Unlearning Religion to Relearn Faith

Updated: May 14




The New York City skyline twinkled behind my husband, Terrell, and I as we spent an evening down at The Landing Cafe at Long Island City. We frequent this place often, not only because the skyline has a weird way of activating our dreams, but also because we believe the more we sit and act like NYC residents with a beautiful view, the faster the Universe will respond to grant us our wish.


It was a cool late summer night, the chilled breeze gave way to Fall right around the corner. We shared two cups of beer and talked about our hopes for the next 12 months -- namely the end of a global pandemic that hijacked our first year of marriage. Glancing over at the Empire State Building together and feeling so close to it helped us feel closer to our dreams. For a moment, it was almost as if there were no pandemic, just me, Terrell, the NYC skyline, our beers, and our dreams. We got lost in the feelings of what our future could be while I gazed at the stars, almost asking them if we were out of our minds.


Out of nowhere the sound of what I thought were fireworks interrupted the evening bustle of LIC. A rock flew in the sky and burst into a bright fiery orange light, traveling a few seconds before turning blue and completely disappearing from the sky. I looked over at my husband to make sure I wasn’t seeing things and quietly yelled, “Oh my God, tell me you saw that!” He paused, probably as shocked as I was, and replied, “I caught the end of it.”



I’d never felt so directly spoken to from God than that night. If I could put it into words, it’s almost as if God asked me to have faith in my dreams, and to expect surprises -- like that fireball. However, this moment is years in the making. It’s taken me several years to reconstruct my relation with God and redefine what faith means to me. It’s taken several years to believe and understand the language of the Universe in a way that makes sense to my curious spirit.


***


For two decades I connected “faith” with the image of a white bearded guy sitting on top of a cloud who loved me, until I sinned, of course. My foundation of faith comes to me from my maternal grandmother, a devout Seventh Day Adventists who was determined that I announce Jesus Christ as my savior before The Book of Revelations came to fruition. She worked overtime to make this happen, mostly because her grandchild was and still is stubborn, unwilling to accept “truth” as absolute truth. As a child I had a hard time believing things I could not see, and my curiosity was too much for my grandmother - who every summer reminded me that Jesus Christ was coming to save his children very soon. The fear instilled in me of being left behind when the alleged fated day arrived still lingers.



Her biblical lessons took place in the tropical backyard of her cement home in the Dominican Republic. In nature, under the palm fronds of her coconut trees, I learned the word of God, the humility of Jesus, and the subservience of women according to The Bible. I remember on Friday’s before sunset we hurried outside to welcome the Sabbath not daring to lift a finger for the next 24 hours because “If God rested on this day after creating the world, heavens, and Earth, so should we.” Abuelita was and still is dedicated to her religion. When she visits me these days and sees my altar she reminds me that she would rather die than serve a life that was not in service of Christ.


I learned a lot under the palm fronds of her coconut trees,

I learned that God created the world,

I learned that we all suffer because of Eve’s mistake,