, you will stumble upon speedbumps. But hold the hand of my son Jesus and you will be able to go over that speedbump with ease. Go write that paper, go study for that test, and go get an A in that class. I know you can because I have given you power.

Love,

God

Cover Image Credit: Margaret Carnes

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8 Phases Of Lent As Told By 'Jane The Virgin'

Nobody understands Lent like Jane.

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Every person that participates in Lent knows that there are different phases — almost like the stages of grief. Now that Lent is coming to an end, I wanted to review the challenges we have all faced so far. Easter is just around the corner and we have earned it. Although everyone's Lenten experience may be a bit different, we all know the struggles of giving something up, cheating, remembering to skip the meat on Friday's, etc. The pain is almost over, so enjoy a recap of everything you've been through in the past few weeks. Here are 8 scenes from "Jane the Virgin" that understand your struggles.

1. Thinking of what to give up

jane the virgin

Thinking of what to give up for Lent can be so stressful, especially when your whole family won't stop asking you about it. Leave me alone!

2. Fat Tuesday

jane the virgin

I hope that every Catholic family out there is having a full-out FEAST on Fat Tuesday! Don't worry about your food baby; it's called Fat Tuesday for a reason, right?

3. Getting weird looks on Ash Wednesday

jane the virgin

You just know everyone is looking at you like this when you have that big, black smudge on your forehead. But hey, at least when you pass another ash-covered face you can give each other a solid nod. They know what's up.

4. Cheating

jane the virgin

This is how every Catholic grandma looks at you when they catch you cheating during Lent.

5. Telling yourself you won't cheat again

jane the virgin

You tell yourself, "hey, we can do this, no more cheating during Lent." You are happy and confident.

6. Cheating...again

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Let's face it. It just isn't your year. Don't worry, Lent is almost over and the shame can finally end. Be gone, shame!

7. Eating a fish sandwich for the 100th time

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Fish sandwiches are delicious. That is until you eat one every week for almost 6 weeks.

8. When it's finally Easter

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Lent was long, but the wait was well worth it. Now go have some brunch and hunt for Easter eggs!

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