07 May 2012

On faith and rules

This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.



I have always been fascinated by faith.  How different people view it, learn it, relate to it, define it and define themselves by it, question it, and outright reject it. 

In the spirit of full disclosure I will say that I am a convert to Catholicism, from a nondenominational, Pentecostal-style upbringing.  I have thought long and hard about faith, and about my own faith journey that has brought me to where I am today. I am devout in my faith, but I still have questions.  I am a faithful practicing Catholic, but I am not a Biblical scholar by any means.  I am not sinless (HA! far from it), and and I am not finished with my journey.  I have been in lively discussions about faith, and whose version is 'right' and whose is 'wrong.'  (for the record, no one ever really wins those debates) 

I know that when I go to my church and participate in the Mass, I am home.  For me, it's as simple as that.  There is a peace that comes over me that cannot be explained or justified any further.  This point was just recently driven home for me again.  I was away from home on a long, two week work trip, and over the weekend, I went to a Mass at an unfamiliar church with an unfamiliar group.  I found comfort in the structure of the Mass (it doesn't change from church to church to speak of) and in one sense I felt spiritually fulfilled and connected.  But then I got home the following Saturday evening, and when I went to Mass at my church Sunday morning, I felt truly complete.  I was home. 

One of the recurring themes I have come across in my discussions about faith (I seek them out, because I am so interested in learning as much as I can about faith, from every different perspective that I can get) is that the Catholic Church is too full of rules, man-made rules that aren't Biblical.   Well, as I said before, I'm no Biblical scholar, and I am not good at the game that I sometimes call 'dueling Scriptures.' I love to discuss these things in the context of learning, but I don't like when it turns to more of a debate, where one person is right, so the other person must be wrong.  I

But back to the rules.  Yes, there are a lot of 'rules' in Catholicism.  And in Christianity in general, truth be told (and yes, Catholics are indeed Christians....I've heard it said that Catholics are not even Christian).  Rules exist for a reason, and in matters of faith, we follow the rules out of our love for God and our desire to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  I spent a good deal of my life chafing against the rules, rejecting them and ignoring them.  You know what, though?  They didn't change.  I did. 

I will be the first to tell you, I struggle to understand some of the rules.  But that does not mean that I reject them....it just means that I'm still learning.  I see myself more as Mila in the book...I find comfort in the rules and the structure of my faith.  I find tremendous comfort in the fact that while the world around me changes all the time, my faith and its rules do not.   God's rules were the same 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, as they are today. 

Asking questions isn't the same thing as rejection.  I like to think that I have a living relationship with my faith, in that I'm always learning new things about it and how better to live it (although I don't always do that very well) and growing in that learning.  I am blessed with a phenomenal community of women with whom I pray, and study the Bible, and from whom I learn on a daily basis what it means to be a woman of faith.  I thank God for them every day, because I fall down on a regular basis, and it's truly a gift to have a safety net of sisters who will pick me up and help me brush off the dirt.  I hope that I do the same for them.

I didn't know the first thing about Hasidism or Satmar Hasidism before I picked up this book.  I don't claim to know a lot about it now.  But it sure made me want to dig deeper and learn more.

Are you on a faith journey?  Do you struggle with 'the rules' of your faith?