Faith
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A Lenten Reflection on Faith

This is who I am. This woman in her mid-twenties, with a day job and a writing itch. A daughter. A sister. The “best girlfriend in the world”. A cousin. A niece. A best friend. A friend. A colleague. A side-kick. A buddy. A Catholic. A practicing Catholic.

And what does that even mean?

I left the Catholic Church as a teenager. I was disillusioned by many of the adult Catholics around me including, it must be said, a couple of priests. I didn’t understand the “idol worship”, or how the Catholic Church could help me develop the faith I needed to move the mountains in my life. And there were many mountains that needed moving.

So I left in search of the Light. And I found it…in the Catholic Church. Let me explain.

I searched in other churches, and I found sparks, glimmers that whetted my appetite. In one of the pentecostal fellowships I joined in university, I learnt to study sacred Scripture. In another, I learned to give to the church, to only offer to God that which cost me something. In yet another, I learnt to make time for God in my daily life. I learnt to “fix my mind on what is pure and admirable”, to screen the music, movies, conversations and books I let into my life.

But they weren’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong, those experiences affected my life immeasurably. I would not take my faith this seriously today if I had not left the Catholic Church and encountered these other denominations. They made it possible. I’m talking specifically about a certain Pastor Ibukun who inspired me to be a beautiful, well-spoken, professional woman who loved God passionately. Because she did. And there aren’t many Catholic women who inspire me like she did.

But there is more to faith than inspirations of other humans. I met Catholics who convinced me to give the Church another go. I found chapels that I could kneel and pray in for hours without the distraction of someone bursting into “speaking in tongues” beside me. And I have nothing against speaking in tongues, but after years of being told a “stubborn spirit” was blocking my ability to engage in that activity, I came to the simple conclusion that I just did not have that particular “gift”.

And then, I fell in love with the mass. With its simplicity and its routine. With the Latin, with the weight of history. The Catholic Church was the only one that, it seemed, affirmed Jesus as a historical fact, man-made flesh 2000 years ago and look, we remember his sacrifice on the cross E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y. 

And then I read C.S. Lewis and realized that Christianity isn’t meant to be an easy joyride. I am asked to take up my cross everyday and follow the Christ. And we all have different types of crosses. At different times in my life, the crosses have been different. No money in the bank. Poor health (mine and my family’s). Disappointments. Failures. The scorn of others. All of them, my crosses. And some were easier to bear with a smiling face. And others I reacted badly to, in a very unChristian fashion.

And this is what I understand my faith to be:

To love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and strength – to seek His face, to not allow sin or situation to separate me from Him, to strive to do what is right before Him, to freely subject my will to His. It was more than obeying the 10 commandments, it was knowing why the 10 commandments were given and internalizing them.

To love my neighbour as myself – to continually and actively seek the good of everyone God places within my environment. This shows up in things as little as letting a car cut in front of me in traffic.

And I held up everything I was being taught in the churches/fellowships against these principles. Many things didn’t make the cut. For instance, I didn’t understand having to “fast” for good grades. Good grades came from good work, and good work came from studying/natural precociousness (for those so blessed). Instead of fasting for good grades at the end of semester, I preferred to pray for the discipline to study at the beginning of the semester.

The more I discovered what my path to God was, the more I came to see it was all there in the Catholic Church, in the first place.  I should never have left, maybe. But if I hadn’t, would I own my faith as I do now?

I’m not a perfect Christian. I don’t always let people cut in front of me; I have taken my car to the panel beater’s too many times. I still listen to music, see movies and read books that I know portray ideas that are contrary to the faith. I still struggle with justice and fairness and chastity and modesty. I still have a temper and let it loose more often than I care to count. I still compare myself to others and wallow in self-pity. I still put my will first, sometimes.

I am, many times, a sorry excuse for a Christian.

But the trying is everything. Someone once said, “You must want to love God. That’s the essence. Wanting with all your heart, soul and strength to love God. And even if you don’t want to love Him, you must want to want to love Him.”

And that is what it means for me to be a Christian/Catholic.

What does your faith mean?

27 Comments

  1. I discovered C.S. Lewis in the later stages of my university life and I’ve always thought I was a pioneer in that regards (I’ve found out I’m just many of those who have been influenced by that man’s insistence to stick to the basics of faith).

    Now, faith to me is the understanding that I’m a broken person, that nothing I do – no matter how lofty they are – makes me inherently good and that all the goodness I can find in me is owed to the man (God) who died on that cross that I might live.

    Am I always a model christian? No. But I look back to who I used to be and who I am now and I know there’s hope for this redeemed sinner.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • You’re welcome, Ifemmanuel. I love C.S. Lewis and how his ideas transcend his denomination and are applicable to all. Thank you for sharing your faith.

  2. Pingback: What does your faith mean? | Ekwulekwu

  3. There are many dos and donts you can point out in the Bible, a lot of which is subject to different interpretations, but I think my faith is really summed up in that simple Golden rule- Love Your Neighbour As Yourself. Truly, how can we love God that we don’t see, if we don’t show this love to the people that we do see? This is really my belief in a nutshell, and I think the world would be a happier place to be in if we’d all consider this.

    Yes, I have a long way to go- but I think that’s a solid place to start.

    And I’m Catholic too. The church has its many flaws, and I’ve been to others on occasion, but they really haven’t given me the peace and beauty I love and appreciate in the Mass, our history and Catholic culture. As churches go, I’ve come to accept that there are so many for a good reason. Different people feel comfortable with different ways of worship, and so its better that more options exist.

    Long comment lol bye.

    • I believe God calls us to different paths at different times, and each can teach something profound that would not be easily found in others. And I have faith that one day, we will all be united again. We will resolve all the differences. Amen.

  4. “To love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and strength” and “To love my neighbour as myself” are the core values to leading a christian life;Jesus summarised the Ten commandment this way matt 22:34-40. Sometimes we get caught up in so-called christian activities. I’m familiar with the struggle, trying to find your identity with Christ in and out of Church. More Christians than you’d think can relate to this. I was thoroughly engrossed in the realness of this. God bless you.

    • God bless you, Tomi. Comments like yours encourage me, especially as I was so self-conscious about sharing this.

  5. Reblogged this on Scarlet Letter and commented:
    I found this quite inspiring because my faith is quite important to me. I found a church that works for me; I’m glad she found hers too. So I’m sharing because I’m as human as she is and share some If not all of her views in Christianity.

  6. Oye says

    The church holds a central place in the building up of our faith yet it’s nt d basis of our faith. Funny dt parents take careful tot in choosing a sch 4 dr child while most of us choose our church based on a mundane fact. This piece makes a lot of sense tho I’m nt catholic.

    • Yes! We spend a lot of time deciding which university to attend, which course to study…so much time, we spend training ourselves professionally. But we spend almost no time thinking about where and why we worship. It’s irresponsible, I think. Thank you for your comment, Oye.

  7. Pingback: What My Faith Means To Me. | eBunite

  8. Awele says

    I found this post very inspiring.
    Like everyone else, I struggle with being a good Christian. One whose faith and values are reflected in everyday life, in dealings with people, even in my dealings with myself when no one else can see. In all of this, I have come to understand that what is important is the struggle and the quest to remain in His presence. No matter how many times you fall, get up and just keep trying!

  9. What does my faith mean?

    Quite honestly, right now, I still can’t entirely place it. I have found myself questioning a lot of the things I grew up believing. Some don’t stand up to the test, and in others, I realize I’m wanting. It’s a constant battle, the never-ending questioning of your beliefs. Christians themselves don’t help; I think I’m a ‘better’ person than some of the people I used to look up to as examples in the faith.

    These are some of the things I’ve realized:

    1. I’m a sinner. I have morals and principles (I don’t drink, smoke, womanize, purposely lie or cheat, hit ladies/people etc), but that isn’t enough. I am a dyed-in-the-wool sinner. My problem isn’t what I do. It’s who I am. Despite my best efforts, I will lose my temper. I will lose control and swear. I will doubt God. I will hurt people. There is nothing I can do about those. I’m human, ergo, a sinner. But God doesn’t hold it against me.

    2. No matter how far I stray from God, He has time for me. I almost lost my faith at a point. I couldn’t read the Bible or pray for months. Church was (often, still is) a burden. But what I knew was that in spite of everything, God was just a murmured prayer away.

    3. Faith is between you and your God. Do not let the actions or inactions of other people shake your faith. All said and done, faith is a personal walk. Sort yourself out with God.

    I’m a Christian. The only reasons I didn’t lose my faith were that I knew God loved me, and also that I had seen Him at work. I’ve seen Him do too many things to ever wonder if He’s real.

    This is what Christianity is for me:

    That God loves me in spite of what I do or don’t do. He always looks out for my best interests, even when I’m not aware or cooperating. That all I have to do is believe. That faith is not logical or commonsensical, and God doesn’t always work according to human understanding. That He wants me to give Him glory and bring people to His knowledge. That I owe it to God to make impact in (the) life (of people around me). That I acknowledge that I’m weak and frail, and that I can’t get better by my own efforts, no matter how good-intentioned they are.

    But best of all, that there’s Someone I can always rely on. All I have to do is invite Him in.

    It has taken me a long time to get here, but here I am. I’m still working, trying, believing, and it’s a constant battle, but once the desire to know God is there, everything will fall into place.

    Thank you, Osemhen.

    • Thank you for your comment, Tolu. It’s funny how many times, young people get discouraged in their faith by older people they have looked up to as models. It’s a warning to us as we get older, to realize that people look up to us. Because we will answer to God someday, if our example leads others astray.
      Someone reminded me that Christ did not come to call the righteous but sinners. And yes, there are many sinners pretending to be righteous. But in the end, our race is ours alone. The abuse scandal sweeping through the Catholic Church has rocked the faith of many around the world, for instance. But I’ve found it comforting to keep my mind on the fundamentals. I am not responsible for the actions of bad priests, and their actions do not affect Christ’s message. And that is the goal.
      Stay strong.

  10. Chai, Osemhen! I love and admire you, big big, as a writer and as a person. You’ve got such a beautiful mind. Your powers of expression takes my breath away, literally – like every time. You touched a deep cord with this one. I do appreciate your honesty, for without it I don’t think the piece would have made such an impact on me, the kind that only good writing can make. By sharing this you made me feel like I am not alone, for I can empathize with your faith’s journey. Even from the comments made by your readers, it is obvious that we share a lot in an our individual Christian experience. The ups and downs. The disillusionment. And of course, the learning milestones that happened from different quarters. It is impossible not to see similarities in my own story. However, the most beautiful aspect for me, of all that you said, is the part you defined your faith. Even though I am not Catholic as you are, I am captivated and glad by the unifying fact that you, along with most of the folks that commented, have placed the highest priority on the greatest commandments. That’s the way I roll too because I believe love, above everything else, matters more to God. Thank you for sharing. Na you try pass….:)

    • Wow, Samuel. Thank you. Again, I’m glad I wrote this. Because it’s made me appreciate how alike many of us are. Maybe it’s child-like simplicity, but it means that we have more in common than differences. In the end, the foundations of our faith lie in the similarities: Love, divine filiation, freedom to choose good, awareness of our own sin, the salvation that Christ offers. Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  11. Pingback: A Lenten Reflection on Faith | The Open Thoughts of a Locked Out Muse

  12. Reblogged this on anafricandiva and commented:
    This is one of the best posts I’ve read this year. Honest and beautifully well-written. I love how she was able to describe the strength that fellowship with people from other denominations gave her. I have experienced this kind of strengthening as well, and I suppose I should do a little post on that. For now, enjoy Osemhen…

  13. victoria says

    My faith is knowing that Christ died for me and God loves me. There is therefore no condemnation. The spirit of God dwells in me.

  14. I am not perfect
    I am by no means perfect in character
    BUT
    I know that I have come to the city of just men made perfect
    I have confessed Jesus as LORD (and I think you should too)
    It is important
    My most important gift from Christianity is the Holy Ghost
    I think that you should desire Him
    He has turned my life upside down and right side up
    He is so awesome

    One of the first things He told me was “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life”.
    It changed my life
    My life aint perfect but in the painting of my life, the Holy Ghost has written lovely tapestries that religion would never do for me. I would rather have relationship with God than religion
    I talk to God
    I know that sounds crazy
    He talks back to me and that is the most amazing thing about my faith
    Instead of praying to God, I just chat with Him about the stuff I want or what I know I have in Him based on His word and I worship a lot
    I always get chatty when I am done, I don’t complain
    Instead I talk to God and appreciate Him and who He is and what He is on His own and who He is to me and How He is so awesome.
    No time to complain to God when we should be chatting.

  15. It’s the confidence I have to offer a prayer of gratitude rather than a prayer of supplication because I’ve simply accepted that God’s got my back.

  16. I’ve been following this blog for so long and I could almost assume I had read all posts here.
    This is however my first time of coming across this post and I’m grateful.
    Osemehen, you’re one Catholic I absolutely admire, I’ve not been opportune/blessed to have many as my friends. Over time, I’ve loved how you share your faith. Your sincerity and efforts as I see it. Thanks for blessing me with this.

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