Love, Loss, and Reevaluating Life (part 3- who am I?)

Do I know who I am?

Recently, as my mother-in-law was leaving after a visit, she asked me if I believed in God. The question caught me off the guard.

To give you a little background. My mother-in-law believes in the literal translation of the Christian Bible. I, on the other hand, do not like labels. At first glance, these statements may seem to have nothing to do with each other. However, throughout my whole life, having to define myself has made me feel a bit trapped.

It is not as though I have a fear to commit to something; it is more the fear of judgment. I do not eat meat, and for a significant period, I did not consume any animal products. The minute my family started describing me as “Vegan,” I panicked. What if I messed up?! What if one day, I just really wanted a juicy red meat hamburger. I would be a hypocrite and ruin the good name of vegans everywhere. The world would come crashing down in flames, all because I ate a hamburger after being defined this way.

Yeah, sounds a bit crazy when written out this way, but there is a point. I recognize the irrational nature in those feelings, so I try very hard to always give understanding to those around me (especially to those who think differently than me). Sometimes, I struggle with finding grace for myself. Its easier to be free of labels.

So when my Mother-in-law asks me about my belief, I panicked a bit. Part of me wanted to sit her down, and spend hours speaking to my philosophies on a higher power, and how each aspect of “God” is as individual as the person who has a relationship with it. However, I suspect what she was asking was, do you believe in “my God.” I did not dare to verify this is the answer she wanted.

In the wake of my Father’s death, it brings many questions to mind. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Is there an afterlife? Does it matter?

I deeply admired and looked up to my dad. He was a teacher (quite literally), but it was also the essence of who he was. My sister and I were both raised as Catholics, but my Father always taught us to think for ourselves. He never preached, he asked questions. When one of us “believed” something, he argued the opposing belief. His actions have always given me the ability to look deeply at things.

When I have a belief, I need to understand it, and all sides of it thoroughly. So when my thoughts on God were questioned, it is not such a simple answer. Is it my job at this point to teach? If I take on the role of Devil’s advocate my Father so loved, am I disrespecting the background of someone who was not raised to question everything?

I ended up answering her with “yes, but not the literal translation of the Bible” ( Hopefully that is enough for her to rest well, believing that her Grand kids will not go to Hell.) It was a safe answer. I tend to choose safe more often than not. How is it that I can argue something I do not fully understand? How can I expect a book written by someone else’s relationship with God to instruct me (divinely inspired or not.)

I believe that God is something bigger than ourselves. That is my faith. I think my Father is part of this bigger. He always has been, and always will be. Will, I ever see him again in the way I understand now? Probably not. Will I seek guidance on how to process that? I hope so.

The next time anyone asks me what I believe, or who I am, maybe I will answer: “I am growing and evolving, and I hope each day I continue to do so.” and genuinely mean it.

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