“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
What a word. What an idea. 10 years ago, I would have told you I had none. I’d ask my mother, “How can someone have faith in something that you can’t see?”
My mother would just look at me with such certainty and reply, “That’s what having faith is, Lara.”
I never really identified with a specific religion. I grew up Catholic, forced to go to church and Sunday School. My parents would drag me there and I would spend a few hours playing Jenga, only moving pieces when I’d recite a prayer with no mistakes.
It felt forced. Unbelievable. Tiring. It felt like I was being punished.
Though I’m glad I was pushed into the realm of believing things that aren’t staring us back in the eyes, I wish it had been gone about differently. Even today, I don’t resonate with my family’s religion. I am spiritual, not religious and it sometimes breaks my father’s heart. I wish he would realize that to believe in something greater than myself is better than not believing in anything at all.
The only thing that kept the idea of faith in the back of my mind was a reoccurring dream I had as a child. I would be in my bedroom with a chest at the foot of my bed. Jesus would wake me up and point to the chest. Inside, I would find a box with light breaking through the cracks. I would open it, light would come out and brighten the entire room, and then I would wake up.
Even then, I had little faith.
When adolescence hit, it was like a ton of bricks. In the body. In the brain. It just came crashing down and broke me into a million little pieces. I still sometimes wonder if what I went through was just puberty, or if it was truly depression.
I’ve touched on a bit on my teenage experience and how awful it was.
Fueled with bad decisions, drugs, and alcohol, my developing brain couldn’t handle the psychological overload and put me in a very dark place. Self mutilation, mentally and physically plagued my psyche and well being. I had this addiction to physical pain because it felt so real. It reminded me that this life wasn’t a dream and that I was actually a human being, playing a part within this filth I called a human body.
Not only was I high on pretty much everything, I heavily lacked individuality. Those years were honestly the hardest times of my life.
I kept this entire situation a secret. From everyone, including my best friends. My family was involved in serious turmoil at the time, and I didn’t want to burden my poor parents any more than they were already being subjected to.
The only place I could get all of my feelings out was in a miniature journal I kept in my bedroom. I still cry when I read it today. I filled it with all of the darkness that I had kept inside. Poetry. Prose. Pictures. I filled the pages with everything that I was.
Looking back on it, I’m honestly surprised I didn’t end up dead, in jail, or in an institution.
How did I become this Lara that screams positivity and “it’ll be okays?”
Even through the most trivial times in my life, I had this little glimmer of hope that something better was out there. Even when I felt like I had nobody, it always felt like someone was watching over me.
I knew I was meant to be happy. It was just buried so deep inside of my darkness that it was blanketed.
But just like trying to find your remote in a bed full of tangled sheets at 2 in the morning, it was possible. Difficult yes. But I was fully able.
As I got older, the sadness slowly washed away. I began to see the world in a new light and with the idea that I was destined for spiritual greatness. As I finally grew into my own skin, I realized the potential I had.
I crawled out of the dark. Slowly, but I made it.
And the further away from the darkness that I traveled, the closer to the light I had come.
Today, I am happy for my faith. My faith in something bigger than me. My faith that this physical life is only secondary to what will come. My faith in positive thinking, holistic healing, daily prayer, and endless possibilities.
And my contentment with my beliefs.
Just because I don’t put a stamp on myself declaring which religion I am, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in such things. I just choose not to put a label on it. And I also choose to accept everyone for their beliefs, or lack thereof. Many religious people don’t understand that kind of acceptance.
And now that I have hindsight on my side, I see that the light bursting from my dream-like box is a wake up call, all around me…
It’s called life.