I did not grow up in a religious family, at all. Although my mother was raised Catholic, and my father Jewish, we did not have any form of religious education, only a few traditions related to holidays. There were presents on Christmas, Passover Seder, and occasionally a Bar Mitvah to attend. Other than that, the idea of God, in general, was simply not a topic of discussion.
Around the time I was in middle school, I had pretty much figured out that I was "spiritual, but not religious." I believed that there was something greater than me, in the ethereal sense. I didn't really do much with that feeling or belief, other than hope this "God" would put me on the right path in life. I have since learned that God doesn't make the choices for you, especially when you aren't listening.
I spent a lot of my 20's trying to figure out what my spirituality was about. I wanted to believe in this "greater power", but was having a hard time finding it. I was caught up in a lot of the hardships life throws your way, and wasn't able to see the blessings in them. I couldn't understand why, if I felt like there might be a God, he/she would burden us with so much pain. Then I went to my first Easter Mass at a Catholic church. Although I was completely clueless when it came to the rituals, I was able to hear and connect to exactly what the priest was talking about. Life was precious, and we often take it for granted. We wish, and pray, and hope that bad things won't happen to good people, and when they do, we have spent so much energy wishing things were different, that we miss the opportunity to see the blessings from the good people in our lives.
I continued going to church, intermittently, but certainly not religiously. I went when I was desperate, or anxious, or needed to hear something other than the scrambled old tapes my mind likes to play. I went with the hope that, if I showed up, maybe God would change my luck in life. Maybe, if I just went to mass, God would bless me and take away the emotional pain. And then, life got really shaken up.
I can probably count on one hand, the number of Sundays I have missed in the last year and a half. I began going routinely, because it was a sanctuary. It was quiet, and still, and peaceful. Nothing that I felt, physically or mentally. But I realized I could get out of my own head there, and hear the words that have been passed down for thousands of years. Stories that remind us that life has not always been easy, but if you believe there is hope, you don't need to hang onto the uneasiness.
And I go because of the music. The organ, the piano, the choir. They all have a way of penetrating through the cloud of darkness and doubt, and lifting my spirits. Recently, I joined the choir at church. Despite my fears of "being on display," I have found I am at ease among the other choir members when we perform during mass. I love that I can be uplifting with my voice, as well as be uplifted by the music. I wasn't turned away because I was shaking, not Catholic, or new to religion in general. I was accepted because I was willing. Willing to participate, and willing to believe, in something greater than myself.
I don't feel like I have to identify myself as a Catholic, or Christian, or Jew, or religious, or even spiritual for that matter. I simply have faith. In myself, and in that which is greater than me.